Party as Public Utility?


Professor: Left                                              Student: Center                                  Gadfly: Right


  1. Public utility, class,
  2. One of you brilliantly suggested last hour,
  3. Is associated with congruence, the elites and their mass[es],
  4. Shall “public utility” become the political parties’ defining power?
  5. Kroar flexed his hand,
  6. And joined the conversation:
  7. Van Biezen[1] provides many suggestions.
  8. If parties are researched as,
  9. Public instead of private institutions, then,
  10. They perform a public service and must account for,
  11. Self governmental regulations. And, ‘tis abhorred,
  12. When parties manage without the peoples’ consent.
  13. Hence,
  14. Deliberative democracy “owns” the public utility,
  15. In-between elections.
  16. Importantly,
  17. van Biezen does not advance the party as public utility–
  18. As something that we should normatively seek!
  19. Have you all seen Obama’s Open Petition?
  20. Where any citizen may create or sign a petition,
  21. Of public problems, emblematic,
  22. Of the peoples’ preferences?
  23. The class wasn’t sure how to proceed,
  24. For they were learning a great deal.
  25. Kroar did not heed:
  26. Deliberative democracy,
  27.  Should reduce voter apathy.
  28. Seriously, “deliberative deficits,”
  29. Are larger than the national debt.
  30. Political science does get the concept,
  31. Of the common good, but,
  32. Cultural and education associations may not be enough,
  33. Not enough to true democracy beget.
  34. Candide determined there was someone to redeem,
  35. And there was, indeed;
  36. His very own self-esteem:
  37. If I’ve learned anything so far,
  38. It’s that we can’t forget about the history,
  39. Of the party structures.
  40. Naliya, Kroar’s guest, smiled.
  41. She exuded style:
  42. Schattschneider is relevant:
  43. “the political parties created democracy,
  44. And modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms,
  45. Of the political parties.”
  46. Why is that relevant…Naliya?
  47. So if parties are the key institution,
  48. Then why is their output often,
  49. Vituperation?
  50. Indeed. Foreseen. Very Keen.
  51. The voice of Ostogorski:
  52. 19th century parties had two paths,
  53. Implement the needs of the masses,
  54. Or develop pernicious habits.
  55. Perhaps the ideal meant that parties dissolved.
  56. That no two parties remained forever strong.
  57. For if parties were single-purpose factions,
  58. And once the collective action problem was solved;
  59. Expunge that party’s attraction and give traction,
  60. To a new popular party’s cause.
  61. The tardy student had something to say:
  62. In history’s name,
  63. Let’s recall Michel’s “iron law of oligarchy,”
  64. The elected o’er the elected frame,
  65. Delegates dominating the delegators’ claims;
  66. All is hierarchy!
  67. A disjointed game!
  68. And let us remember earlier lectures;
  69. Lipset and Rokkan’s “frozen” hypothesis,
  70. There are cleavages worthy of pause.
  71. Cadre parties as caucuses, their public cause,
  72. Top-down single-national interest repertoires.
  73. Mass party vertical conjectures, remember,
  74. Realized that Duverger’s mass party structure,
  75. Was a flicker of the party’s actual purpose.
  76. Catch-all parties were really a reflection,
  77. Of the bean-counting of earned independents.
  78. Patronage and the cartel party’s new dominance,
  79. Are becoming sophisticated and enhance,
  80. What you really study in political science:
  81. Party transformation!
  82. A classroom of experts![2]
  83. She continued:
  84. Downs, we deduce,
  85. Opened the spatial theory habitus.
  86. Left and Right parties converge on the center,
  87. To capture the median voter’s measures.
  88. As parties integrate multiple median voter’s pride,
  89. Kirchheimer theorized,
  90. There will be weakened partisan ties,
  91. And policy will please the median voters in strides.
  92. Hence the need to capture,
  93. Ideological congruence’s aperture.
  94. Knutsen affirms this trend,
  95. Parties move towards the center’s interests.
  96. And of consequence,
  97. New parties are extreme in vernacular parlance.
  98. According to Thies:
  99. Majoritarian electoral systems more often venture,
  100. To showcase ideological congruence, however,
  101. America does not share this general pattern.
  102. She heeds via stutter:
  103. American partisanship is even apparent in,
  104. In partisan taverns.
  105. And this is evident through party bloc voting,
  106. We even have theories for it—like the Surety.
  107. Yes. And political scientists find,
  108. Spikes in convergence once,
  109. Parties align,
  110. Their new median voters’ protest signs.
  111. So is the volatility among the peoples’ will?
  112. Or is volatility the recognition of a party’s past ills?
  113. Or is it that two parties found charismatic candidates?
  114. Or was the programmatic party transformed to suggest,
  115.       Exactly the policy denizens request?
  116. Kroar continued:
  117. Or do new parties simply articulate new dimensions?
  118. New a priori demands?
  119. Mustn’t the parties’ cues remain true,
  120. Or shouldn’t that be considered party volatility too?
  121. Research campaign statements,
  122.      Against absolute change in attention,
  123.             Across adjacent elections.
  124. You’ll see a slight tendency,
  125. For political platforms and their parties,
  126. To show more consistency.
  127. Now that these major parties have converged,
  128. Upon the center long-term,
  129. They appear quite consistent in how they claim,
  130. The remaining fragments of ideological space.
  131. Other evidence states,
  132. That parties rarely create,
  133. Substantive policy differences today.
  134. But has the party influence within the country transformed?
  135. The right spends less on social welfare than the left,
  136. Then again,
  137. We are in the dark about policy control over policy outcomes;
  138.       What is the best form of party influence?
  139. Public utility.
  140. But aren’t elections filled with economic goals?
  141.       Instead of solving huge collective action woes?
  142. Naliya slowly placed her hand,
  143. On Kroar’s elbow, and said:
  144. It’s not the party that matters.
  145. It’s the public’s utility of public officials,
  146. By the people…
  147. So why am I measuring ideological congruence?
  148.       Particularly of a citizenry which hasn’t deliberated?
  149. The kitten pouncer slyly pondered:
  150. Partisan control does impact economic indicators.
  151. It’s consistent and positively significant!
  152. Government does affect unemployment levels,
  153. See My Next Move as a public utility pedal.
  154. From the three party models Thies reveals:
  155.      Party composition’s power is still concealed,
  156.      Slight differences in domestic policies are yielded,
  157.      And government size is constant no matter party zeal.
  158. A quiet student finds words:
  159. The parties play for keeps,
  160. But they’re not distinct.
  161. Professionalization in institutions,
  162. Make parties less valuable to me,
  163. As a Downsian being.
  164. And if parties are public property,
  165. Acting as a public utility,
  166. To create public utilities,
  167. Why pay attention to politics?
  168.         To be free.
  169. Freedom: to be free from politics.
  170. A chorus of laughter.
  171. But is democracy truly safe in the hands of elites?
  172. That just doesn’t sound like democracy,
  173.      To me.
  174. The party puzzle accordingly,
  175. Was still incomplete.
  176. For without mechanisms showcasing,
  177. Deliberative democracy—
  178. How can there be public utility?
  179. See you next week.

[1] This begins an analysis of: van Biezen. 2004. How Political Parties Shape Democracy. Center of the Study for Democracy. UC Irvine.

[2] This begins an analysis of Thies in: 2002. Parties Without Partisans: Political Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies. Chapter 11: On the Primacy of Party in Government.OxfordUniversity Press.


One thought on “Party as Public Utility?

  1. Pingback: Poli-Sci “Parties” Poetry Book « Political Pipeline

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s