So Parties Form. But Why Trust Them?

Left: Professor                                Center: Student                                    Right: Gadfly

  1. Imagine that political parties are organizations,
  2.    Created by politicians to extract rents from citizens,
  3.        Often at the expense of the denizens’ preferred,
  4.            Social contract.[1]
  5. Why wouldn’t citizens reject these factions!?
  6. At the polls—these politicians, why not reject,
  7. Those whom belong to such extracting organizations?
  8. Right on! Let us turn to Grynaviski’s answer in:
  9.     Partisan Bonds. Haven’t you already bought it?
  10. Laughter fills the room.
  11. Would the answers therein,
  12. Convince these students?
  13. Why would citizens accept the extraction of rents,
  14.    From their pockets—to support that government?
  15. A libertarian didn’t feel the need,
  16. To qualify any response.
  17. Wasn’t the conversation over; indeed!?
  18. But a non-ideologue did muse loudly:
  19. If the electorate truly believes that they can replace
  20. The candidates out of step with the public interest;
  21. Why not do it?
  22. This means that citizens understand:
  23.    Which politician(s) deserves the credit or blame,
  24.         For the public policy choices affecting; and,
  25.    Which challenger(s) in the next election would rescue,
  26.         The public will, once elected to command,
  27.               Public office. Public service. Public acclaim!
  28. The proverbial light turned on:
  29. The political party’s reputation thus provides,
  30. The reliable choice at election time.
  31. Grynaviski thus does vehemently argue,
  32.   That American political parties “perform the role of a surety”[2]
  33.     Like a bail bondsman. Parties thus provide a credible signal,
  34.       To the voters regarding the performance of elected officials.
  35. So political candidates are de facto restricted,
  36. To the party platform expressed in every election.
  37. When candidates provide weak political platforms,
  38.    Voters can rationally expect the candidate,
  39.        To adhere to the party’s program.
  40. TheU.S.has a much more Responsible Party Model,
  41.    Than researchers have determined to date.
  42. It’s likely that the parties argue on opposite sides,
  43.    Of the median voter during electoral campaigns.
  44. Centrist policy is likely a long-term endeavor,
  45.    But not a short-term endeavor; because,
  46. The Surety Model holds that parties should act responsibly,
  47.    Each to one side of the median voter’s monologue.
  48. What are the tenets of the Responsible Party Model?
  49. (1) Parties should stake out clear distinctive platforms;
  50.          Democrats on the left, Republicans on the right.
  51.          They should not converge upon the median voter’s sight.
  52. (2) When in office, the majority party should follow its promises;
  53.          The minority should articulate what it would do if in power.
  54. (3) In elections, voters should punish or reward the party in power.
  55. (4) Responsible parties require high levels of party discipline,
  56.           As the brand name must be protected.
  57. Kroar felt more dialogue was required:
  58. But the Responsible Party Model is a normative model—
  59. How things should be!
  60. It is not a positive model—how things are today.
  61. Discipline allows voters to hold parties responsible / accountable;
  62.    E.g., The bank bailout, Obamacare, or one-sided scandals.
  63. A prolific student:
  64. It cuts both ways, if you think about it.
  65. Kroar decided to roar:
  66. But there are activities,
  67. Which make the Responsibility Party Model weak,
  68. In the United States!
  69. What do you mean?
  70. First, the Tea Party Caucus and Blue Dogs Democrats
  71. Show evidence that the parties have internal factions!
  72. Two, in off year elections,
  73. Parties rarely, or never, proclaim party platforms!
  74. Three, members of congress (MCs)
  75. Do not feel obliged to follow their party platform, at times often:
  76. Dole in the 1996 presidential bid disagreed with abortion—
  77. With that entire part of the Republican Party Platform!
  78. Four, historically, party discipline in Congress,
  79. Has too often been very low;
  80. Say, Southern Democrats were more conservative,
  81. Than many Republicans were.
  82. Five, in elections, voters sometimes vote for candidates
  83. Not from their preferred party;
  84. Like, some districts over and over again demonstrate,
  85. High levels of defections along party lines.
  86. What kind of Responsible Party Model here—do you find?
  87. Well Kroar, that’s not all!
  88. What about ideologues?!
  89. Yes! The Lemon Representative!
  90. The one who could care less,
  91. About the public will—for only his/her ideology,
  92. An extreme stance—is best,
  93. For society to accept.
  94. Right! Nationally, people hate lemon cars as much,
  95.    As they disdain the lemon representative bunch.
  96. A party scholar tried to change the tone:
  97. Non-lemons are the office motivated type;
  98. They will strive to please the median voter’s kinship.
  99. The median constituent in his/her district;
  100. ‘Tis the platform which is truly bright.
  101. A lemon representative has hidden ideological motives,
  102.     That only become realized after an election.
  103. Kroar felt scorn:
  104. Ideologues matter because they change,
  105. The median voter distribution of public policy!
  106. Ideologues change a single bell curve to two or more peaks,
  107.     In the distribution.
  108. Ideologues cause a distortion of the median voter’s wishes,
  109.     Causing a shift in likely public policy outcomes.
  110. The entire distribution will shift to the left or right,
  111.     When there is a caucus of lemons with bite.
  112. This student didn’t understand,
  113. That she was also a lemon.
  114. An [liberal] ideologue,
  115. Who showed her stripes,
  116. With these commands:
  117. The Tea Party is sour lemonade!
  118. They cause a massive shift to the Right!
  119. Progress in policy is only acceptable;
  120. When repealing all laws in sight!
  121. They call for the annulment of Obamacare!
  122. They would disassemble the welfare state!
  123. They hate moderates! They hate to collaborate!
  124. Well be sure you have the evidence.
  125. The Professor paused.
  126. There are partisan electoral tides.
  127. Recall the 2006 election, when Republicans,
  128.   Who voted with President Bush on Iraq,
  129.       Were ousted by the electorate. Yet,
  130.    Democrats who voted for the war,
  131.        Remained in office. Why?
  132. Thus Partisan Bonds explains why responsibility
  133.     For unfavorable policies,
  134.        Causes people to vote against,
  135.            The incumbent partisan party.
  136. This student recently gave birth,
  137. And she is concerned about,
  138. This newborn’s future:
  139. Only when challengers’ campaign promises,
  140. Are in line with the party’s reputation,
  141. And the incumbents are held in contempt,
  142. Does the candidate with the other party win!?
  143. She gasped:
  144. What about gerrymandering?
  145. Just look at all those safe districts!
  146. The elections are a referendum,
  147.    On the incumbent party’s programs.
  148. The lemon wanted answers:
  149. But what would keep,
  150. The Tea Party from dismantling,
  151. Our great polity?
  152. The Surety Model.
  153. The leaders of each political party come together and decide:
  154.   “We are going to form a cartel to prevent the crazies in our party,
  155.      From doing things that national voters don’t like.”
  156. Then the leaders of each political party create a national platform, and say:
  157.   “If you elect us, then you’ll be better off—because of X, Y, and Z.”
  158. The Surety Model may become enforced,
  159.    Due to the institutional structure of Congress.
  160. For example:
  161.     1. Rules for voting are determined by the Speaker of the House:
  162.           A. Strategic scheduling of votes.
  163.           B. Strategic privileging of certain legislation.
  164.           C. Controlling the amendment procedure.
  165.           D. Determining what gets voted on; i.e.,
  166.                   Vote for J over W, since closer to M.
  167.                    Thus the major influence of the Speaker; I claim,
  168.                     S/he may deny the median voter what they want,
  169.                        Or, broker what they ordered with confidence.
  170.           E. Treatment of committee members matters:
  171.                   See Lott and “Chinese water torture”;
  172.                    Commanding 5-6 senior members,
  173.                      To “recommend” voting for the legislation,
  174.                        To the newer MCs—a powerful and informal,
  175.                          Exercise of power.
  176.           F.  Pork distribution: see logrolling and constituency needs.
  177.           G. Campaign contributions: no one is reelected without money.
  178.    2. A majority of the legislators will support the party; i.e.,
  179.           Key party members create and enforce The Surety Model,
  180.                For the electorate they foremost desire to keep.
  181. The lemon was not satisfied:
  182. If you are a Tea Party member of Congress,
  183. Why are you going to let one party leader
  184. Force you to vote against your principles?
  185. For something moderate—truly mediocre!
  186. In is necessary to protect the brand—the name!
  187.     A collaborative dilemma is iterated via repeat play.
  188.     Campaign finance means politicians,
  189.         Are largely disposable by the party in office.
  190.     The politician truly is an experience good; whereby,
  191.          You trust the representative as legislator will be,
  192.              What the label claims; ex ante.
  193. Still her thirst was unquenched:
  194. But political parties in America,
  195. Don’t have much power over the product.
  196. According to The Surety Model—this third party guarantor,
  197.    The party will forfeit the loyal activist base,
  198.        If they are noticeably divided and displaced.
  199. Exactly! The Tea Party faction,
  200. Within the Republican Party,
  201. Should cause The Surety Model,
  202. To fail—honorably!
  203. The last time The Surety Model failed…honorably,
  204.    Was when the Whigs were divided over slavery.
  205. Yes! And the Whig Party ceased to exist!
  206. You can’t have two intra-party groups
  207. Claiming the same label for the party troops.
  208. They cannot co-exist!
  209. She imagined the downfall of Republicans.
  210. But then,
  211. The Professor’s voice became full of life.
  212. Now expecting the proverbial light,
  213. To appear as lightning!
  214. By this student’s sight.
  215. Protecting the brand means protecting the legislation!
  216.    That is precisely why I spent so long articulating,
  217.        The Speaker of the House’s authority.
  218. When has the Tea Party controlled the Republican faction?
  219.    Isn’t the Tea Party just a few of the back-benchers?
  220. ‘Tis my research hypothesis!
  221. That a few crazies can hold-up,
  222. Moderates!
  223. Of course Kroar was a moderate Republican,
  224. And he kept himself from arguing,
  225. With an ideologue whom would never give in,
  226. To limited government political progress.
  227. The tension was high.
  228. The professor was satisfied.
  229. Let’s get back to the basics of name recognition:
  230.    People are responsive to changes in unity determinations.
  231.    When party unity is high, then voters have an image to rely on.
  232.    Socialization matters to party crystallization.
  233.    Crystallized party images matter—more so for the young—
  234.        Since they carry this image throughout their voting life-span.
  235.    Thus party credibility for voters is established upon,
  236.         Name recognition.
  237. A new graduate student asked:
  238. But why do voters accept two parties,
  239. Which are non-centrist with opposing ideologies?
  240. According The Surety Model they do so because,
  241.   The two parties will be more moderate than,
  242.      Independent representatives wandering all over:
  243.          The electoral map.
  244.    Meaning, if representatives are not responsible to a party,
  245.      Then the few representatives who capture power,
  246.           May be much more extreme than,
  247.              The current party badge creating the law.
  248. Folk wisdom suggests that candidates,
  249. Would form a coalition on either
  250. The Right or the Left.
  251. ‘Tis based on ideological divisions.
  252. Yes. We are back to why parties form; for,
  253.    Each candidate will support legislation,
  254.       Which does articulate a preferred voting record.
  255.    The record will be used against them or for them,
  256.        During reelection.
  257.    The candidate closer to the median voter,
  258.        Should win office.
  259. But folk wisdom is derived from,
  260. The fictitious assumption that policy space,
  261. Comprises a one-dimensional game.
  262. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to suggest,
  263.    That two candidates will take opposite sides,
  264.        Of the median voter in their constituents’ district.
  265. But some conservatives winning liberal districts,
  266. Look like liberals along the Downsian continuum.
  267. Likewise, liberals who win in conservative districts,
  268. Are often placed like conservatives along the ideological spectrum.
  269. Nationally, then, all this supports,
  270.    The median voter assumptions—the
  271.        Median voter’s political force, I guess.
  272. Political scientists have found,
  273. Party pressure accounts for about,
  274. Ten percent of MCs changing their roll call vote; because,
  275. Party pressure creates two different Downsian spectrums,
  276. That these representatives do tout.[3]
  277. Think of politicians as experience goods.
  278.    Before you buy, you may be unsure,
  279.       Of the quality of the product.
  280. Political scientists have also found,
  281.    That Presidents keep about sixty percent,
  282.         Of their promises.[4]
  283.    Likewise, House members on environmental legislation,
  284.         Kept their promises roughly seventy percent of the time.[5]
  285.             Isn’t that pretty good for said partisans?
  286. So voters see these politicians,
  287. As a type of experience good which,
  288. Cannot be accurately forecast,
  289. Before an election.
  290. Hence the people voting in the election,
  291. Are more likely to determine,
  292. That a candidate tied to a party affiliation,
  293. Will produce the good that accompanies,
  294. Party promises?
  295. It’s complicated.
  296. In theory, ‘tis wiser to be unaffiliated, since,
  297. The candidate will not be ideologically located,
  298. As a median party member.
  299. A recurring hypothesis sounded:
  300. Voters are a disparate group.
  301. In theU.S., the districts would institute,
  302. Various multi-faceted coups.
  303. According to The Surety Model:
  304.    “Party leaders are ‘hired’ by their back-benchers
  305.       To serve as a third-party guarantor
  306.        Of the performance in office of the candidates
  307.          Who carry their party’s label.”[6]
  308. Here is the main point:
  309. It’s not the campaign promises or the party’s program,
  310. Will or will not be approved by the incumbent party; rather,
  311. The guarantee is that extreme party positions—
  312. Will never be considered.
  313. That’s exactly the point.
  314. Adverse consequences will be held off,
  315.     Because those controlling the agenda,
  316.        Will keep extreme partisans from reaching,
  317.           A sincere legislative hearing.
  318. Party leadership holds a de facto veto,
  319.    Over extreme or inconsistent legislation,
  320.       According to the party’s narrative.
  321. Also, the leadership does demand a “yes or no” vote,
  322.    From legislators on any particular policy vote,
  323.       That is preferred to the alternative,
  324.           Leaving room for understanding,
  325.              In the electorate—for the next election episode.
  326. In the United States, then,
  327. Explain why they have,
  328. A responsible-party model—in governance.
  329. The two parties are indeed on opposite sides,
  330.    Of the political center.
  331. Consequently, third parties are excluded,
  332.    From the political system—unable to enter.
  333. The party reputations are long-lasting endeavors.
  334.     Changes in the party platform is thus unlikely;
  335.        For changes will cause trembles,
  336.           Which will likely cause strong partisans to shiver,
  337.              Frozen by an unrecognizable party apparatus.
  338. Parties that chase the median voter, hence,
  339.     Disown their party activists.
  340. The Surety Model thus predicts,
  341. Stable long-term politics.
  342. And also, when parties act in deviating ways,
  343.     You may predict severe losses,
  344.         In the upcoming election.
  345. See the campaign: “The incumbent Party has lost their way!”
  346. Heads were nodding,
  347. As the Professor’s semester had just expired.
  348. And now some closing thoughts.
  349. This was the last lecture,
  350. Of a class that produced over 200 hypothesis,
  351. For possible research analysis.
  352. There was no more tension.
  353. But about a dozen of those hypothesis,
  354. Did need immediate attention.
  355. There are empirical regularities in [American] politics,
  356.    Suggesting that legislative outcomes predominantly,
  357.       Are about parties instead of individual candidates.
  358. First, voters know almost nothing about their representatives;
  359.     They do not even know the names of the candidates.
  360. Second, voters do utilize partisan cues to infer about,
  361.     The candidates’ future legislative route.
  362. Third, there are plenty of instances when people ignored
  363.     The candidate’s stance when contrary to the party brand.
  364. Forth, partisanship is an important predictor of voting behavior.
  365. Fifth, representatives care about their partisan reputation.
  366. Finally, there are partisan electoral tides turning over control,
  367.     To the opposing political party in times,
  368.         When voters don’t like what they find.
  369. The study of political parties in America;
  370. Is the study of Uncle Sam:
  371. A two-sided curator.
  372. On this note,
  373. Many books closed,
  374. And smiles formed.
  375. Thank you all for a productive semester.
  376. A moment of sincere gratitude endured.
  377. Then the Professor assumed an air of guidance,
  378. For these political science students:
  379. Remember to complete your papers,
  380. For the upcoming conference in Chicago;
  381. Over the summer, remember, collaborate together.
  382. Oh, I will send you an email tomorrow,
  383. Of the dozen research hypothesis,
  384. Worthy of a top-tier journal,
  385. That you, as a class, may be fertile.
  386. For those of you taking comps this summer,
  387. I suggest writing many conference papers,
  388. According to the subfield ‘tis under.
  389. Yes, graduate students—never in your life,
  390. Will you work harder…
  391. And you, Professor?
  392. I’ll be on vacation,
  393. Reading poetry; of substance:
  394. Poetry about political science.
  395. Wondrous gazes.
  396. Yes. I imagine it will put me to sleep,
  397. On a hammock—under two palm trees.
  398. And with that exchange,
  399. The class moved onto the local café.

[1] This poem is an analysis of: Grynaviski. 2010. Partisan Bonds: Political Reputations and Legislative Accountability. Cambridge University Press.

[2] Page 2

[3] McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal (2001).

[4] Ringquist and Dasse (2004).

[5] Ringquist and Neshkova (2006).

[6] Page 42.


5 thoughts on “So Parties Form. But Why Trust Them?

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

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