Party identification, we’ve learned, is controlled by elite cues and heuristics. Ordinary voters use these shortcuts to make decisions about which party they will identify with and the ideologies that they agree with. This is why party polarization starts at the elite level…
This blog post you wrote grabbed my attention for several reasons. The first was the way you identified the positives and negatives to party polarization in our current political environment. The second was that you discussed the viewpoint that there may not be that much polarization; instead it might be a more partisan issue. However, I hold the belief that the parties are polarized but I’m not exactly sure to what extent. At any rate, I think that more gets done when the parties are on opposite sides on the major issues. It forces great debate and discussion on laws that will have a major impact on the country. Some scholars have suggested that during times of party polarization less wasteful bills are presented and only the most important things make it through. More than a few studies have shown this over the years. It was great that in your blog you showed people that there could be positive things achieved from polarization. It is too often made into just a negative issue. After reading your blog I looked for a report of this issue and found one from Brookings. It discusses the 111th Congress in 2010 and how polarization can do some good for the political and American process that we currently have today. The point that stuck with me from the article was that since the two sides are so different the voters have clearer choices on almost all issues.
House and Senate members must have support from the inside. They need other elected officials to help them get re-elected. It takes money, support, and endorsements to win elections. Those House and Senate members can’t expect to get those if they don’t keep the leaders of their respective parties happy. Often this involves doing things they don’t always want to do. They have to support budget that they have problems with for some reason or another. They have to push bills they find wrong in certain ways. Finally, they have to leave the moderate middle and pick a side on many occasions. This was never more apparent than during Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
She was a strong speaker and she took advantage of the power that her position held. She took an almost unheard-of step when first elected. She removed some of her own party members from their high leadership positions simply for not toeing the party line.
The argument can be made that centrist are needed and side payments have to be made by the party leaders/cartel. This is true the centrist have to compromise their positions more often than they would like. They can’t be expected to do this without some type of reward for doing so. They receive key endorsements and support in time of re-election. They also receive campaign donation when needed.
However, there is another side to this as well. The leaders aren’t going to give there all for the centrist simply for a vote. The centrist must prove that they can “play the part.” They are often called on to campaign for the new policy. Sometimes they are chosen for this because of the centrist title. It can be much more effective for a moderate to push a new budget than for a very partisan member.
So it is more than just voting for a piece of so-so legislation. Many times they are asked to go far beyond that and actually promote it on a nation stage. But the pay-off can be great.
This is where the side payments come into play. The money, media exposure, and name recognition can greatly increase re-election odds. Promoting legislation is a great way to gain all of those things and more. It also makes the member look very creditable on specific issues.
Once you describe this process if all begins to go in a large circle. You can’t have one of these situations without the other.
A Mischiefs of Faction blog post looked at congress and tried to determine if it was just partisan or polarized. They did this by mapping votes in congress on scatterplots. The results that the author find goes something like this: The members coordinate their votes with one another on a larger scale today and manipulate the issues at hand to further their point and gain popularity with the voters. I also think that members of congress use votes to make their points and help themselves out. (The better question is, who doesn’t?)
The point is brought up that members in congress fight simply and mainly because they want to most of the time. I find this notion very persuasive. So, I will look at it a little deeper.
Fighting over important issues is a great way for congressman and senators to get noticed. It is also one of the easiest ways for them to take a stance on these issues, as well. There is another benefit to the “fighting” within congress. It makes them look like they are doing their jobs.
Members of congress are at a point where they must have the support of their base, interest groups, their party, and even a few crossover voters.
Interest groups call on the elected officials to stand up for the specific interest of that group. It makes sense for a member of congress to publicly fight for that interest if it means more support and money.
Voters, at least the ones that care, want a voice in congress. They want someone that stands with and for them. Finding an issue that most of the members’ base supports and fighting for it is great PR. It puts them in a position to campaign on their “hard fought effort to be the voters’ voice”.
Picking good fights on purpose also has another benefit for members of congress. It can help them scare off challengers in their districts. If they are seem as strong, smart, and articulate they are also seen as hard to beat. Because they fight for certain interest and voters they raise money from them as well. This builds them a campaign war chest that can be very useful in races. It’s a simple equation, most of the time, the more popular, well funded, and active the member of congress the more likely they are to win. Rising politicians often choose not to jump in races against strong elected officials; instead they wait for a weaker race and candidate.
These factors make is easier to pick-up crossover voters as well. Both of Tennessee’s senators are good example of this theory as are many of Tennessee’s congressmen. They are active and outspoken and they receive a majority of votes from their base and beyond.
Congress: Partisan, not Polarized
Posted by Gregory Koger
Critical (Short Post) 2 –Spencer Bowers
The Monkey Cage post reviews Washington, voters, and their obsession with consistency.
The fact is Washington and voters hold consistency as the great characteristic of a good politician but they rarely are consistent. In fact, most candidates could not win if they didn’t change stances and opinions quite often throughout their careers. The blog post “A Foolish Consistency” uses the 2012 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney as the example. But there are many more current examples to use now.
Hillary Clinton and her stance on same-sex marriage is a great example of how political leaders change their views to meet the current voters. Hillary Clinton supported, like now President Barack Obama, civil unions and not same-sex marriage in the 2008 race. However, times have changed and now many prominent republicans are supporting same-sex marriage alongside Democrats. Hillary Clinton saw the change and knew that she had to show her support as well, if not she would stand – almost all alone – on the Democrat side.
Changing her stance, even though it wasn’t a big leap, will make her more popular in the electorate not less. This is the example of how consistency is not very important to the voters. Now that more than half of voters support same-sex marriage this could help in the 2016 race, if she chooses to jump in it.
It seems that voters may not even register the fact that she changed her stance.
Hillary Clinton is also a good example for another reason; she supported the U.S. war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq and she refused - in 2008 - to apologize for that vote. There are many that believe that refusal cost her the primary victory for President on the Democratic ticket. In a way, this could show that her refusal to change hurt her with voters instead of the common thought that consistency is a plus.
President Bill Clinton has also made headlines in recent days for changing his view on the Defense of Marriage Act. He was the President that signed DOMA into law when it was created. However, he has now created buzz, most of it positive, for changing his view on the issue.
The President, Mitt Romney, John McCain, former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton are all famous politicians. They have all been elected to high offices in the United States at some point in their careers. Also, they have all changed their views on issue a multitude of times to continue to hold office.
I think it is important to point out that, despite what we say, Americans like candidates that change their minds when it counts. However, I don’t think this speaks badly of the American voters. I think it can be a good thing; in fact, it needs to be that way. We, as Americans, change our minds almost daily and it only makes sense that our leaders should as well.
“Of all the requirements for a successful campaign, none may be more important than money.” This is a statement from “Parties, Politics, and Public Policy in America” by Marc Hetherington and Bruce Larson. (Hetherington, 119) Money in modern campaigns can be hard to trace at best but at worst it is a maze with no end. However, we do know whom many of the major players are when it comes to financing campaigns. First, we must divide the races into categories. Presidential campaigns are funded differently from congressional and senatorial campaigns. The national parties, the national committees, the political action committees, online donors, and extremely wealthy private citizens fund presidential campaigns. National parties send money to state parties who in turn disperse it into the state to influence the election process. Online donors are new to the equation and helped President Barack Obama raise a historic amount of money in 2008 and 2010. Congressional races use many of the same outlets but they use them differently. Many candidates hire professional firms to raise their funds and target wealthy donors. Political action committees (PACs) have become so popular within congressional races that many leaders in congress have created their own political actions committees to support their party candidates. Interest groups also play a major role in the election fundraising process. They, like state parties, use independent expenditures to promote the causes of the candidates they support. (Hetherington)
Over the past few years’ individual donors have become more important to the candidates and the parties. Again, online donors are now more active than at any other time in history. Candidates use this to create funds outside of the party but the parties also use it to raise much-needed funds. Candidates do have more flexibility when they are able to raise their own funds outside of the party; however the parties still raise a large amount of the campaign money. (Hetherington)
Marc Hetherington and Bruce Larson put it like this in their book “Parties, Politics, and Public Policy in America”, “Indeed, the parties’ ability to spend heavily in close contests can help tip the balance in such races. But in most contests, party efforts supplement those of the candidates and are designed to help candidates succeed in a candidate-centered environment.” (Hetherington, 111)
Regulations, such as the elimination of “soft money” have made it harder to make backroom deals during a race but it is still common. But with modern regulation on campaign finance it is easier to trace the money trail.
However, there have been setbacks to campaign finance reform in recent years. The most notable is the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court case, as discussed in the “Mifcheifs of Faction” blog post written by Jennifer Victor. It gave corporations and Unions the First Amendment right to free speech in the political process. It also created the Super PAC. This has opened the floodgate for corporations, unions, and Super PACs to spend money on ads expressing their view on the elections and candidates. (Mifcheifs)
“Dark money”, as it is called in Lee Drutman’s blog post on “The Monkey Cage” , is money that is raised by super PACs from undisclosed donors. There is no way to trace the money from the PACs to the original donors unless they choose to come forward. This is another issue that campaign finance reformers face. (Cage)
Candidates must gain the support of their party leaders to win the nomination. They must, for the most part seek and win the endorsements of the party leaders in order to win. There are many races that prove this theory of group-centered politics. A candidate-centered politics theory would demand that candidates could win by force of money and power. However, this is not the normal in our political system today. “The Party Decides” by Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller describes many cases where a small group of party leaders choose the candidate that is eventually nominated. They describe a system where decision makers pick candidates who make themselves appealing to the leaders. (Cohen)
One example that Cohen, Karol, Noel, and Zaller use is from the 1980 Republican primary featuring Ronald Reagan, they said, “The invisible primary was won by the leader of the party’s largest faction, a proven vote-getter who spent decades building support in the party.”
Reagan spent years supporting Republican candidates and making speeches for candidates that needed money and support. He had in a way “paid his dues” to the party. This is an example of a candidate who wasn’t always the most popular but was the party (group) leaders choice. Another example is when George H.W. Bush won his nomination when he was the sitting Vice-President, a leader in the Republican Party. This again proves the group-centered theory of politics. It was proved again when Jimmy Cater won the nomination for his second term against Kennedy. Kennedy was more popular among voters but Carter had the support of the Democrat governors and other party leaders. So, he won the nomination when all was said and done.
All of these are examples of why I believe we are in a time of group-centered politics not candidate centered. The parties and groups are different now but they are no less effective and strong when it comes to raising money and selecting candidates.
Cohen, Marty. “The Invisible Primary: Theory and Evidence.” The party decides: presidential nominations before and after reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008. 187-234. Print.
Hetherington, Marc J., and Bruce A. Larson. “Campaigns and Campaign Finance.” Parties, politics, and public policy in America. 11th ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010. 109-152. Print.
Drutman, Lee. “Why Money Still Matters â The Monkey Cage.” The Monkey Cage. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/11/14/why-money-still-matters/>.
Victor, Jennifer. “The Mischiefs of Faction: The Equilibrium of Campaign Finance.”The Mischiefs of Faction. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://mischiefsoffaction.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-equilibrium-of-campaign-finance_3912.html>.
There are two major views of political parties in the United States today, according to the book “The Party Decides” by Cohen, Karol, Noel, and Zaller. These two views are politician-centered and group-centered. The politician-centered view states that office-holders use parties to achieve their goals of getting elected to higher office. Using this view the leaders of the party would be the officeholders that seek to use them. They would create the party around what they need to be elected by the voters. The other view is a group-centered view. It states that “policy demanders” use parties as a way to get their candidates elected for certain causes. (Cohen) This view would require the policy demanders/groups to, in some way, control the parties that they use to win elections. Cohen, Karol, Noel, and Zaller cite that in their compiled list of the four most important political parties of the country, none used the politician-centered view to achieve victory.(Cohen)
The book “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism” by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, lays out the making of the Tea Party movement. They use interviews from various members to determine what makes them a part of the “party”. This is a perfect example of the group-centered view that we see in “The Party Decides”. When the Tea Party formed not one of the members was an elected official. They used, as is stated in the blog post “What if the Tea Party were an actual party?” the Republican Party to get the message out.(Noel) That blog post by Hans Noel says, “The Tea Party is an ideological movement, but its political force is felt through the Republican Party”. The “policy demanders” are forcing action through the movement that they have created. A fast-rising politician did not form this; they came into the picture later.
It is clear, from past readings, that political parties are not just elected officials and staffers. They are built of “policy demanders”, as Cohen, Karol, Noel, and Zaller call them, as well as elected officials. This being said, strong candidates often make their own choices when it comes to policy and positions. They no longer agree with their party all the time. But the Parties continue to make new platforms and hold conventions each year. They do this for multiple reasons. But the platform is the focus for this reading. The platform is updated each year and it is meant to represent a party’s stance on the issues of the day. This, however, is not always the candidates’ position. According to the blog post ‘The Value of a Platform”, Jennifer Victor gives an answer. She shows how interest groups and organizations lobby for their causes to be included on a platform. This is a great way for a group to “win” an, often very competitive” war of words. So, naturally a party platform can stray from the major candidates platform.(Victor)
Parties, using their platforms, can help champion causes of the groups related to them. But they also do much more than that; parties also promote the candidates on their ticket. They help candidates raise money, advertise, and gather volunteers. They also work to organize voters and get them to the voting booths. Parties work with many other groups to organize events and promote causes that will help influence the outcome of elections.
Activist politics, as defined by “The Party Decides”, means “non-office-holding citizens working to affect political outcomes.”(Cohen) This term could be used to describe the difference in a group like the Tea Party and a major political party. They, originally, were non-office-holding people joining together to spread their message. The Tea Party is also a good example of how a activist politics group can change over election cycles. They use their voice to influence votes, mainly in the Republican Party. A great example is the focus that Congress now has on the nation debt.
Parties are broad and fairly decentralized in politics today. They open their platforms up to many groups and organizations. They also actively recruit new members to broaden their bases. Also, the new focus on grassroots has greatly affected the way parties operate. They now reach out and partner with other political organizations to work together.
Political Parties have been around from the start of our nation. However, they were not always obvious or named. The group-centered theory focuses on organizations using political parties to achieve victories. Looking at the rise of the major parties today, this seems to be the normal way. They have opened themselves up, in order to stay relevant, and now work with many groups to achieve their goals as organizations.
Skocpol, T., & Williamson, V. (2012). The Tea Party and the remaking of Republican conservatism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cohen, M. (2008). The party decides: presidential nominations before and after reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Victor, J. (2012, September 6). The Mischiefs of Faction: The Value of a Platform. The Mischiefs of Faction. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://mischiefsoffaction.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-value-of-platform.html
Noel, H. (2012, June 25). The Mischiefs of Faction: What if the Tea Party were an actual party?. The Mischiefs of Faction. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://mischiefsoffaction.blogspot.com/2012/06/what-if-tea-party-were-actual-party.html
Political parties, candidates and the media have had a rocky love-hate relationship. Some days they are singing each other’s praises. But other days they are ripping one another apart with terms like the “lamestream” media. What is true about all these in America is that they are not that separate at all. They are actually much cozier than any of them would like you to think.
Political parties and candidates put much of their staff and resources into communications. They spend hours a day shaping the messages that they will present to the public. This message with, eventually, is presented to that public through the media.
The media needs stories that interest their readers and speak to their demographics. They use the political parties and candidates to find many of those “juicy” stories.
One article we read suggested that it was odd for young politicians to use media bosses to rise to the top of the field. In fact, this is not odd at all and it has been going on for as long as any of these groups have been around. Political parties, interest groups, candidates, and activist all use the media and the media leaders to raise their popularity.
Candidates and party leaders know the journalists that are friendly to them. They also know the papers, blogs, and television outlets that are most likely to print their stories. So, they normally send their stories to those groups first. This helps the candidate get the “word” out more quickly. It is not news to talk about a politician rising because of this; in fact it is quite normal.
What is interesting is how recent candidates have risen to power more quickly using social media. This is a blank canvas for candidates to spin the story in anyway they need. Many have credited Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton to the fundraising and messaging advantage he received due to social media. He connected with an untapped group of voters, young adults and students, by using multiple social media outlets at once.
Candidates, by using social media, can show an ever-changing picture of themselves and their campaign. They can also show a more personal side that connects them with voters. The candidates that tap into social media first can capture the votes of many swing voters in the country.
People don’t always turn on the news but they constantly check their social media pages. Political parties and candidates can be ever present by sending out updates on their pages. Both groups have even created apps for smartphones, another way to connect to the people.
This is the story that should be told. How candidates and parties are bypassing some media outlets by using social media. They are framing the message themselves instead of relying on journalist to do it for them. This makes it a safer bet for the candidate and party. It also allows them to release the information on their terms and timeline. All of this social media interaction has resulted in candidates rising to power and skipping steps that, in the past, would have been mandatory to get them where they are now.
Who’s the Party? August 24, 2012. David Karol, The Monkey Cage blog.
(Photo: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP - Getty Images)
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional - what makes us American - is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago.
What did you think of Obama’s speech?