Friday, 19 December 2003

The party ain't quite over yet

Steven Taylor finally got around to reading the Ehrlich piece I discussed below (in terms of Mickey Kaus’ reaction to it). Quoth Dr. Taylor:

The second problem [with his argument] is more profound: Erhlich seems not to understand American parties. Parties in the US are primarily three things: the candidates themselves, the officeholders who manage to win election, and, above all else, the voters who are willing to put those candidates into office. The institutional existence of the party (the party committee, and so forth) is really minor by comparison to the other aforementioned elements.

This is a restatement of the classic “tripartite division” of the party in political science: the party in the electorate, the party in government (which subsumes both the “candidates” and “officeholders” from Steven’s description), and the party organization (or institution). While parties are institutionally weak, as I reviewed in my previous post, that’s not the whole reality of the situation—parties still have a strong resonance in the electorate (even in the elite bits of the electorate, like the blogosphere: you’ll find relatively few nonpartisan “warbloggers”), and they still help organize competition both in elections and in government.

Anyway, go read what Steven said, as well was what Professor Bainbridge had to say too. (Bonus points: Prof. Bainbridge talks about one of my favorite topics, heuristics, and the value of those heuristics in political decision-making.*)

* The original title of my dissertation was going to be The Role of Political Sophistication in the Use of Heuristics by Voters, but my third substantive chapter (on the role of sophistication in the “psychological effect” of Duverger’s Law) departed from the heuristic theme a bit, so it no longer worked. Now, it’s The Impact of Political Sophistication on the Decision-Making Processes of Voters, for those keeping score at home.