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A Quick Note on Voters (MS Primary Edition)

Voter-ID-e1301046802166A open note to many who have commented on the Mississippi primary:  there are no “Democratic voters” or “Republican voters” in any official sense in a state that has open primaries.  The are only “voters” who choose (or do not choose) to vote in a given contest (and who also have to choose which primary in which to participate).

Indeed, for any official or analytical purposes a given voter is not a “Republican voter” (or a” Cochran voter” or whatever) until after a ballot is cast.  I have, in my life been a Republican voter, a Democratic voter, a Libertarian voter, and even other kinds of voter.  Indeed, I have been more than one in a given election.  Now, over time have a been more consistently one or another category?  Yes, but that does not mean that from election A to election B (or even ballot line 1 to ballot line 2) that any of the parties in question own my vote.

The task of a given campaign is to encourage those voters to come to the polls and to vote for their candidate. Individual voters choose to vote in given elections, and for specific candidates for any number of reasons.  As long as those reasons are not illegal (e.g., from a bribe), then those votes are valid and are counted towards the winner.

But here’s the real rub:  any voter who voted for Thad Cochran this week was, by definition, a Republican voter because they voted for a Republican in a Republican primary.  That they may have not been Republican voters in the past, and may not so be in the future, but perhaps one of the most definitive thing that one can say about the votes cast for Cochran on Tuesday, they were unequivocally Republican.

Now yes, I understand that one can identify the voting patterns of a given voter and classify their general partisan leanings and attitudes (and use those to predict probable future behavior).  We can likewise make claims along these lines based on demographics.  However, in a given election there is a key and profound difference between how people have behaved, or might be predicted to have behaved and how they actually behaved in the casting a of a specific ballot.

Again:  candidates campaign and try to persuade voters to vote for them.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  The exact nature of what persuades a given group varies from campaign to campaign (and from voter to voter).  If some voters who have traditionally voted for Democrats decided to express their preferences to influence who the next Senator from Mississippi will be by voting for a Republican, then that has a word:  democracy.  (More specifically, we political science types call it “strategic voting”).

It should be further noted that as long as parties use primaries to choose candidates (whether they be open or closed) then parties will often have fights over the direction of that party and the “purity” of those candidates (note that there is, even among committed Republicans in Mississippi, a disagreement over whom the candidate should be).  There is no definitive definition of a “Republican” save the candidate who wins the nomination.  As I have noted before, all partisans are, ultimately, in name only.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    Here in Oregon we have closed primaries and as an independent I can’t vote in them but most of the county and municipal positions are non-partisan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. C. Clavin says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen your by-line in a while…nice to see it again.

    It’s funny that the loudest complaints on this are coming from people who in the past have encouraged using the same tactic against Democrats…this was their “Operation Chaos” in reverse. Turnabout is fair play and payback sucks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  3. KM says:

    I’ve always founded that making voters list a party affiliation when registering (or at all to be honest) to be troublesome. It’s like a brand – in order to participate in the most basic freedom and sacred duty of a democracy, you must choose what Master’s Mark to wear. It follows you through your life and even if you change it, you are just changing Masters. Independent isn’t the answer nor Unaffiliated, because you are still defining yourself in terms of who you are not instead of who you are.

    But here’s the real rub: any voter who voted for Thad Cochran this week was, by definition, a Republican voter because they voted for a Republican in a Republican primary. That they may have not been Republican voters in the past, and may not so be in the future, but perhaps one of the most definitive thing that one can say about the votes cast for Cochran on Tuesday, they were unequivocally Republican.

    And that’s the way it should be. Each election, each politician on their own merits. Decide based not on party or ideology but one the actual individual who will then enact that will. Make them fight for each and every single vote, not rest on laurels and say “Well, we only need X because we have Y”. Force them to realize they serve us ALL at our leisure.

    Earn your damn office, people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. dpcret says:

    Hey, Steven. Don’t confuse me with facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. DrDaveT says:

    As I have noted before, all partisans are, ultimately, in name only.

    I was very happy with your article, until this last line. I think you’re exactly right that most voters are only contingently partisan — they vote for the candidate that tends to agree with their views (or has convinced them to try a new approach), and are partisan only in the sense that one party more consistently provides the candidate that is the best match.

    But I do think that there are real partisans, and that their rise is part of what is breaking the government’s ability to function. There are voters out there now who think it is more important for their party to win than it is for them to vote for the best candidate. The parties themselves promote this viewpoint, portraying the opposition as intent on passing laws that will damage America, perhaps irrevocably.

    The result is that the only ‘qualification’ for office that people look at is strength of party affiliation. This has a predictable effect on the quality of candidates available for voters to choose among.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Mississippi has a specific law that seems to apply here:

    No person shall be eligible to participate in any primary election unless he intends to support the nominations made in the primary in which he participates.

    That would seem to preclude anyone voting in two primaries, as they cannot “support” more than one nomination in the general election. And soliciting people to ignore this law seems a tad unethical, if not illegal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  7. C. Clavin says:

    OT…but breaking….
    The SCOTUS ruled against the Administration in the NLRB case…as I predicted they would.
    It’s bad for the Republic…but it is what it is.
    Start the impeachment proceedings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Beat you by 20 minutes, “douche-fvck.” And it went 9-0, which means that Clinton appointees Ginsburg and Breyer, as well as Obama appointees Sotomayor and Kagan, all said Obama was wrong.

    And “bad for the Republic” that Congress gets to decide when it’s recessed, and not the president? Are you really that stupid?

    Oh, yeah. You’re Cliffykins. You really are that stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 12

  9. jib says:

    And this is why I am a big supporter of Top 2 primary system which is what we have in WA and they also now have in CA. In Top 2, every candidate appears on one primary ballot, every voter votes in the same primary, the candidates who finish in the top 2 positions move onto the general election. No need for party registrations, no need for laws about “must support in the general who you vote for in the primary”, no need for sore loser laws. It is a cleaner and fairer way to run elections.

    Face it, partisan primaries are nothing but a MASSIVE govt subsidy for the democratic and repub parties. It is ridiculous for my tax money to pay for a private party nomination. Public, tax payer funded elections should be open to all without any partisan division.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Another unenforceable and unconstitutional law, but hey, that’s what you get when legislatures write laws.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  11. george says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    If you have to troll, couldn’t you at least be clever about it? That’s not even elementary school level.

    Back in the day people knew how to troll.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  12. Personally, I would like to eliminate partisan primaries entirely. Put all the candidates, regardless of party, in one primary and send the top two vote getters to the general election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @george: Yeah, I am a smidgen ashamed of that one. Kinda wish I hadn’t indulged myself there.

    NOT gonna ask for it to be deleted, as I said it and it should stand, but if folks could just kinda ignore it, I’d be grateful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  14. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Personally, I would like to eliminate partisan primaries entirely. Put all the candidates, regardless of party, in one primary and send the top two vote getters to the general election.

    California’s tried that, and it doesn’t seem to be working out too well. How about closing runoffs to only people who were registered to the party concerned on the first election day?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  15. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    1. In what sense does California’s primary system “not seem to be working out too well”?
    2. I’m registered as an independent. Why is it that people like me should be taxed for millions of dollars to pay for primaries we’re not allowed to participate in?
    3. Independents are more than a third of the electorate. Why do they not deserve a say in the candidates for the general election?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT: This whole “Party” thing didn’t work out the way the founders intended. I vote on policy, not personality. Short version: Neo-Keynsian econ, no counterproductive wars, protect SS, Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA, stricter financial regulation, judges who will protect reproductive rights and disagree with Doug on speech=money. As things currently stand, one party lines up pretty well with my policy preferences, the other not at all well.

    At the national level, party pretty much defines a politicians policy preferences. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins may be wonderful people and may have really wanted to vote for the ACA. But they didn’t, they couldn’t. Individual Republican congresspeople may wish to pursue rational economic policy. But they can’t. Mitt Romney is an upstanding citizen, obviously bright and capable, and may have wanted to pursue economic policy that benefited the whole country, not just the .01%. But he’d have never gotten away with it. (And I doubt he’d have tried.)

    So what national level Republican can you hold up as someone I should vote for, assuming I lived in the right place? Someone who would further my policy preferences? This could change, but right now, why TF would I vote for a Republican?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  17. Matt Bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    That would seem to preclude anyone voting in two primaries, as they cannot “support” more than one nomination in the general election.

    Again, this is a somewhat nonsensical line of thought — unless I’m missing something.

    I don’t think there’s any ground to question the section of the law that limits participation to one party’s primary or the other. In many respects that’s just an extension of the concept of “one vote” per position.

    But the entire idea of a run-off includes the notion of swaying supporters between elections. So it’s entirely possible to switch candidates within a party run-off.

    This of course gets to the entire problem with “intent” and why the law makes no sense. Either close the primaries or leave them open. But trying to go into “intent” is ridiculous – even if we’re not discussing cross-party politics. After all, what about all the Tea Party members who voted for McDaniel who, based on their deeply held beliefs, could never pull the lever for a establishment, sell-out RINO? Shouldn’t all of their votes be invalidated as well?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Being registered in as an independent in a state with closed primaries and one dominant party is the same as not voting and not caring about politics. What is the point of being a registered as an independent in a closed primary state like Maryland when the Democratic Primary is the real election and the general election is just a rubber stamp of what the Democrats want.

    As more states become dominant party states, I suspect that many former Republican primary voters will move over and vote in the meaningful elections in the Democratic primary. What is amazing is that blacks have not previously voted in the Republican primary in Mississippi even thought in most cases in the last decade, it has been the real election for state wide office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  19. Trumwill says:

    I agree with the primary thesis of the post, which is that there is nothing at all illegitimate with reaching out to non-traditional primary voters.

    I do consider “Democratic voters” to be a thing. Namely, voters who vote exclusively or overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates, and voters who identify as Democratic (mostly the former). The same goes for Republican voters.

    So it is noteworthy the extent to which Cochran’s win was due to voters who either self-identify as Democratic or vote exclusively or overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in general elections.

    Thus, when we talk about turnout for example, we talk about “Republican voters” and “Democratic voters” coming out to the polls or not, and we’re talking about something that exists. And if we say something like “Democratic voters often don’t turn out during mid-term elections, giving the Republicans an advantage” we are talking about – among other things – voters who didn’t vote, but who often do (in presidential election years anyway) and when they do vote for Democrats.

    The other point of (at least sorta) disagreement is that it can be relevant if a candidate wins on the basis of support from people who don’t actually support the party’s agenda and/or will vote against them later. It doesn’t invalidate the win, but depending on your point of view it can supply an argument for closing primaries.

    (My own view is that open vs closed should depend largely on whether the cross-party voters are acting in good faith or bad faith. Cochran would be an example of “good faith” but Democratic voters – see above for definition – who vote for some Tea Party whackadoo to increase the Democratic odds of victory in November, are justifying the closing of the primary process to party members.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. anjin-san says:

    this is a somewhat nonsensical line of thought

    Matt, meet Jenos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Jon Marcus says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Yep, anyone who voted in both the D and R primaries absolutely broke the law. Which is why I believe they were checking for that at polling places in this election. Anyone who tried should have been kept from voting a second time by the election judges. If they weren’t, McDaniel can get their votes thrown out. That’s easy to prove…but unlikely to have any effect

    Which is why that’s not what McDaniels is saying. He’s saying that people voted in the R primary with the future intent of voting for a D in the general. How can he guess their private intent, let alone prove it beyond a reasonable doubt? Well, they were black, dontcha know…

    And that is the flimsy, racist, reed Chris “White Citizens Council” McDaniels is hanging his hopes on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  22. Matt Bernius says:

    BTW, for those hanging their hat on “intent”, there is apparently no way to challenge a ballot based on intent in Mississippi law:

    There’s another reason this law is unenforceable as written. State statute (23–15–571) outlines the reasons for challenging a vote. They include:

    That he is not a registered voter in the precinct;That he is not the registered voter under whose name he has applied to vote; That he has already voted in the election;
    That he is not a resident in the precinct where he is registered;
    That he has illegally registered to vote;
    That he has removed his ballot from the polling place; or
    That he is otherwise disqualified by law.

    What you don’t see on this list is anything dealing with party affiliation [or intent].

    http://www.clarionledger.com/story/dailyledes/2014/06/18/pac-democratic-votes-race/10801763/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. @DrDaveT:

    But I do think that there are real partisans

    I agree. But that is different that what I am addressing here.

    When it comes to a specific election, there are only the votes cast.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. @Trumwill:

    I do consider “Democratic voters” to be a thing. Namely, voters who vote exclusively or overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates, and voters who identify as Democratic (mostly the former). The same goes for Republican voters.

    Agreed. But, like I just noted, that is actually not what I am talking about. Ultimately, what matters are the votes cast in a given contest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. @Jenos Idanian #13: That strikes me as perhaps the most unenforceable law I have ever read.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. @Trumwill:

    The other point of (at least sorta) disagreement is that it can be relevant if a candidate wins on the basis of support from people who don’t actually support the party’s agenda and/or will vote against them later.

    It could very much be an argument for closing primaries, yes.

    However, part of my point is: people have all kinds of reasons for voting as they do (and not always because they are affirmatively in favor of a given candidate–even pure partisan voters).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. grumpy realist says:

    Heck, I’d have more respect for these goofuses if they outright said what they really want, which is to ban black people from voting entirely….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. @DrDaveT:

    I was very happy with your article, until this last line.

    BTW: my fundamental point is this: the only objective way to define a vote as “Republican” or “Democratic” or whatever is if that vote goes for a candidate with that label. Likewise the only thing that makes a Republican nominee or officeholder is the label “Republican.”

    Holding the “wrong” policy position (whatever that may be) does not invalidate that label.

    Do you see what I mean?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Just Me says:

    I like the way NH does it.

    If you are registered as a party member you can’t vote in the other party’s primary.
    If you are registered as an independent you may choose the party ballot of your choice to vote.
    If you want to remain an independent make sure you fill out the party change paperwork on your way out because you can’t switch parties the day of the election.

    This allows everyone who wants to vote to have a say but keeps party loyalists from making too much trouble for the opposition.

    NH also has a very large proportion of independent voters because of how it works.

    Not really sure I am a fan of cross party run offs but I like the idea of in party run offs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    To that point, it appears that much of it was invalidated by a 2008 5th Circuit Decision. I haven’t had a chance to read the decision yet to see if it specifically discussed the “intent” portion of the statute .

    http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions%5Cpub%5C07/07-60667-CV0.wpd.pdf

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. superdestroyer says:

    The same primary loss happened to Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga) in 2002. However, Rep. McKinney actually did sue in court arguing that the civil rights and voting rights of black voters because whites could cross over and vote against McKinney. I wonder if progressives and liberal Democrats had the same opinion of open primaries back then?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynthia_McKinney#2002_primary_defeat

    There was also the 2002 Republican primary for governor in California where the incumbent Democrat, Gray Davis, had adds against the moderate Republican candidate in the hopes of facing the more conservative Republican.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_gubernatorial_election,_2002#Republican

    I suspect that as the U.S. becomes a dominant party politics system that the primaries will become the real elections and will be open for more manipulation than a general election. I wonder how the Democrats reconcile their war against voting restrictions with their push to make the Democratic Primary the real election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. trumwill says:

    @superdestroyer: More recently than Davis/Riordan/Simon, I believe that McCaskill was lending aid and support to Todd Akin’s campaign. Though in that case, they ran ads “against” Akin that bolstered his conservative credentials.

    I’d forgotten about McKinney’s lawsuit. I doubt most Democrats had much of a problem with that, since most of them considered her an embarrassment.

    The classic southern case of influencing opposing primaries was Republicans voting for Lester Maddox. Maddox would, of course, go on to win against the Republican that the Republicans who voted for Maddox wanted to win.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Do you see what I mean?

    Not really, no. I thought I did, in your article, but your comments don’t align with what I thought you were saying.

    As best I can tell, you are now trying to deny that there is any distinction between people who vote for the best candidate (in their eyes) and people who vote for the party they wish to control the White House / Senate / House / Governor’s Mansion / whatever, regardless of how they feel about the qualifications of the candidate.

    You may be right that there is no “objective” external way of telling those people apart (since “asking them” doesn’t seem to meet your criteria), but I don’t see the force of that. There’s no objective way to define my behavior as “screaming in pain” or “faking an injury”, either, but I assure you the difference is real and important.

    More to the point, the strategy a given candidate or party should adopt to recruit additional voters depends strongly on the distribution of voters-for-candidates vs. voters-for-parties, so this is not a distinction without a difference.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  34. @DrDaveT:

    Let’s try this.

    Question 1:

    Voter A has voted Republican for the last 4 election cycles.

    In the current election, he votes for the Democrat.

    Was his vote a “Republican vote” or a “Democratic vote?

    Question 2:

    Candidate A is very liberal (e.g., wants to raise taxes, favors abortion rights, etc), but he won the Republican nomination and has an “R” by his name on the ballot.

    Is he a Republican, a Democrat, or something else?

    (And I am not being sarcastic or pedantic. I am trying to explain what that last line of the post means in the most direct way that I can).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. Question 3:

    A candidate receives a vote.

    Does it matter what the motive was, at least in terms of the value of that vote to the candidate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Perhaps put another way: there is a difference why people vote and tallying up how they actually voted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    In the same non-sarcastic trying-to-figure-this-out spirit:

    Question 1:
    Voter A has voted Republican for the last 4 election cycles. In the current election, he votes for the Democrat. Was his vote a “Republican vote” or a “Democratic vote?

    Answer: No. It was a vote for a particular candidate. (There is some small chance that it was the first Democratic vote of a party voter who just experienced a major change of allegiance, but that seems awfully unlikely.)

    Question 2:
    Candidate A is very liberal (e.g., wants to raise taxes, favors abortion rights, etc), but he won the Republican nomination and has an “R” by his name on the ballot.
    Is he a Republican, a Democrat, or something else?

    A Republican (and a miracle).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. @DrDaveT:

    Answer: No. It was a vote for a particular candidate. (There is some small chance that it was the first Democratic vote of a party voter who just experienced a major change of allegiance, but that seems awfully unlikely.)

    You are missing the basic point: the vote itself, regardless of the motive and regardless of the the voter’s past goes in the R column. It is a Republican vote by definition (because the candidate in question was a Republican).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Question 3:
    A candidate receives a vote. Does it matter what the motive was, at least in terms of the value of that vote to the candidate?

    Matter to whom? It obviously doesn’t matter for purposes of determining who won the election, which is the only sense I can make of “the value of that vote to the candidate”. But that’s an uninteresting tautology. I don’t know of anyone (or any party) who is interested in a single result in a single election, to the exclusion of all else, as if the world were going to end tomorrow (or at least before the next election). For anyone who cares about the future — such as the candidate, or the candidate’s opponent, or either of their political parties — the motive matters for predicting and strategizing and simply understanding. For the voter herself, the motive is clearly important.

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  40. A soccer illustration for World Cup season: Portugal’s first goal today came off the leg of a Ghanaian. The goal, regardless of intent, was a Portuguese goal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  41. @DrDaveT:

    Matter to whom? It obviously doesn’t matter for purposes of determining who won the election, which is the only sense I can make of “the value of that vote to the candidate”.

    This is the point.

    But that’s an uninteresting tautology.

    It is not a tautology at all. It is stripping down the objective, definition of the vote. Again, the context here are claims that Cochran won with “Democratic” votes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. @DrDaveT:

    For anyone who cares about the future — such as the candidate, or the candidate’s opponent, or either of their political parties — the motive matters for predicting and strategizing and simply understanding.

    This post is not about the future (nor is it about the past). And the fundamental point about “in name only” is that that is all that party labels are: names.

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  43. Maybe this will help: you can certainly find out, difficult though it may be, why a given voter voted as they did, however, the winner is determined by number of votes cast, not why.

    This is not to say that the why question does not matter. But, it is ridiculous to pretend like a given pool of votes for a Republican are anything other than Republicans votes.

    But, all that means is that the Republican candidate won them. It says nothing about how that Republican will behave (or what she believes).

    (Those are all different questions, and the answers to them cannot be determined by the label alone nor by the vote tally).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You are missing the basic point: the vote itself, regardless of the motive and regardless of the the voter’s past goes in the R column.

    Actually, it goes in the “Delwyn McTeague” column, or whoever the candidate was. Parties only stand for election in the form of individual candidates. I’m not missing your point; I’m denying its importance.

    It is a Republican vote by definition (because the candidate in question was a Republican).

    Only in the same sense that it was a blond vote (because the candidate in question was blond), or a Scottish vote (because the candidate’s family name is Scottish). You can choose to define it that way, but I don’t understand why you would choose to do that. You might just as well define the raindrops that fall on him as Republican raindrops, because they fell on a Republican.

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  45. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But, all that means is that the Republican candidate won them.

    If that’s really all you intend it to mean, then I recommend that you stop saying it, because 99% of people who say “a Republican vote” are intending to say something about the motive, not just the tally, and that’s how your readers will interpret what you’re saying.

    In standard parlance, not every vote for a Republican is a Republican vote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. @DrDaveT:

    Only in the same sense that it was a blond vote (because the candidate in question was blond), or a Scottish vote (because the candidate’s family name is Scottish). You can choose to define it that way, but I don’t understand why you would choose to do that.

    If we had a system that identified candidates and office holders by hair color, then that would make sense.

    We don’t conduct elections and govern based on aggregations of persons (i.e., candidates) either). Our primaries are partisan. Our elections are partisan. We allocate power in legislatures based on parties. Hence, it is simply not about candidates or hair color, it is about parties. This is why I would choose to focus as I have done.

    Fundamentally, I am perplexed by your position insofar as you stated “I was very happy with your article, until this last line.”–I am unclear, sincerely, on how the last line creates this much derailment. The thesis of the post and the last line are in alignment.

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  47. @DrDaveT:

    If that’s really all you intend it to mean, then I recommend that you stop saying it, because 99% of people who say “a Republican vote” are intending to say something about the motive, not just the tally, and that’s how your readers will interpret what you’re saying.

    The motivation doesn’t matter in terms of who wins of lose, the tally does.

    You are conflating variables.

    You are also misunderstanding, at least in part, what I am saying: I am not saying that intend and other variable do not matter. I am saying that you cannot fuse intent and tally.

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  48. I’ll try one more angle:

    A vote is cast in election X.

    The voter in question usually votes for Party A, in election X voted for party B.

    What should define that specific vote? Is it the past behavior of voter, or the actual vote cast in election X?

    it seems to me that in terms of election X we can only look at the actions of the voter in that election and not what was done in the past or what might be done in the future.

    Now, we can certainly ask why the voter changes from A to B, but that is a different issue.

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  49. superdestroyer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What no one is mentioning is that Cochran is probably the first Republican that received the votes from those cross over black voters. Of course, this has lead way too many to believe that Cochran is showing the way for the Republicans to get more black votes in the future. I suspect that when the core Republican voters in Mississippi take their revenge on some other establishment Republicans that no one will notice.

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  50. wr says:

    @Matt Bernius: The “intent” thing is particularly ludicrous, as it eliminates the entire general campaign. If you voted for someone in the primary, you have to vote the same way in the general. If you actually listen to the two candidates and change your mind based on what you’ve learned, you’re an outlaw.

    “If thinking is outlawed, only outlaws will think.”

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  51. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, insofar as normally Democratic voters crossed over they are not equivalent to the Republican Operation Chaos. In this case the voters appear to have genuinely preferred Cochran over McDaniels. Basically, McDaniels spent his entire adult life loudly broadcasting his contempt for 1/3 of the voters in MS, then ran for a statewide office. He is now flummoxed by the fact that some of those he mocked and disparaged used their electoral power to keep him from that office so as to ensure they are not subject to his whims.

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  52. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This post is not about the future (nor is it about the past).

    Then it is utterly irrelevant. How can you not see that? Why would you want to talk about something that, as soon as you label it, no longer matters for anything at all?

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  53. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not saying that intend and other variable do not matter. I am saying that you cannot fuse intent and tally.

    You are also asserting without proof that “Republican voter” is talking about tally, and not about predilection or allegiance or intent. I think you’re wrong — you have misunderstood how that phrase is used in modern American English. You can try to redefine it all you want (though I don’t know why you want to give it a tautological definition that doesn’t say anything interesting), but that’s not how readers will understand what you write.

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  54. MarkedMan says:

    re: DrTaveT and Steven L. Taylor

    I think what we have here is a failure to communicate.

    Does it boil down to Steven is talking about “votes” and DTT is talking about “voters”?

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  55. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The voter in question usually votes for Party A, in election X voted for party B.

    What should define that specific vote? Is it the past behavior of voter, or the actual vote cast in election X?

    Finally, an interesting question.

    It seems obvious to me that the one thing you DON’T want to talk about is the vacuous observation that a vote for party B is a vote for party B. Which seems to be what you want the phrase “Party B voter” to mean.

    Setting that aside, there is now the interesting question of whether this voter voted for party B out of party loyalty, or out of independent assessment of the merits of the candidates, or actually against party loyalty. If the Party B candidate is getting votes from normally loyal Party A voters*, that’s news — and worth a label, such as saying “Candidate Wisneiwski won over a surprising number of Party A voters”.

    *That is, voters who normally vote for the Party A candidate because she’s the Party A candidate, not because they feel she’s the closer match to their own preferences. The weaker condition — that people who have tended to vote Party A nevertheless voted for Wisneiwski — is still interesting, but less so.

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  56. @DrDaveT: I have tried to explain my position. I honestly do not think I have been unclear, but clearly I am failing to connect.

    I am not really sure what your argument is.

    I will say this, however, I am not sure why pointing out a vote for Party B is a vote for Party B is vacuous (or unimportant).

    And you are utterly missing my point about label, whether you realize it or not.

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  57. @MarkedMan:

    Does it boil down to Steven is talking about “votes” and DTT is talking about “voters”?

    Not exactly. It is the issue of whether how to understand the actions of voters in the casting of a specific vote.

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  58. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The motivation doesn’t matter in terms of who wins of lose, the tally does.

    Obviously. Similarly, the party affiliation of the winner doesn’t matter in terms of who wins or loses — only the tally does. If you want to base your argument (whatever it is that you’re claiming; I’ve now lost track) on the fact that only the tally matters, then ONLY the tally matters.

    I still think we agree on pretty much everything except what the phrase “Republican voter” means in English.

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  59. @DrDaveT:

    I still think we agree on pretty much everything except what the phrase “Republican voter” means in English.

    Perhaps.

    So, what is a person who voted Republican all their lives and then, in the most recent election, voted a straight Democratic ticket?

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  60. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Not exactly. It is the issue of whether how to understand the actions of voters in the casting of a specific vote.

    Crap. I thought I was finally going to understand what you are getting at, but that sentence clearly has at least one typo in it. Could you edit it and try again?

    I am not sure why pointing out a vote for Party B is a vote for Party B is vacuous

    Then I have no idea how to proceed here. If I tell you that Steven is Steven, what have you learned about Steven? Why would I bother to say that? What’s the point? There’s no information there.

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  61. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    So, what is a person who voted Republican all their lives and then, in the most recent election, voted a straight Democratic ticket?

    By your definition of “voted Republican”, or mine?

    By your definition, it could be someone who was startled to see that the Democrats on the ticket this time are (much to his surprise) more aligned with his beliefs than any of the Republicans. Or it could be the same as for my definition.

    By my definition, it’s someone who has finally realized that in recent years Democrats have a much better record at fiscal responsibility and nonintervention than Republicans do, and has switched party allegiance (but not political philosophy).

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  62. @DrDaveT: You are correct–that sentence is messed up. I think my intended sentence was to be “It is the issue of how to understand the actions of voters in the casting of a specific vote.” Although, quite frankly, it still isn’t a very good sentence. Rather than try and reformulate, let’s try this:

    If I tell you that Steven is Steven, what have you learned about Steven? Why would I bother to say that? What’s the point? There’s no information there.

    In this example, Steven is a name, but in my example, voting is an action. This is a key distinction, and gets to my point: you are conflating a descriptor (a name/label) with an action. I am trying to focus on the action.

    Also, let me try this as it pertain to the MS race: what should we call a voter who voted for Thad Cochran in this primary?

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  63. @DrDaveT:

    By my definition, it’s someone who has finally realized that in recent years Democrats have a much better record at fiscal responsibility and nonintervention than Republicans do, and has switched party allegiance (but not political philosophy).

    And you get here to an important part of my point: you are imbuing label and choices with meaning that you really have no way of knowing is there (save from a direct interview). However, apart from interviewing the voters, you really don’t know why they voted as they did. All you can know is how they voted. You are assuming information that you do not have.

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  64. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And you get here to an important part of my point: you are imbuing label and choices with meaning that you really have no way of knowing is there

    No, I think you have that backwards. I am giving a name to the important thing (which I probably can’t know from the available data), and declining to give a name to the thing that is easy to know but uninformative.

    From the outside, I can’t tell a Republican voter from a person who happened to vote for a Republican, or even from a person who unexpectedly voted for a Democrat. But the hidden variables there are the important ones, the ones worth talking about. If I define my terms so that every statement I can make is true but uninformative, I can’t talk about the interesting questions.

    You are assuming information that you do not have.

    No, because I don’t claim to be able to identify the Republican voters. I can construct models, and test hypotheses, but that’s about it. But that’s more useful than simply noting that everyone who voted for a Republican voted for a Republican.

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  65. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    what should we call a voter who voted for Thad Cochran in this primary?

    If that’s all the information you have, then “a Cochran voter”.

    If you want to speculate about causes and trends, it might be worth wondering whether this was a Democrat who voted for Cochran, or a Republican who voted for Cochran, or an independent who voted for Cochran.

    So, looking back at your original article, you’re right — it was not just the last line I disagreed with. I somehow managed to skim over the crux, which was when you said

    But here’s the real rub: any voter who voted for Thad Cochran this week was, by definition, a Republican voter because they voted for a Republican in a Republican primary. That they may have not been Republican voters in the past, and may not so be in the future, but perhaps one of the most definitive thing that one can say about the votes cast for Cochran on Tuesday, they were unequivocally Republican.

    …which I clearly could not disagree with more. The votes themselves do not have party affiliation. Candidates do, and voters might, but votes are votes are votes, at least in an open primary like this.

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  66. @DrDaveT: I will think if I can find a better way to explain my point, perhaps in another post at some point in the future.

    Cheers.

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  67. @DrDaveT: This is a strange position, as it basically divorces partisan identitiers from a clearly partisan activity. (if voting in a nominating primary is not a partisan act, there are no partisan acts).

    If this is your position, then I understand why we are having such a difficult time connecting.

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  68. (The act of choosing a Republican ballot in an open primary is the voter choosing a partisan affiliation, at least for that contest).

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  69. Rick DeMent says:

    It is my opinion, since parties are not mentioned in the constitution then they have no real standing in the laws that govern voting outside of tradition. If mine were the world to run I would allow everyone regardless of party affiliation to vote in the primaries of both parties if they wished. That would moderated them to some extent and would have no effect on anyone’s rights since party affiliation is not a constitutional guarantee.

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  70. superdestroyer says:

    @Rick DeMent:

    When the U.S. reaches the point of being a one party state, you will get your wish but probably not the real outcome that you want. As shown in Mississippi, which is a Republican dominated state and the Democratic Party is mainly made up of blacks, when the Democrats moved over and voted in the Republican primary, the election was decided on the promise of more entitlement spending, who will get it, and who will pay for it.

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  71. @Rick DeMent: Parties are a natural outcome of representative democracy. They serve an organizational purpose and function that appears to be impossible to avoid. There is no representative democracy that does not also have parties (even the Founders, who didn’t like parties, formed them even without trying).

    Now, how one regulates them is another discussion (as is the way in which the prevailing electoral rules shape the party system).

    Our system drives us to two parties. The primaries actually reinforce this trend because there is no incentive to form a third party when one has a real shot at simply being nominated by one of the two main parties (see, e.g., the Tea Party faction of the GOP and the nomination contest we are discussing here).

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  72. @Rick DeMent: While I could write a book criticizing any number of elements of our party and electoral systems, I will say that there is a real need to have some sort of sorting process for ballots (a function that party nominations provide). Too low a threshold for access leads to a ballot like that in the Davis recall election in CA: click,

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  73. @DrDaveT: BTW, this comment really does get to the dividing point in our understandings. You want, for reasons I cannot fully understand, to describe voters by partisan labels in terms of abstract principles or other factors, but want to disassociate partisan labels and descriptors from acts that are by definition empirically linked to parties: voting in primaries (which are party functions) and voting in partisan elections (i.e., in an election in which candidates are identified by party).

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  74. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Our system drives us to two parties. The primaries actually reinforce this trend because there is no incentive to form a third party when one has a real shot at simply being nominated by one of the two main parties (see, e.g., the Tea Party faction of the GOP and the nomination contest we are discussing here).

    Repeated because it’s critical. Parties are a universal human construction, but the specific form of local parties is structurally conditioned by the specific form of the system that they operate within.

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  75. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    (The act of choosing a Republican ballot in an open primary is the voter choosing a partisan affiliation, at least for that contest).

    As far as I can tell, this is the axiom you start from — at which point, it isn’t surprising that you conclude that voting is always a partisan act. From where I sit, though, you’re simply assuming your conclusion.

    I can think of any number of reasons that a voter with any (or no) party affiliation might want to vote in an open primary, for whatever party. I don’t understand your obsession with the idea that, as soon as candidates have party affiliations, all voting behavior must be about party affiliation. I certainly don’t agree with your assertion that “If voting in a nominating primary isn’t a partisan act, then there are no partisan acts.” You might as well say that attending a Christian funeral is necessarily a Christian act, or watching a Mets game is necessarily an act of Mets fanaticism. It *might* be; but it might not be, too.

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  76. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You want, for reasons I cannot fully understand, to describe voters by partisan labels in terms of abstract principles or other factors, but want to disassociate partisan labels and descriptors from acts that are by definition empirically linked to parties [such as voting] in an election in which candidates are identified by party.

    Not quite. I want to describe SOME voters by partisan labels, to distinguish them from other voters whose beliefs and behaviors are not well-described by reference to partisan affiliation. I want to dissociate partisan labels from actions that might or might not be driven by partisan affiliation — which includes actions like voting for a particular candidate.

    I’m an American, and loyal to America and the things I believe America stands for. Empirically, my behavior tends to reflect this. But sometimes my actions are not those associated with that partisan affiliation — I sometimes speak French; I sometimes get my news from the BBC or the Economist; I sometimes root for Olympic athletes from other countries over their American competition; I sometimes take the side of the non-American government in international disputes with the US. When I do these things, I am not momentarily French, or British, or Finnish or Icelandic or whatever. I’m still an American, “casting a vote” (in a sense) against America’s “candidate” in that context.

    There are other people who do not have that loyalty to America, or France, or any country in particular. In matters of culture and international affairs and sport, they take sides on a case-by-case basis. They are not affiliated; their votes neither align nor fail to align with their national loyalties, because they have no national loyalties to align with.

    I feel that political partisanship is similar. Some people have affiliations, but they might sometimes act out of step with those affiliations. Others have no such affiliations. This seems obvious to me, and you haven’t said anything that convinces me this isn’t a good model of the real world.

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  77. @DrDaveT:

    The purpose of a party primary is to nominate a party candidate.

    It is a partisan act regardless of the intention of the voter. It is definitional. A party primary in inherently linked to party. The fervor or views of the participant are not the issue in terms of whether the act is partisan in nature or not.

    Note: in an open primary you have to declare which ballot you want and in a closed primary you have to register with a given party. Regardless of the depth of your commitment and regardless of what your exact motivation is, you are actively participating in a partisan process.

    This really is not controversial or especially complicated.

    Being at a Mets game is not definitionally part of Mets fanaticism, nor is attending a Christian funeral definitionally Chrisitan. One does not have to declare a preference to attend a Mets game, nor does one have to choose a religious adherence to attend a funeral.

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  78. @DrDaveT:

    Not quite. I want to describe SOME voters by partisan labels, to distinguish them from other voters whose beliefs and behaviors are not well-described by reference to partisan affiliation.

    But, of course, in a discussion about definitions this is a problematic position. Your definition is shifting based on your perceptions of a given instance of usage, rather than having clear definition. And, again, you are doing so based on your own subjective interpretations of behavior. Surely you can see how this is problematic?

    I suspect that we agree on far more than seems to be the case in this thread. What I am focusing on, however, are objective definitions and concepts, which is why I seem so pedantic at this point.

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  79. @DrDaveT:

    I’m an American, and loyal to America and the things I believe America stands for. Empirically, my behavior tends to reflect this. But sometimes my actions are not those associated with that partisan affiliation — I sometimes speak French; I sometimes get my news from the BBC or the Economist; I sometimes root for Olympic athletes from other countries over their American competition; I sometimes take the side of the non-American government in international disputes with the US. When I do these things, I am not momentarily French, or British, or Finnish or Icelandic or whatever. I’m still an American, “casting a vote” (in a sense) against America’s “candidate” in that context.

    But all this requires a far firmer definition of “American” than you have provided (indeed, like your definition of different kinds of voters and their motivations, the definition being deployed seems to be your own personal one).

    For example, it is unclear to me how speaking French, or getting news from non-US sources would qualify as un-American behavior.

    Further, I am not sure how any of what you describe is a very good analogy for voting.

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  80. ome people have affiliations, but they might sometimes act out of step with those affiliations. Others have no such affiliations. This seems obvious to me, and you haven’t said anything that convinces me this isn’t a good model of the real world.

    We can agree, by the way, that the motivations that voters have for why they vote as they vote are quite varied. But that doesn’t really have any affect on what I have written.

    Indeed, it is a truism that not everyone is motivated by the same factors.

    But, and back to my pedantry, a tepid vote for a Republican is just as much a vote for a Republican as a fervent one.

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  81. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Note: in an open primary you have to declare which ballot you want and in a closed primary you have to register with a given party. Regardless of the depth of your commitment and regardless of what your exact motivation is, you are actively participating in a partisan process.

    Let’s stick with the open primary here, since that’s the cleaner case and it was the case that prompted the thread.

    Consider a hypothetical baseball championship, in which the participants in the championship game are to be determined by fan vote. Each fan is allowed to vote either for a National League team or for an American League team, but not both.

    Say I’m a baseball fan, but not really a partisan of any particular team, and certainly not strongly attached to a particular league. (I neither love nor loathe the DH, apparently.) Nevertheless, I have preferences about which teams I’d prefer to watch play for the title. When I look at the NL options, I don’t distinguish strongly among them — they’re all much the same to me. In the AL, though, there are some teams that I would much rather see than others. So I decide to vote in the AL “primary”, and vote for one of the teams I would prefer to see.

    By your definition, this makes me an AL partisan. I think that abuses the term ‘partisan’ to the point of inutility. So no, I do not think that the structure of the voting implies, by definition or otherwise, that voting in this context is a partisan act.

    This is not an unrealistic scenario — I know people who vote this way in states with open primaries. They vote in the primary where they feel it is most important to weed out the loonies or promote a notable “best option” — regardless of whether that is the primary of ‘their’ party.

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  82. @DrDaveT: I have repeatedly noted that voters often vote with varied motives. As such, I am not sure why you are arguing that point.

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  83. Also: your baseball analogy does not work because one can participate in a baseball game simply by being present. Rooting for a team (i.e., making some affirmative choice) is not necessary to have been a participant at the game.

    However, one cannot participate in an election without voting–it is inherent to the process (and it requires a choice). Further, in an open primary a partisan selection (i.e., one party’s ballot or the other) has to be made. It is impossible to participate and not make that choice. My point is that for the purposes of the specific, given election, motive has nothing to do with the vote tally. It simply doesn’t matter in determining the winner (i.e., why a given vote chose a certain ballot is not the issue for the tally and you simply cannot pretend like it is not a partisan act by definition because party is a key variable in the selection). This is inescapably the case. And yes, it is not an especially complicated point.

    Indeed, I am not sure why you find any that objectionable.

    But one of the things you are trying to do which is utterly impossible to do, logically, is remove the obvious partisan component of a party primary by using motive or intent as a way to do so.

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  84. Is the problem that you want to reserve the word “partisan” for only deeply held motives?

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  85. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Partisan:
    1) a strong supporter of a party, cause, or person.

    One can vote in a primary without being a partisan and can vote in an open primary while being an opposition partisan. Limbaugh’s ‘operation chaos’ was about convincing Republican partisans to act as spoilers in the Democratic primary. If it had been successful then those Republican partisans would also have been Democratic voters (a point to mundane to argue) in that specific instance, but they would not be Democratic partisans.
    That is, I think, perhaps beside the point that you and Dave were arguing, but definitions matter.

    To the larger point, they MS requirement that one intend to vote for the winner of the primary they vote in is ridiculous on it’s face and only enforceable against the stupid.

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  86. @Grewgills: Well, of course.

    However, the terms “partisan” can mean “of or pertaining to political party activity.” In that sense, a primary is a quintessentially partisan affair. I never argued that these people are transformed into hardcore party advocates for a given party by casting a single ballot.

    Perhaps the hang up is the use of the modifier “partisan” in this discussion.

    My most simple of points is that labels are names, and the desire for certain politicians and commentators to pretend like labels have to means X to be real is problematic (hence ” all partisans are, ultimately, in name only.” in the sense that the only 100% consistent thing about all Republicans, and all Democrats, is that they are called Republicans and Democrats–it is the only fully reducible common element).

    Further, when speaking of a party primary one is very much talking about a fight over who gets to use that label. If the primary is open, then anyone can decide, for the purpose of that contest, to participate in that choosing.

    If it had been successful then those Republican partisans would also have been Democratic voters (a point to mundane to argue) in that specific instance, but they would not be Democratic partisans.

    They were strategic voters making specific choices in a a specific election.

    I find it problematic to pretend like there is a difference, in a given election (and that part is key) between a vote cast by person A and a vote cast by person B because of their motivation. A vote is a vote once cast (although yes, one can study why a candidate received the votes that they did). Indeed, the very point of a given election is for the votes to determine the outcome, and there are numerous variables that go into the choices made, Hence, if some voters choose to vote strategically, that is part of the process.

    Part of the reason I find the focus on motivation (or past voting behavior) problematic (and much of the discussion from DrDaveT illustrates this): what casual observers try to do in these cases is make assumptions about the voters and the votes that are not backed by any empirical knowledge. This is unhelpful. ( For @example).

    Further, the bottom line is (as I tried to make clear in the post): voters are free to make their own choices in a given contest. If some voters who normally vote Democratic thought it was in their best interest to vote in the Republican primary, then they were, in that primary, by definition, Republican voters. Stating that is not about motivation or future activity, but it is rather unequivocally true. Hence, ranting (as some commentators have) that “Democrats” voted in the primary is nonsense in the sense that what they are trying to do is delineate the motive behind the vote (and they are saying that some motives are acceptable, and others are not). That is, ultimately, a nonsensical position.

    Also: states and localities that have limited competitiveness in the general election will, logically, find that voters have to make strategic choices at the primary level. That’s called institutional parameters shaping the choices that voters have and then those voters responding accordingly.

    Indeed, part of the problem here is looking at the whole process through party-specific lenses without looking at the overall electoral system and the way the parts interact.

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  87. (Many of the voters who voted for Cochran, for example, did not think to themselves “I am a Democrat, but I am going to interlope into the GOP primary” they thought “It is in my best interest as a citizen of this state to vote for Cochran.”–Of course, that latter thought is what a lot of hardcore conservatives thought when they voted they way they did in that same primary.)

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  88. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Wow, where to begin…

    However, the terms “partisan” can mean “of or pertaining to political party activity.” In that sense, a primary is a quintessentially partisan affair.

    On the part of the people organizing it, absolutely. That doesn’t automatically transfer to the voters, though; they are not all participating in any of those party activities.

    I never argued that these people are transformed into hardcore party advocates for a given party by casting a single ballot.

    Yes you did — you called them ‘partisans’. The word already meant something before you chose to use it, as Grewgills has pointed out.

    Perhaps the hang up is the use of the modifier “partisan” in this discussion.

    Of course. I thought I had made that clear about 9 times up above. It’s certainly what I thought I was saying.

    My most simple of points is that labels are names

    Then you’re starting off with a bad axiom, because not all labels are names. Some of them are descriptors. Textbooks on the Philosophy of Language spend entire chapters on the complexities of this, and the paradoxes that arise if you accidentally conflate the two.

    If some voters who normally vote Democratic thought it was in their best interest to vote in the Republican primary, then they were, in that primary, by definition, Republican voters.

    You keep saying that, but it’s still not true. It’s not true because the phrase “Republican voters” does not mean what you think it does. This is not an assertion about politics or inference or voter preferences or anything else of substance; it’s an assertion about the English language and the way people have agreed to use certain words. When you call someone a “Republican voter”, you are asserting that they are a partisan of the Republican party (in the commonly-accepted defintion of ‘partisan’ that Grewgills posted). I’m sorry if you don’t want this to be true, but the language doesn’t care what you want the phrase to mean — it will be heard by your audience as an assertion of partisan loyalty.

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  89. @DrDaveT: The bottom line of all of this has to do with a discussion of motivation v. an empirical measure of a given vote cast.

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  90. @DrDaveT: I can understand how the use of language is part of the problem here (although it i not all of the problem).

    However, if I can admit that the use of the word “partisan” by me is part of the problem, surely you an at least acknowledge that using the word partisan (as in a party-related activity) in regards to a party primary is not that difficult to understand.

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  91. @DrDaveT:

    because not all labels are names

    I am speaking here of party labels. They are names, by definition.

    This is something that I have authority speak on, as one who studies parties. Further, it is not that complicated, and again something that I tried to convey, and do not understand what the difficulty here is: the thing that ultimately makes a Republican a Republican is the name (label) that the person calls themselves (see, e.g., Richard Shelby, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Phil Gramm, etc.).

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  92. To be very specific: Richard Shelby, Senator from Alabama is a Republican. However, he started his career as a Democrat (and was, at one point, the Democratic Senator from Alabama). How did he transform himself from Dem to Rep? He held a press conference and said so.

    When Jim Jeffords decided he was no longer a Rep, but and independent or when Arlen Spector went from Rep to Dem he did so by changing his label. That was all it took.

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  93. (This is what I am taking about in regards to label).

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  94. @DrDaveT:

    If some voters who normally vote Democratic thought it was in their best interest to vote in the Republican primary, then they were, in that primary, by definition, Republican voters.

    You keep saying that, but it’s still not true. It’s not true because the phrase “Republican voters” does not mean what you think it does.

    Look, I understand that voting in a Republican Primary does not change past voting behavior, nor does it dictate future behavior. But if you do not understand my sentence, then you do not understand what a primary is.

    To move to a closed primary system as a means of illustration: if I have been registered as a Democrat for 20 years, but decide for 2014 to register as a Republican, I am officially a Republican in 2014 (for official primary voting purposes), regardless of the reason for doing so and even if I change my registration for 2016.

    Likewise, in an open primary, if I choose a Republican ballot in that contest, I am a Republican voter in that contest, because I cannot vote Democratic in that contest as a result.

    The phrase “in that contest” is rather crucial to my point.

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  95. A vote in a Republican primary is a Republican vote. It is the nature of a nomination process.

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  96. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    However, the terms “partisan” can mean “of or pertaining to political party activity.”

    From wiki

    In politics, a partisan is a committed member of a political party. In multi-party systems, the term is used for politicians who strongly support their party’s policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents.

    In the United States, the meaning of the term has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Before the American National Election Study (described in Angus Campbell et al., in The American Voter) began in 1952, an individual’s partisan tendencies were typically determined from their voting behavior. Since then, “partisan” has come to refer to an individual with a psychological identification with one or the other of the major parties.

    Likewise, in an open primary, if I choose a Republican ballot in that contest, I am a Republican voter in that contest, because I cannot vote Democratic in that contest as a result.

    In that contest the Republican voter could be a Democratic partisan, a Republican partisan, or a non-partisan voter in the Republican primary. Motivations, though not always obvious, are important. Repeated political activity can make one an effective partisan, but participation in a single event doesn’t.

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  97. @Grewgills: Ok, if I did not use the word “partisan” but rather “party-related activity” would that help?

    Also: motivation is a separate issue from vote tally. A vote is either for a candidate, or not. The motivation, in that process, is irrelevant.

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  98. And I can admit that I was ill-advised to use the word partisan as I have, only because it creates more confusion than it does clarity.

    On the other hand, speaking as one for whom this is an area of expertise, I stand by the notion that the word can mean “of or pertaining to party activity.”

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  99. @Grewgills:

    In that contest the Republican voter could be a Democratic partisan, a Republican partisan, or a non-partisan voter in the Republican primary.

    None of that changes the simple fact that a Republican primary voter can only cast votes for Republicans and that the very nature of the contest is the selection of the party’s standard bearer.

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  100. Part of the problem, too, is that most Americans tend to ignore the degree to which the primary is the real election, and hence ignore the real motivation for strategic voting.

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  101. (and I mean in certain circumstances–not all)

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  102. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Ok, if I did not use the word “partisan” but rather “party-related activity” would that help?

    Yes.

    Also: motivation is a separate issue from vote tally. A vote is either for a candidate, or not. The motivation, in that process, is irrelevant.

    The motivation is irrelevant for the outcome of that election. It is important if we want to understand how and why that result came to be and how that will carry forward to future elections.

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  103. @Grewgills: Agreed. But, people shouting about “Democrats” voting in this primary is about now/recent past, not the future (or the more distant past).

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  104. BTW, in re: the use of the word “partisan” as I have used it: what do we call an election that does not use party labels? We call it “nonpartisan” (and, likewise, an election that uses party labels is a “partisan” contest). (Here is an example apart from me: click).

    We also find that the phrase “partisan label” can be used to describe a party label.

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  105. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I think it is about both. The people shouting think that Democratic partisans* voted in this primary as spoilers. The Mississippi law doesn’t seem to be enforceable other than against voting in both the Dem and GOP primaries and against the irretrievably stupid that would self incriminate. The law as written makes little sense, is not broadly enforceable, and likely not constitutional as it pertains to future voting behavior.
    There is also no small irony in that the people most furious about this ”outrage” were many of the same people that cheered on ”operation chaos” when they thought it would hurt Democratic presidential success.
    As a side note, I vaguely remember when Alabama instituted open primaries and the Democrats were opposed out of fear that the incumbent party would use the open primaries as spoilers to help ensure incumbent victories.

    *ie those who self identify as Democrats, voted in past elections as Democrats and will in all likelihood vote for a Democrat in the upcoming election

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  106. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    BTW, in re: the use of the word “partisan” as I have used it: what do we call an election that does not use party labels? We call it “nonpartisan” (and, likewise, an election that uses party labels is a “partisan” contest).

    Well, certainly the people running under the banner of a particular party are partisans, that is why elections between candidates using party labels are partisan contests. It doesn’t necessarily follow that all votes cast for each candidate are cast by partisans for that party though.

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  107. @Grewgills: I didn’t intend to argue that (although in back and forths above, it is possible that I muddied that water).

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  108. Of course, ultimately, if parties want to constrict who nominates their candidates they can try to create closed primaries (or move to non-electoral means of nomination). To have an open primary (which is, at least in part, an attempt to broaden access to the party by voters) and then complain about who votes is a bit silly.

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  109. Having re-read the post, I can understand why the last line creates some consternation.

    Having said that, however, I am unclear as to why my basic point isn’t clear.

    (Although, granted, the author is not the final judge of his own words, I suppose).

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  110. Grewgills says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I didn’t disagree with your larger point. It was more of a quibble over semantics. I can get caught up in that on occasion.

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