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An Analogy on Hierarchy (and the Lack thereof) in Party Behavior

football playI thought of this analogy this morning to describe, at least to some degree, the functional consequences of nonhierarchical parties in the US in the context of legislative behavior.  I left it out of the post on Roy Moore and US parties, as it had already grown rather lengthy.

Let’s consider a football team.  In the normal course of action, a head coach recruits players to fill the needs of the team.  He recruits a quarterback, a running back, linemen, receivers, etc.  The goal of the recruitment is to fill the various slots on the team so that they can execute a specific offensive and defensive approach to the game.  Under ideal conditions, the coach would be able to shape the team precisely as he wanted.  While occasional mistakes would be made in terms of talent evaluation, the pieces needed (e.g., a running quarterback v. a pocket passer) would be in place.  Further, the coach has the right to decide which players make the team, who gets cut, and so forth.

The above describes a hierarchical system.

Now consider a different scenario.  What if the players were not selected via direct recruitment, but by the fans of the team voting on who was selected.  The coach could encourage a given potential quarterback to run for the position, and he could even make appeals to the fans as to the type of quarterback needed, but the choice was ultimately up to the fans.  Further, each candidate for each position would have the support of various fan groups and be able to raise money to finance their own campaign.  Maybe a given quarterback candidate or fan faction thinks that the team would be better off running the spread option offense, rather than the pro style offense that the coach prefers.  If elected, the coach would have to adapt to his talents.  Further, the coach could not cut anyone–players once elected stayed on the team until the end of a two year commitment and could run again to be placed back on the team.

What if a particularly charismatic running back candidate was able to get elected, but turns out he really does not have the talents he promised the voters?  Well, too bad, that’s your running back (and so forth). Heck, what if a faction of the defense line insisted on running a 3-4 system even though the linebackers who won their positions were far more suited to the 4-3? Or, dare I say, one of your corner-backs was found to have dated a 14 year-old?

Beyond problems with the players, the fans are not experts on football (although they think they are).  They do not have the same level of information about the potential players, nor as deep an understanding of the coach’s system when they make their choices.

Now, sure, once elected the players are all on the same team, but power is dispersed.  The fans have some power, the coach has some power (he calls the plays, at a minimum), and the players have power as well.  This is a nonhierarchical scenario.

The hand-picked team and the fan-picked teams are clearly two different creatures.

The nonhierarchical scenario is how US political parties work.  Voters, party leaders, and candidates are all on the same team, but the party leaders do not have hierarchical control over the candidates (i.e., they do not create the team).  Instead, candidates are beholden to voters (specifically primary voters, who are not the same as general election voters–and keep in mind that they are vote in typically non-competitive districts that are often gerrymandered).  This does not mean that the party cannot work as a unit, but it does affect exactly how cohesive the unit is.  Further, this prevents party leadership from offering a coherent vision to voters (and it means that sometimes it has to accept players it does not want to put on the field).  It also means that the party can mean different things to different people in wildly disparate ways (Tom Cotton v. Susan Collins, for example).

The analogy needs work, but I hearken back to a tagline of my old blog and call this a “rough draft of my thoughts.”  I certainly understand that a party and a football team are not fully analogous, as a party (even a Congressional caucus) does not act with the same shared purpose and goal as consistently as does a sports team.  Further, the reality is that a party has connection to voters in terms of a responsibility to be representative in a way that a team does not owe to its fan base.

Nonetheless, the idea of a political party is that it would be able to present to the electorate a shared vision for governance and that electorate would have the ability to select or reject that vision.  If a party is at odds with itself, it is more difficult to project that vision and it muddles the choices that voters have.  In most democracies, parties get to choose their own players, and field a team for the voters to accept, or reject.  In the US, the team is not selected by leadership, but is instead selected by outside forces (primary voters).  This is especially true when voters can, by supporting insurgents, reshape parts of the party (as is possible with primaries in the US). And, hence, the party can end up with a nominee like Roy Moore (or Sharon Angle or Christine O’Donnell or Todd Akin or Donald Trump) that it might not prefer to have, but nonetheless has to live with.  And there are those who are less dramatic examples that sit in Congress now.  This affects both governance and representation, and therefore is no small thing.

At a minimum, from the point of view of simple understanding, US parties are far more like the fan-selected team than the coach-selected team used in most representative democracies.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Bring back the smoke-filled room. Ourdemocracy is overrated. I might be touting a parliamentary system were it not for the slow-motion disaster that is the May government.

    The whole idea of representative democracy is that the people choose other people smarter and more knowledgeable than themselves to manage government. What we have now is voters no longer trusting that fundamental idea, often with good reason, while simultaneously exploring the limits of Dunning-Kruger. Propaganda outlets like Fox have weaponized voter ignorance and elevated credulity as a virtue. The stupid now imagine themselves to be clever, rather as if I decided that I knew how to perform brain surgery. The herd has become politicized and the predictable results are a deeply stupid politics. Rather than being elevated by our leaders we reduce them to the level of the lowest common denominator. It’s government by the stupid.

    It’s been a while since I read de Tocqueville, but I don’t recall him predicting this. IIRC his concern was that voters would discover they had the power to turn the government into a horn of plenty. I don’t think he suggested a future of government by moron.

    We’ve been hit by a technological revolution. H. Sapiens for a million years learned a great deal in the first year of life, and damn little thereafter. That’s what we’re wired for. Now, suddenly, the slow drip…drip… of knowledge has turned into a 24/7/365 firehose. At the same time every steadying institution has weakened or failed. People are not able to manage it. People feel overwhelmed and threatened and they turn back, frightened. For the clever it’s a boon, but for the rigid, the dim, the insecure, its been a disaster. What we’re seeing is the panic of the unready. They fear there’s no place for them in the liberal/Star Trek/kumbaya future and they’re right.

    Had we spent the last few decades teaching people to think we might have done a better job transitioning to this wired, always-on future. But we fought the last war, teaching people to be good little drones prepared to fill jobs that no longer exist. We have a population of people being swept away by data who have no capacity to think independently, to parse the data stream, to contextualize and retain their own intellectual and moral integrity. In the battle of internet bullshite vs. average Joe, the internet won.

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  2. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: No country in which slavery is still legal can be remotely considered a democracy, nor one where the actions of the elected diverge from the desires of the majority virtually 100% of the time.

    The notion that democracy consists of voting one or twice a year is an extremely narrow definition propagated by modern day political scientists. They argue this is necessary because “commoners” (that’s you and me) just aren’t informed enough or rational enough to make decisions for themselves, while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge we have a gargantuan media industry devoted to keeping us uninformed and irrational.

    Americans are the most propagandized people in the world. Every advertisement, every movie, every television drama, every school curriculum, every workplace and every news broadcast are aimed specifically at manipulating the thoughts, tastes and desires of the people watching them and have been since Edward L. Bernay’s work on propaganda for the Committee on Public Information. His book, Propaganda, which, when I was a student in political science, was never mentioned one time, is a bible for public relations. It is the world turned upside down to intentionally make a populace ignorant and then claim that ignorance makes them unsuitable to democracy.

    The correct way to deal with this is not to restrict voter choices. The correct way is to teach Americans how to properly criticize the information they’re exposed to. It only takes a few weeks of training in informal logic (called by some logical pragmatics) to turn a human into a bullshit detector and immunize them to the sea of misinformation they’re regularly exposed to. Were we interested in a political body capable of critical and independent thinkers we’d have this in our public school systems, but for some reason everyone would much rather take away what little power we have to decide things for ourselves.

    I wonder why that is?

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  3. Lynn says:

    @michael reynolds: “It’s been a while since I read de Tocqueville, but I don’t recall him predicting this. IIRC his concern was that voters would discover they had the power to turn the government into a horn of plenty”

    Didn’t he also praise the churches for keeping otherwise unfettered capitalism (aka greed) in check?

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  4. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s been a while since I read de Tocqueville, but I don’t recall him predicting this. IIRC his concern was that voters would discover they had the power to turn the government into a horn of plenty. I don’t think he suggested a future of government by moron.

    While I agree with your excellent post, I’d like to point out that smoke filled rooms (of various kinds over the millennia) have produced morons as leaders as well. Perhaps because those doing the smoking like the idea of charismatic leaders they can control (charisma is very useful in a leader for controlling the population), but occasionally overestimate their ability to do so.

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  5. MBunge says:

    On the subject of “coach-selected teams” and Europe…has anyone actually taken a look at Europe?

    Their immigration policies are, if you can believe it, even more screwed up than ours.

    They, in general, restrict speech in a way that would be unthinkable in the U.S.

    They spent the last decade embracing austerity policies that left them with far weaker recoveries from The Great Recession than the U.S. and inflicted real economic misery on tens of millions of people.

    Their social welfare policies are only sustainable because they are almost entirely reliant on U.S. military hegemony for peace and stability. They couldn’t even handle Slobodan Milošević on their own.

    Their grand project of European unity is currently flying apart at the seams.

    And, if you haven’t noticed, a bunch of Euro elites are currently caught up in a massive tax avoidance/tax evasion scandal.

    And as someone always needs to point out whenever Steven L. Taylor starts banging on about this stuff, the U.S. system of government worked more or less well for generations under the current rules. You have to be a bit addled to look at our present situation and believe it’s a systemic problem.

    Who got us involved in Vietnam? The “fans” or the “coaches”?

    Who created the policies that led us into The Great Recession? The “fans” or the “coaches”?

    Who marched us into Iraq and kicked off the last 15+ years of turmoil in the Middle East? The “fans” or the “coaches”?

    Who thought the only choices we should have for President should be Hillary or Jeb? The “fans” or the “coaches”?

    Whose policies left us with a federal debt projected to increase by nearly $10 trillion over the next decade BEFORE DONALD TRUMP DID A SINGLE THING? The “fans” or the “coaches”?

    If you think elites should be running things, maybe you should spend a little time and energy worrying about elite incompetence.

    Mike

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  6. @michael reynolds:

    Bring back the smoke-filled room.

    After a fashion, yes. I think that primaries, which on their face seem democratic lead to a smaller segment of the party selecting candidates in a way that actually subverts the parties and damages their ability to be representative units. Voter turnout in primaries are low–especially for non-presidential elections (often as low as single digits). They are further skewed by districting/gerrymandering.

    Of course, I would like to couple this moving away from single seat plurality elections, which open up actual choice and break the binary logic that dominates our politics.

    Ourdemocracy is overrated.

    I would have to concur for a panoply of reasons.

    I might be touting a parliamentary system were it not for the slow-motion disaster that is the May government.

    I would note that there many other examples of parliamentarism to look at, not to mention semi-presidentialism (e.g., France). The UK has essentially the same electoral system as the US, but without primaries (and hence they have more parties). They also have an over-sized legislature (ours is under-sized).

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  7. @michael reynolds:

    Bring back the smoke-filled room.

    After a fashion, yes. I think that primaries, which on their face seem democratic lead to a smaller segment of the party selecting candidates in a way that actually subverts the parties and damages their ability to be representative units. Voter turnout in primaries are low–especially for non-presidential elections (often as low as single digits). They are further skewed by districting/gerrymandering.

    Of course, I would like to couple this moving away from single seat plurality elections, which open up actual choice and break the binary logic that dominates our politics.

    Ourdemocracy is overrated.

    I would have to concur for a panoply of reasons.

    I might be touting a parliamentary system were it not for the slow-motion disaster that is the May government.

    I would note that there many other examples of parliamentarism to look at, not to mention semi-presidentialism (e.g., France). The UK has essentially the same electoral system as the US, but without primaries (and hence they have more parties). They also have an over-sized legislature (ours is under-sized).

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  8. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem of the US political system is money. Money nationalized a political system meant to be local, and created in some sense strong national parties(Controlled by donors,not by their chairmen) that were supposed to be weak.

    Politics seemed to work in the 80’s because a Democrat could be relatively conservative in some issues and be elected in Alabama, a Republican could be relatively liberal in some issues and be elected in the Northeast.

    Now, politicians have to pander to donors and run on national issues. And soccer/rest of the world football is a better analogy than American Football. 😉

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  9. @Andre Kenji: Money is a factor. I think, however, your assertion that national money nationalizes local races is not well served by the Moore example. Moore was the more localized candidate than was Strange, who did have national party support.

    And Moore is not Moore because he is pandering to donors.

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  10. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Superdelegates (for the Dems) are sort of like smoke-filled rooms, (or were hoped to be) except that in practice they have just ratified what the primary voters did..

    @Andre Kenji:

    The problem of the US political system is money.

    More precisely, unlimited money that disproportionately empowers a small number of billionaires.

    But that is one of many problems. Another is the vulnerability of parties to power grabs by cultish groups like Dominionist Christians who make it a point to turn out for every election.

    a point to turn out for every election.

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  11. @charon: Superdelegates are an attempt to allow the institutional party some influence over the nomination if the primary voters create too much of a split. They mitigate division to a degree, and pull the division in the direction of the institutionalized party. But they have limited influence.

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  12. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Andre Kenji: @Steven L. Taylor: I think an addition to a sports team analogy would be the players must rely on donations from supporters to maintain their positions, their salaries are not sufficient and the team does little to help them with retention. Also, since they must raise so much money, they miss practice and never really learn fundamentals, let alone the the more intricate requirements of the game. As to Moore, he is, in my opinion, the demagogic exception that proves the rule that most politicians need donors and and must spend time courting them.

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  13. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s been a while since I read de Tocqueville, but I don’t recall him predicting this.

    It’s not been a while since I read him (I’ve been doing it for the past year or so), and you’re right he didn’t predict this. Mostly because he opined that Democracy and Capitalism were going to make Americans smarter, wiser, and more moral than people in less democratic nations because of the inherent virtues of Americans and Democracy, in that order.

    tl/dr: De Tocqueville wrote some insightful things in Democracy in America–other things were just nonsense.

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  14. charon says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    Money does not vote. Money is just a tool to reach and persuade voters, but voters can also be reached for free.

    Consider the “Daisy” commercial from the Goldwater campaign. It ran just once, but it was newsworthy so got played many times on news shows.

    Roy Moore gets lots of free publicity with stunts like his 10 Commandments monument – stunts that appeal to his niche constituency that is so powerful in Alabama.

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  15. Rick Zhang says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I would argue that in recent years superdelegates have been “cowed” by primary voters such that they hesitate to reverse a close plurality/majority in favour of their preferred voter, if that voter is in the losing category. I point to the 2008 Dem primary where Hillary was the institutional candidate and while she had overwhelming establishment support initially, that dwindled to a tie due to Obama’s grassroots popularity.

    In short, they’re not the check on primary voters that they should be.

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  16. @Rick Zhang: I do not recall a recent case in which the superdelegates would have really been relevant (and hence, I would expect they would vote with the majority). Is there a particular election you are referring to?

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  17. charon says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    I point to the 2008 Dem primary where Hillary was the institutional candidate

    Was she? Heavy hitters like Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi were pretty openly pro-Obama from early on.

    If you are a Dem congressman, do you really have much inclination to cross Nancy Pelosi?

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  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    The correct way is to teach Americans how to properly criticize the information they’re exposed to. It only takes a few weeks of training in informal logic (called by some logical pragmatics) to turn a human into a bullshit detector and immunize them to the sea of misinformation they’re regularly exposed to.

    I’ve been pushing the teaching of philosophy in schools since forever, but it ain’t gonna happen. 80% of the American people believe in angels. Every faith-based institution, from Southern Baptists to Whole Foods, would push back. The hoi polloi are not meant to think, they’re meant to work and consume.

    What we have with Trump is a sort of peasant’s revolt which is working about as well as peasant revolts typically do. The only thing missing (so far) is some smashing of church crockery and a pogrom against the Jews for drinking the blood of gentile children, though the general imbecility and unfocused rage and targeted hatreds are certainly present.The question is which iteration of elites will be in power once the peasants grow bored.

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  19. charon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You could argue 2008 – Clinton won the popular vote, but did poorly in the caucus states. If she really was the establishment candidate they could have argued a case for selecting her.

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  20. Rick Zhang says:

    @MBunge:

    You simultaneously argue that the US system has worked well for generations, and then cite all the examples of where elites made bad decisions. Well which is it? Does the US system promote good outcomes or bad?

    You also bring up a straw man argument. This is the first time the people have gone against the establishment/elites of both parties and chosen an outsider candidate. So far his policies (even proposed ones that haven’t passed) have been disastrous for the country. If you thought rule by elites was bad, wait until you see what happens when the unwashed masses take over. You’ll come to miss what you had.

    @Ben Wolf: A good point. I would say that if you want to have democracy, whether representative or direct, you need an educated populace capable of thinking for themselves and not being deceived by propaganda made by special interest groups.

    If we’re not willing to invest in education, then we need to restrict the electorate. If Republicans can make the argument to restrict felons from voting, we can restrict “dumb” people from doing the same.

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  21. charon says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    I would say that if you want to have democracy, whether representative or direct, you need an educated populace capable of thinking for themselves and not being deceived by propaganda made by special interest groups.

    That is my explanation of why the GOP is so intent on sabotaging public education and encouraging home-schooling.

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  22. michael reynolds says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    Uprisings by ‘the little guy’ always sound heroic, but they almost invariably make matters worse. The ‘little guy’ doesn’t have the understanding or the endurance to do more than smash some icons and arrange a few lynchings. Then an elite re-emerges, usually an elite that’s worse for ‘the little guy’ than the one that’s been replaced. In the end you don’t get more power to the peasants, you get civil wars, massacres, pogroms, and inevitably more power concentrated at the top so that order can be restored.

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  23. Kylopod says:

    @charon:

    You could argue 2008 – Clinton won the popular vote, but did poorly in the caucus states.

    Aaargh—not this canard again!

    It is true that the official vote tally in 2008 showed Hillary with more popular votes than Obama. This was a meaningless technicality, however, because it depended on counting votes for Hillary in a state where Obama wasn’t on the ballot.

    Let’s review what happened. In 2007, the DNC penalized Michigan and Florida for some rule violations by removing their right to place delegates at the convention. All the candidates, including Hillary, agreed not to campaign in those states, and in Michigan most of the candidates—including Obama but not Hillary—had their names removed from the ballot. Hillary didn’t utter one peep of protest about the DNC’s decision when it happened. She only began to complain about it in late January after Obama had achieved his upset win in Iowa and was closing in on a landslide victory in South Carolina.

    Her claim to have won the popular vote was based entirely on Michigan, where Obama wasn’t on the ballot. Take away Michigan, and he received more votes.

    http://www.factcheck.org/2008/06/clinton-and-the-popular-vote/

    She didn’t mention any of this, of course. It was a classic example of lying by omission, stating something that may be technically accurate, but leaving out crucial information in a deliberate attempt to lead people to incorrect conclusions—in this case the notion that the will of the voters had been ignored. In fact her alleged popular-vote lead said absolutely nothing about the will of the voters, because it was based on including a state where voters were denied the opportunity to cast a vote for her leading rival.

    In 2016, Hillary genuinely did win the popular vote against Trump. That isn’t what decides US elections, and there’s no way to know for sure what the outcome would have been under a popular-vote system, because the candidates would have campaigned differently. But it is nonetheless meaningful that far more Americans, when given a choice between Hillary and Trump, chose Hillary. By contrast, in 2008 there was nothing meaningful about the fact that Hillary got a load of extra votes in a state where she was essentially the only choice available.

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  24. Kylopod says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    I point to the 2008 Dem primary where Hillary was the institutional candidate and while she had overwhelming establishment support initially, that dwindled to a tie due to Obama’s grassroots popularity.

    This is something of a myth. Hillary had more establishment support than any other candidate in 2007, but Obama had plenty of establishment support too. After the Iowa caucus, in fact, Obama ended up landing more endorsements from fellow senators than Hillary did.

    It’s also worth remembering how the superdelegates got started. They were first launched in 1984, and they were to a large extent a reaction to the nominations of George McGovern and Jimmy Carter. That was the beginning of the modern era of primary-centered nomination contests. After the disaster of the 1968 Democratic Convention where the nominee was someone who hadn’t run in any of the primaries, the process was overhauled so that the nominee would be essentially chosen by the voters, and the convention would be reduced to a ceremonial role. The nomination of McGovern and Carter were sort of at the opposite extreme from what happened in 1968—they both managed to win the nomination without any support from party elites, just by winning primaries. The supers were then created to give elites a little more say in the process.

    In truth the real purpose of the supers was as a fail-safe in the event that a candidate the elites didn’t approve of was winning the primaries. (It’s the sort of tool Republican elites probably wished they had in the spring of 2016.) But it’s never actually been used in that way, and if that ever did happen—the party elites essentially vetoing a choice of the voters—the likely result would be a bloodbath in the party. It’s one thing to have a process controlled by elites from the start, the way nominations used to work. It’s quite another to put the choice in the hands of voters and then take it away from them when you don’t like the result.

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  25. wr says:

    @MBunge: Shorter MBunge: “I’ve never been to Europe, but Rush says it’s icky.”

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  26. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t think we need to go so far as to teach philosophy. Bringing back civics would do an awful lot of good…

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  27. I must confess: I do not find 2008 a compelling case wherein we should have expected Superdelegate activity. There was no particular reason for the establishment to side with HRC over Obama,

    It was a close contest. The numbers can be found here.

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  28. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Had we spent the last few decades teaching people to think we might have done a better job transitioning to this wired, always-on future. But we fought the last war, teaching people to be good little drones prepared to fill jobs that no longer exist.

    @charon beat me to it in this thread, but I have been arguing for years that GOP sabotage of education is not accidental. The current GOP cannot win elections in an educated nation.

    Tocqueville did have something to say about this:

    The observer who is desirous of forming an opinion on the state of instruction amongst the Anglo-Americans must consider the same object from two different points of view. If he only singles out the learned, he will be astonished to find how rare they are; but if he counts the ignorant, the American people will appear to be the most enlightened community in the world. The whole population […] is situated between these two extremes.

    Education in America, by design, focused on raising the general level of learning to the level needed for functional democracy. It was, in its bizarre way, the “no child left behind” of its day — and worked a lot better then than now.

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  29. charon says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The GOP strategy is not just about worsening education, it is also about indoctrination – facilitating the indoctrination of warriors for Jesus, indoctrinating a distorted view of “Southern heritage” etc.

    IOW, not just poor education to produce lack of reasoning tools, but also indoctrination with misinformation.

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  30. charon says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I have always regarded “No Child Left Behind” as a Trojan Horse intended to damage the schools poor kids attend.

    Taking money away from schools that perform poorly because the kids and the school district are poor would be a stupid tactic if the goal were benign, no?

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  31. DrDaveT says:

    @charon:

    I have always regarded “No Child Left Behind” as a Trojan Horse intended to damage the schools poor kids attend.

    Of course — I didn’t mean to imply that I agree in any way with the modern version. My family refers to it as “no child permitted ahead”.

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  32. Mikey says:

    @wr:

    Bringing back civics would do an awful lot of good

    My son (8th grader) has civics this schoolyear. It’s a required course, with assignments like “Political Parties & Campaign Info. vs. Media Assessment.”

    But we live in one of the better public school districts in America, so this may not be typical.

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  33. Rick Zhang says:

    @Kylopod:

    IIRC, in the early stages of 2008, as in before Iowa, Hillary had more openly pledged superdelegates but the vast majority were undecided. That’s probably because of her family/friends/DNC history network. As Obama won more states, he gradually caught up in the declared superdelegate count. Most people, when faced with the unknown, prefer to hedge their bets and declare when the outcome is all but inevitable and they want to be on the winning side. Nobody had any incentives to declare early for Obama when he was a mere unknown upstart junior senator.

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  34. Rick Zhang says:

    As for the other point, has there been a case where the elites of a party don’t like their voter base? Educated Republicans (arguably the historic party elites) I talk to have disdain for the racist and uneducated rural (whites) who vote for them but are happy to take their vote as long as they fall in line behind the elites’ demands. They don’t like country hicks driving the car/direction of the party.

    For a better look at the internal divisions on the right, look at the Pew’s survey of differences between Country First conservatives and core conservatives, where the latter is much better off economically and more in favour of an open meritocratic trading and immigration system.

    This is where maybe business conservatives and entrepreneurial Democrats can unite to form a new party for the educated elite (and the aspirational educated) who are competitive and successful in a globalized world. The political junkie in me salivates at the electoral possibilities. Bush/Clinton fusion ticket? I would vote for it.

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  35. teve tory says:

    Educated Republicans (arguably the historic party elites) I talk to have disdain for the racist and uneducated rural (whites) who vote for them but are happy to take their vote as long as they fall in line behind the elites’ demands. They don’t like country hicks driving the car/direction of the party.

    Educated, wealthy republicans happily pandered to the mouth-breathers using abortion and racism. When they got power, they’d give themselves tax cuts and not really bother giving the racists and abortion nuts much. And there was nothing the mouth-breathers could do about it–all the conservative publications and pundits and whatnot set the terms of discussion.

    Then came rush limbaugh and 50,000 mini-limbaughs like Hewitt, Prager, Ziegler, etc. They demanded mouth-breathing policies or GTFO.

    Then came fox news. Ditto.

    Then came the internet. And the educated conservative gatekeepers have lost nearly all power, and the morons are driving the party now.

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  36. teve tory says:

    This is where maybe business conservatives and entrepreneurial Democrats can unite to form a new party for the educated elite (and the aspirational educated) who are competitive and successful in a globalized world. The political junkie in me salivates at the electoral possibilities. Bush/Clinton fusion ticket? I would vote for it.

    Little known fact: “Rick Zhang” is the internet pseudonym of Thomas Friedman.

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  37. Kylopod says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    Nobody had any incentives to declare early for Obama when he was a mere unknown upstart junior senator.

    First of all, he wasn’t that unknown. He was scoring second-place in the polls almost as soon as he made motions of entering the race in late 2006, and that’s where he remained through most of 2007.

    Second, whatever the supers decided, it didn’t change the fact that he came out of the primaries with a clear lead in pledged delegates (or non-superdelegates). So the supers more or less rubber-stamped the results of the primaries, they didn’t override them. In the end they didn’t really have any direct effect on the process at all other than choosing not to interfere with the primary results. That’s why I’ve suggested the supers have functioned as more or less extraneous agents ever since they were first installed in 1984. The party elites feel comfortable keeping them around, but so far haven’t actually used them as a protection against the whims of the primary electorate.

    If someone like Bernie Sanders or Al Sharpton were to acquire a delegate lead from winning primaries, that’s the sort of situation where it might be conceivable that the supers might try to play a role–though, as I said, I suspect that would just create a bloodbath, similar to what would have happened in 2016 if the GOP Convention had managed to dump Trump.

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  38. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: More importantly, most K-12 teachers test as INTJ or ENTJ Myers/Briggs personalities (last time I checked), The “J” is the critical component in that, according to the text that we used in the class in which we covered Myers/Briggs, “Js” tend to believe that a (possibly the) goal of education is to produce replicas of the teacher. Even if one were to teach critical thinking, the system would bias toward critical thinking being “what the teacher believes.”

    When I was teaching at a 2-year in Vancouver, WA, some of the most interesting and thought provoking essays came from students who were finishing high school diplomas or equivalencies having been expelled from their schools for being troublemakers.

    Sorry, but I have to say the prospects of getting the schools to educate us out of this problem are slim, at best. Or to put it another way, “it’s about selling out–for money.”

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  39. gVOR08 says:

    @Andre Kenji: I’m frequently reminded of reading about H W Bush when he was a Rep from Houston. He apparently had a reputation for campaigning in Houston telling the Birchers and rubes anything they wanted to hear, then going to DC and doing whatever he thought best. He saw no particular connection between the two activities.

    In out modern media environment, that would hard to do.

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  40. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Rick Zhang: ” This is the first time the people …”

    I’m not sure that I would agree with you. Both Carter and Reagan were non-establishment candidates. Carter was a dark horse with no national profile to speak of, and Reagan’s conservatism was radical enough relative to the GOP of the time that his victory was eventually given the name “the Reagan Revolution.”

    Someone in the late 70s, I believe it was Nicholas von Hoffman wrote an article for the New Republic in which he identified Nixon as “the last New Deal Republican.” It was in response to Nixon’s statement early in his administration that “we are all Keynesians now” in light of the repudiation of that idea that Reagan’s administration represented.

    I will grant that no one seems to be anti-establishment to the degree of Trump, but that’s just ignorance, smoke, and mirrors.

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  41. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: On the other hand, have the Democratic voters actually supported a George McGovern or Jimmy Carter since 1976? The supes have not been called upon for a reason,

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  42. @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: The super delegates were created after (and in response to) the 1980 challenge of the re-nomination of sitting President Carter by Ted Kennedy.

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  43. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think, however, your assertion that national money nationalizes local races is not well served by the Moore example.

    I think that Moore is a bad example of anything because of the peculiar circumstances(Bentley) that lead to his nomination. I also think that the whole idea that the Democrats are irrelevant in Alabama helped to create this mess, and that was created by the nationalization of every election via unlimited campaign money. That bars the Democrats in Alabama from being conservative when compared to national Democrats, and that would allow them to be competitive at the local level.

    The American political system was not created thinking in nationalizing every election, that creates a lot of dysfunction.

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  44. Kylopod says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    On the other hand, have the Democratic voters actually supported a George McGovern or Jimmy Carter since 1976?

    No, they have not. As a matter of fact, from 1980 until the nomination of Donald Trump, no candidate in either party who was widely unacceptable to the elites won the primaries. No, not even Reagan:

    Reagan was cruising in the “endorsement primary.” … Reagan had 51 endorsements from party actors through March 1979. This included five senators, 23 House members, two state party chairs and one governor. Weighting for the position of the endorser (i.e., senators count for more than representatives), Reagan had an astounding 90 percent of endorsements by party officials at that point.

    So yes, Democratic elites haven’t had any reason to use the superdelegates since they were first installed, and until Trump, GOP elites didn’t have any real need for such a mechanism either. My point is that if they ever did encounter a situation where they didn’t want the candidate who won the primaries to become the nominee, and they attempted to use the supers to nix him or her, I don’t think it would end well for them.

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