A Note on Our Weak Parties

In reading Erik Loomis’ post at LGM, The Polls Probably Aren’t Lying, I was struck by the following:

Fundamentally, the problem is that we are a nation of adrift individuals who lack any kind of political education. Nothing has changed on this since 2016. Liberals or the left or centrists have not built anything like institutions that can do this. I’m not blaming them per se, it’s really hard. But there’s also very little attempt to actually do anything like this either. The union movement is the closest thing to it and we know that union members vote for Democrats at significantly higher rates than other working class people, but it’s too limited and as we see from our Trump/Baldwin moron up above, lots of union members just blow off their own unions anyway.

First, I largely agree with the assessment.

Second, it struck me that this is an example of one of the key consequences of weak parties in the United States. In theory, the party ought to represent a finite number of philosophical/policy positions, and the label of the party ought to be the signal to voters as to whether the party aligns with a given voter or not. For this to function properly, the party as an institution should be actively engaging in educating the public.

Our parties barely do this (if at all). Instead, because parties-as-organizations in the United States are weak, they rely on the candidates themselves to spread the word. And that can mean, as we see, what a given local candidate says their party is can vary from a co-partisan under the same label (especially during the primary process). Parties end up being largely defined, especially at the national level, by the party’s candidate for the presidency.

If US parties were stronger and more coherent, they would be performing a stronger civic education role than ours currently do.

We need stronger, more coherent parties that fulfill the role of helping to organize civic life in our representative democracy.

And we need more of them.

I also think that Loomis has useful admonition to the LGM readership that applies as well to many here at OTB.

I also want to push back against LGM’s favorite horse to whip–the mainstream media. Do you know who reads the New York Times? None of these people. None. They watch Fox News. Or they might watch a little bit of this and that. The most you can argue is that the kind of narratives that get created by the Times funnel down into other media and maybe there is some truth to that. But the idea that if the Times and Post was to do real reporting on the evils of Republicans and end their Both Sides crap, this would have a meaningful impact on voter behavior seems extremely projection-based to me. I don’t see it because, again, elites read this stuff, not the average person. The average person in this country reads nothing

Indeed.

And clearly part of what we have not yet sorted out is the way in which the shared media environment of the 1950s-1980s is gone and is never coming back.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2024 Election, Democracy, Democratic Theory, Media, US Politics, , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. 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. MarkedMan says:

    In theory, the party ought to represent a finite number of philosophical/policy positions, and the label of the party ought to be the signal to voters as to whether the party aligns with a given voter or not.

    How much does this happen anywhere in the world? For instance, in Canada and Britain there are three parties that have at least a theoretical chance to form a government, giving them one more than us, but can you really tell more about specific policies they are going to strive to enact from their party label? At least, more than “Republican <3 Big Business", "Democrat <3 Unions" level of differentiation the US has?

    I suppose you could argue that in close elections there are smaller and more philosophically or issue "pure" parties that can trade their votes for influence, but is that better from an outcomes point of view? I mean, Israel is my go-to example, but there have been a number of European countries where a main stream party has shifted significantly to the right in order to woo a racist and nationalist party that has enough votes to form a coalition.

    I know you interpret these arguments I make as being all about defending the US electoral system, but that's not my purpose. Rather, I truly don't know what specific structures yield better outcomes, but I don't see any evidence that "more parties" or "strong parties" does so.

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  2. Matt Bernius says:

    Instead, because parties-as-organizations in the United States are weak, they rely on the candidates themselves to spread the word. And that can mean, as we see, what a given local candidate says their party is can vary from a co-partisan under the same label (especially during the primary process). Parties end up being largely defined, especially at the national level, by the party’s candidate for the presidency.

    In addition to the national candidates, I also think we need to consider political media as well–especially on the Republican side. Right-wing talk radio and TV also seem to play a signficant role in defining the party at a national level as well (even if it isn’t coordinated in the same way).

    That said, it’s possible that’s a trailing indicator.

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  3. Rick DeMent says:

    It’s not that the polls are lying, it’s that the polls are ether not talking the delta between the headline numbers and the no answer / not sure. And who are they polling? Registered voters, likely voters, or anyone with a two-bit opinion?

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  4. Kylopod says:

    It’s not that the polls are lying

    Lying is putting it in too stark terms. Even putting aside that the word “lying” usually suggests intent to deceive, if the election were held today and Biden were to win, it wouldn’t even require that massive of a polling error. On RCP’s avg, Trump is leading by 0.6% in Wisconsin, 0.8% in Michigan, and 2.0% in Pennsylvania–all well within the MOE. For all intents and purposes, they’re neck-and-neck.

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  5. drj says:

    @MarkedMan:

    How much does this happen anywhere in the world?

    It used to happen in societies that were stratified, either horizontally (e.g., the British class system), or vertically (e.g., Dutch/Belgian pillarization).

    In the UK, your class background (upper, middle, or working class) determined what schools you attended, what sports you played, what newspapers you read, what party you voted for, etc.

    In the Netherlands in particular there used to be vertically integrated pillars, representing Protestants, Catholics, liberals, and, to a lesser extent, socialists. Again, each with its own parties, newspapers, broadcasters, schools, youth leagues, athletic clubs, etc., etc.

    Of course, there were (and are) also countries where social divisions were based on ethnicity. A recent example would be Bosnia.

    It’s in situations like that where you find the kind of political education Loomis is talking about. But nowadays, if you’re a working class Brit, you might vote Conservative (against your economic interests) because you hate immigrants. Same thing in the Netherlands. Maybe there is something left of political parties being embedded in public society in the French-speaking parts of Belgium. But that would seem the exception – apart from countries like Bosnia, where ethnicity is the divisor.

    In the US, the closest parallel would be the pro-industry/anti-slavery Republican coalition and the pro-worker/pro-(poor) whites Democratic coalition. But those coalitions basically go back to the Civil War. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they no longer exist.

    What I’m saying is that the US isn’t the only country where voters are adrift – something that rewards political parties that offer ambiguity over parties that make a sincere effort to educate their voters on their exact positions.

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  6. drj says:

    And a completely different point:

    I also want to push back against LGM’s favorite horse to whip–the mainstream media. Do you know who reads the New York Times? None of these people. None.

    I bet no one here has read Freud or Einstein. And still most will know (if perhaps vaguely) what an Oedipus complex is and what relativity is about. Similarly, if the NYT says that Biden is old, then your local newspaper will say that, too. Next, your crazy uncle has something to share on Facebook.

    I thus find it extremely hard to believe that the mainstream media – including, of course, the NYT – don’t have a crucial role in defining the current Overton window.

    IMO, the mainstream media will certainly have to share a significant part of the blame if Trump wins a second term.

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  7. gVOR10 says:

    @Kylopod: There’s statistical margin of error. There are also sampling errors, likely voting model errors, issues with question framing, and gawd knows what else. (IIRC polling shows the ACA has 55% approval, Obamacare 25.) But the real problem is the electorate is so evenly split. Johnson beat Goldwater 61% to 39. That was easy to call. Now polls need to be accurate within a fraction of a percent to predict binary win/lose.

    That aside, I hope Dems don’t go down the Romney “skewed polls” path, denying problems. I don’t see any sign the pros are, voters and pundits, however.

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  8. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR10:

    That aside, I hope Dems don’t go down the Romney “skewed polls” path, denying problems. I don’t see any sign the pros are, voters and pundits, however.

    I presume none of the Dems is going to launch a bizarre homophobic attack on Nate Silver or any other forecaster, as the 2012 “unskewed polls” guy (Dean Chambers) did. In any case, that fellow made specific criticisms that were pretty clearly faulty. He complained that the polling samples contained more Dems than Republicans. That they did, and for good reason: there were more Dems in the electorate. Making it 50/50 would have been skewing the polls. He also noticed that Romney was leading among independents. And, indeed, Romney went on to win the indie vote by 5 points, despite losing the election. The notion that the indie vote determines every election is a myth.

    Just because these particular arguments against the 2012 polls were bogus doesn’t mean that every argument against polls based on sampling or whatever else is nothing more than partisan wishful thinking. As we’ve seen in recent years, polls can be inaccurate. Hell, it’s often forgotten that the 2012 polls were pretty inaccurate–they underestimated Obama by a significant amount, both nationally and within the swing states.

    The problem in determining which party would benefit from a polling error this time is that the lines of evidence from recent past elections point in different directions: if the polls underestimate Trump and the Republicans like they did in 2016 and 2020, then the Dems (and the country) are right and truly fucked. But if it follows the pattern we saw in 2022 and in the off-year and special elections since then, Dems are likely to outperform the polls, and therefore a statistical tie–even where Trump is slightly ahead–means they win.

    Both scenarios are possible. But one thing I do not believe for a second is that Dems are becoming complacent, the way they were in 2016 or the way many Repubs in 2012 became.

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  9. gVOR10 says:

    Loomis says,

    They watch Fox News. Or they might watch a little bit of this and that.

    Loomis couldn’t come up with a D equivalent of FOX news. There’s MSNBC, parts of the blogosphere, and not much else.

    I’d add that it’s hard to create unity within a big tent. Elements of the Ds are primarily concerned about the environment, minority rights, gay rights, education, the economy, health care, immigration, police reform, homelessness, poverty, Ukraine, Gaza, what have you. Republicans, oddly, are both schizophrenic and more united. The elites are concerned about taxes and regulation. The “populists” are concerned with whatever culture war issues are current.

    There are institutions and there are institutions. Unions are a voter level institution that Dems, in the age of Neoliberalism, allowed to largely die. The right equivalent would probably be the Evangelical churches. There are the NAACP, the Sierra Club, the SPLC, and a bunch of others on the left. There are right equivalents like the Chambers of Commerce and so on. But there’s nothing on the left equivalent to, for lack of a better word, The Kochtopus, the well funded network of “think tanks”, advocacy groups, legal entrepreneurs, Federalist Society, etc. with interlocking donors and boards of directors to coordinate them. The upper level of the Republican Party is well provided with institutions.

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  10. @MarkedMan:

    but there have been a number of European countries where a main stream party has shifted significantly to the right in order to woo a racist and nationalist party that has enough votes to form a coalition.

    Two thoughts that are very important.

    1. There are also examples of cases in which the far right-wing party can’t find coalition partners.

    2. And if a coalition is formed it definitionally has to have majority support in parliament to function.

    Again: MAGA has largely taken over the GOP without having to do the work to form a coalition. Moreover, what little coalitional activity we have seen has been between the Dems and the non-Freedom Caucus GOP.

    And yes, Israel is a really, really good example of why having an electoral system that will produce a lot of tiny parties is not a good idea. I have never argued for a system like Israel’s. Never.

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  11. @MarkedMan: Two other thoughts.

    1. I am not suggesting that a more representative system magically fixes bad ideologies. I do think that more parties can better isolate those ideologies and make them clearer (clarity is a good thing in my mind).

    2. I have never been able to ascertain what metric you use for “better outcomes.”

    There was a point, but I may be misremembering, that you somewhat admitted that you really didn’t care about process at all, but rather just about outcomes. And you seem to dismiss the notion that how well a system represents the interests of the population is more or less irrelevant.

    Honest question: would you prefer a monarch or dictator who produced “better outcomes” than a democracy that didn’t?

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  12. @gVOR10:

    Loomis couldn’t come up with a D equivalent of FOX news.

    Two passing thoughts.

    1. Since most people don’t watch Fox News, even the Rs out there, this is clearly not the main problem.

    2. If you watch Colbert or Kimmel or even Fallon or The Daily Show, you get a pro-liberal spin.

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  13. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    2. If you watch Colbert or Kimmel or even Fallon or The Daily Show, you get a pro-liberal spin.

    I thought about mentioning those in my post above. And generally speaking, I agree–though I don’t think they are quite the same as Fox News/Conservative talk. In terms of reach, they are definitely significant. And they are definitely culturally liberal. I also don’t think they necessarily have the same sort of consistent political action orientation.

    But then again, does that really matter?

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  14. @Matt Bernius:

    though I don’t think they are quite the same as Fox News/Conservative talk

    I agree, although I think there is often a discount to which the messages that liberals think are not being articulated to mass audiences are, in fact, being articulated to mass audiences.

    And, really, the main reason people watch FNC or Colbert is the same: to be entertained.

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  15. @Matt Bernius:

    I also don’t think they necessarily have the same sort of consistent political action orientation.

    Maybe. But I am struck that for at least since 2016, Colbert’s monolog is almost exclusively anti-Trump stuff. And Seth Meyers’ “Closer Look” segment, which is largely daily as well, is the same thing. And the Daily Show touts itself as a news program (even if that is done tongue-in-cheek).

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  16. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But I am struck that for at least since 2016, Colbert’s monolog is almost exclusively anti-Trump stuff. And Seth Meyers’ “Closer Look” segment, which is largely daily as well, is the same thing. And the Daily Show touts itself as a news program (even if that is done tongue-in-cheek).

    Great points. And I’m not a late show watcher so I am not familiar with that.

    And, really, the main reason people watch FNC or Colbert is the same: to be entertained.

    Again, fair. Though I wonder if there’s a secondary aspect to that as well. I feel like FNC and the Daily Show are both seen as more “infotainment” than the late night shows.

    I also think talk radio falls into a slightly different category which is more infotainment mixed with community building (due to the ‘letting the audience talk’ aspect). That may actually make it a better political organizing tool than the mass media programs.

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  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR10:

    Republicans, oddly, are both schizophrenic and more united

    The beauty of this phenomenon is that if pretty much everyone is schizophrenic in the same ways, it presents as normalcy rather than craziness. To adapt Ray Stephens:

    Everything is relative in its own way.

    ETA: “Unions are a voter level institution that Dems, in the age of Neoliberalism, allowed to largely die. ” This, too. Good catch!

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  18. al Ameda says:

    Good piece Steven.

    Part of the problem we have today is that Republicans have become very adept at defining the Democratic Party as the source of all that is wrong in our culture: Simple discussion of race in American is a proxy for White male resentment; Drag Queen Story Hour is a proxy for parental rights; Student protests are, as usual, a proxy for what’s wrong with our colleges; Pronoun usage is a proxy for an LGBTQ takeover of gender identity; Womens’ rights to control her reproductive healthcare is a proxy for redefining power in a relationship.

    The Democratic Party seems ossified compared to the raging Kool Aid Driven Republican Party.

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  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: For what it’s worth (though I know you don’t want to say this, but being anonymous and invulnerable, I will), I’ve always assumed that for MarkedMan, “better” = “outcomes I approve of.” If this is not the case, MarkedMan, allow me to apologize right away but suggest that you need to focus your message more carefully.

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  20. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    1. Since most people don’t watch Fox News, even the Rs out there, this is clearly not the main problem.

    Yes. Thank you. I think social media is the primary vector for terrible disinformation. I think it is being used by organizations that do not have the best interests of the United States in mind to promote dissent and polarization within the US.

    When I speak/write in public on the internet, I have this in mind. I try to express myself in an anti-polarized way. The elements of this are:

    1. I try to never call anyone a disparaging name.
    2. I try to keep any expressions of contempt to a minimum.
    3. I try to keep the focus of my comments on what somebody did rather than on “who they are”.

    I learned these ideas from research on couples and how likely they are to divorce. The “four horsemen” that herald divorce are: Criticism (as opposed to complaints, which are completely valid and healthy, there’s a technical definition there that I have engaged with above), Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.

    My sister was in town this last weekend. Like me, she is somewhat liberal, in spite of being raised by our dear departed father who voted for Barry Goldwater. But he put people first, and so do we. We have lots of conservative friends from those days. We use the above tools to maintain a relationship with them, though Trump has put a strain on it, since many of them do not practice the above.

    However, they will reciprocate. We need to heal the polarization, though I’m not sure we’re ready to do that.

    Another friend told about going to church with her father (who is really off the deep end for Trump) where the sermon was about how sexual sin was worse than murder (and homosexuality was a sexual sin, you betcha), and a woman working outside the home was sinful. I don’t remember anything like this from the pulpit, and generally heard something of the opposite as far as principles.

    The religious right has lost its way, from what I can tell. It’s very sad. They need to figure out how to live in this new world, not try to destroy it.

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  21. DK says:

    @Kylopod:

    As we’ve seen in recent years, polls can be inaccurate.

    Starting to wonder if the polls are so inaccurate or if polling analysis and reporting is just overheated and lacking nuance.

    If there’s a bunch polls with topline numbers showing Trump or Republicans ahead by ~2-3% (say 46% to 43%), with ~11% of respondents undecided or third party, plus a ±4.5 margin of error….

    …the press tends to present this as “Red Wave 2022!!11!!”

    An accurate interpretation would state inability to conclude much from such a poll, except a close and volatile race. But “New Poll: We Dont Know” is not a sexy headline, especially now in a time of clicks and content.

    These topline numbers should not be treated as science, like they often are. Also, it does not help that recently there’s a crop of low quality partisan polls existing solely to flood the zone. The pundit class embarrassed itself hyping those in 2022.

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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Honest question: would you prefer a monarch or dictator who produced “better outcomes” than a democracy that didn’t?

    Personally? I’d detest it. Democracy all the way. But this actually goes into governance metrics I’ve proposed in the past, which you asked about higher up. The first and perhaps most important metric for an effective governmental system is the peaceful transition of power. And I think history has shown that in a time of rapid change dictatorships rarely transition peacefully from one dictator to another and when it goes bad, it is bad for everyone in the country. North Korea comes to mind as one of the few dictatorships in this era that has seen two peaceful transitions, but it’s not an example of good governance in virtually any other way. Which is another problem of dictatorship – on so many other metrics they do terribly, even the long lasting ones. Here’s some of my other metrics (but I use that term loosely because I’m not sure they can be measured by a number):
    – Keeping basic governmental functions running smoothly (roads, education, regional or nationwide health services, etc)
    – Responding quickly and efficiency to crises, either man made or natural
    – Anticipating such crises and heading them off or preparing for them where they can’t be stopped
    – Strictly and scrupulously enforcing the rule of law
    – Protecting minority rights (which is, almost by definition, anti-democratic)

    I could go on adding to the list, but I think you get the gist. And, admittedly, most of these are hard to measure.

    So I truly am interested in which forms of government seem to lead to better outcomes per the standards above. Bicameral legislatures? Term limits? Qualifications for offices? Parliamentary? The relationship between legislative, executive, and judicial functions? And so on…

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’ve always assumed that for MarkedMan, “better” = “outcomes I approve of.”

    Yes, this is correct. As to what type of outcomes I approve of, see my post above.

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  24. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    @Matt Bernius:
    @Jay L Gischer:

    My father in law is a hard core Florida Trumper. Here’s what you all are missing….

    As someone who travels through, and spends time in, too many rural areas to my liking, Fox is just the tip of the right wing ecosystem. Alot of these rural, red state hard core Trump fans don’t even have cable on which to get Fox news. What they do get is their local Sinclair Radio Station, and local talk radio. Sinclair is the 800lb gorilla in rural communities. They also have 300+ Sinclair Television Stations, which in come cases, carry network programming from ABC, CBS, NBC and the CW. But their local news and local programming is Fox News talking points all day long.

    In these communities, Liberals are, literally, worth nothing. The rhetoric coming out of these stations would have been out of bounds 10 years ago. Now, it’s normalized. There are regular commentaries about “Communist baby killer Joe Biden”. There is regular commenatry about armed rebellion against the “Biden Illegitimate Regime”.

    These are small, tiny, stations individually, but collectively, they’re brilliant at spreading a message, which is why so many believe 2020 was stolen, that J6 was a peaceful demonstration, and that killing BLM activists is 100% justified. It’s also scary as fu*k how much misinformation can be spread little by little, town by town.

    *wrote this on my phone, so apologies for typos.

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  25. Andy says:

    I read that earlier today and also the Campos piece he was responding to.

    Loomis is only partly right, though. The fundamental problem is that Joe Biden is extremely unpopular—the most unpopular President in the history of modern polling. Loomis’ unnamed liberal and centrist institutions engaging in “political education” don’t solve that problem.

    And the Democratic Tent, writ large, has many institutions, nonprofits, activists, and groups of various sorts. The issue is that many of them are ideological purists who spend time making the perfect the enemy of the good and refusing to play well with others who agree with them only 80% of the time. And frankly, Loomis, Campos, and the LGM crowd generally are a big part of that problem and have been happy to burn heretics in the center and center-left for years and are suddenly, in the breach, now lamenting the lack of a broad base of liberal, left, and centrist institutions.

    Additionally, the ignorant American voter Loomis complains about has always been with us and many/most people have voted based on vibes or association with broad principles or ideas than any keen understanding of policy. Yes, we don’t have party machines anymore to “educate” the masses on how to vote whether they wanted to or not.

    In any event, Biden’s historic unpopularity is his core political problem; it is not the dynamics of the voting population. And it’s not just among Republicans and independents, he’s not even much liked among many Democrats, who are only sticking with him because they have no other choice. By contrast, popular Democrats are polling quite well, which is why Biden is generally running behind other Democrats in swing states. Candidate popularity and quality matter in elections. We saw that with the crappy candidates that Trump endorsed in 2022, compared to other GoP candidates, and also with GoP candidates that outperformed Trump in 2020.

    Where your “the weakness of parties” comes in here is that Democrats don’t have any easy solution to Biden’s unpopularity.

    Democrats can’t replace Biden – there’s no mechanism to do that, and Democrats and Biden probably can’t improve his image much, or they would have done that already.

    Parties are a collection of factions which means everything is a collective action problem. Biden’s domestic political problem of dealing with Israel is a perfect example. There’s no central party authority to get everyone to play nice and twist arms when needed for the greater good.

    You see a lot of crisis psychology in the face of this seemingly impossible situation—denial, wish casting, blame casting, calls for extreme action. But no one has an answer. I certainly don’t.

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  26. Kathy says:

    There’s been some buzz for weeks on Coppola’s latest movie, a science fiction(!) film, decades in the making, called Megalopolis. Reviews are mixed, and very opposite; critics either love it or hate it. Apparently the theme is that it makes a comparison between America and the Roman Empire.

    If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that comparison…

    There are many points that do compare. Both were set up by an aristocracy after overthrowing what they deemed a tyrannical government, though Rome wasn’t a colony of a larger empire. Both were set up for the benefit of the aristocracy. Both eventually liberalized and granted more of a say to the middle and lower classes (worth noting. by vastly different means). Both used slaves in large numbers, too.

    We can go on and on like this for a while. I wonder how Rome compares to other modern states. Hell, Napoleon pretty much set up an imitation Roman Republic and Empire on purpose, even calling himself Consul at one point. So…

    But one parallel that does resonate, is how both also let more power accumulate in the executive branch. In Rome this went through stages, from consuls not waiting the prescribed time to occupy the office again (Marius), to civil wars and grabbing absolute power (Sulla) and giving it up after a while, to more civil wars and grabbing absolute power for keeps (Caesar), and last to a pantomime government that preserved the republican forms but erased their essence and power (Augustus).

    America is on a far different course, but now we have an incompetent, ignorant, would be dictator who doesn’t even pretend to want anything else.

    It’s not that America is threading the path of Rome, but rather that the similar founding principles, a state to benefit the wealthy classes, will wind up getting similar results.

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Okay, except that the outcomes you specified are outcomes based on the character of the people elected and appointed to leadership positions rather than to specific forms of government. Autocrats and juntas can accomplish the list of preferred outcomes you specify, though I will admit that they mostly don’t. But to be more specific as to autocrats and juntas accomplishing those goals mentioned, I will note that the fairly antidemocratic generals in the early days of the Korean pseudo-republic accomplished most of those goals most of the time. [Expletive, deleted] even the Trump Administration was not a total failure at those goals at large and, with the possible exception of Covid-19 was at least as good as the administration of “Great job, Brownie!” Bush.

    Frankly, I’m not seeing your goals and approach as being anything other than wishing for a government you’d like better. So do I. The difference is that because I’ve become convinced that it’s not gonna happen, I’ve opted out of participating in the process beyond throwing the occasional bomb here and in real-life conversations with real-life people. I wish you well, though, except to remind you that the hand you sh!t in will always fill before the hand you wish in.

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  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy: This is one of those rare occasions where I find myself agreeing with you. The only point I would disagree with you about is the part about refusing to play well with other who agree with them 80% of the time. I don’t care to argue about it at all, if you truly believe that 80% number, take your delusions completely rational objections and go in peace, but I find it a stretch of monumental proportions. The disagreement on that point is about articles of faith, if you will, and are moot in the second definition sense of the word.

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  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Interesting. The only comparison I’ve seen is the one between Coppola’s movie and Metropolis. Then again, I stopped caring about the movie at that point an apparently haven’t done enough to trigger the AI into force feeding me more links about Megalopolis; though it is possible I just ignored the subsequent ones.

    But thanks for a thoughtful and incisive comment all the same. I am enriched for your interest in the movie.

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  30. al Ameda says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    My sister was in town this last weekend. Like me, she is somewhat liberal, in spite of being raised by our dear departed father who voted for Barry Goldwater. But he put people first, and so do we. We have lots of conservative friends from those days. We use the above tools to maintain a relationship with them, though Trump has put a strain on it, since many of them do not practice the above.

    I hear you.

    I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m from a large conservative Catholic family (I have 8 siblings), my father was a police officer, I went to college at UC Berkeley, and I’m the only liberal in the group. Most family friends were/are conservative too. I get on well enough because … well, family … and because I try to. I’m not a doormat, I tell my family members if you want to discuss an issue, fine with me, but if you don’t want my opinion don’t waste your time and mine by trolling me and asking for it. Generally it’s been okay, every once in a while it goes south, but hey, that’s life.

    We’ve got to try to talk to each other respectfully. It starts with family and friends, and take it from there. At the macro level it’s a cesspool, but individually we can make some progress.

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  31. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I also lost interest in the movie. I’ll wait for it to stream. But it has gotten me thinking about the parallels between Rome and modern states.

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  32. Andy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Regarding the 80%, the general point is that there is a lot of infighting in the broader coalition that prevents any kind of organized strategy and planning because the various factions want their priorities to be the primary priorities. This isn’t just the case among party factions, it’s also the case among sitting politicians.

    The traditional purpose of parties is to prevent this, make everyone play nice and settle intra-party disputes, and provide a central organization and leadership structure to advance a set of common political goals in a disciplined and organized way. Our parties gave all of that up.

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  33. @MarkedMan: Thanks for the response. I would note that most of that list really has very little to do with form of government. A dictatorship could perform the same functions.

    Also, let me note specifically:

    Protecting minority rights (which is, almost by definition, anti-democratic)

    Protecting minority rights is anti-majoritarian, but it is not anti-democratic. Indeed, I think you would find (indeed, I know you would) that most theorists use protection of minority rights as an essential element to democratic governance.

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  34. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    the outcomes you specified are outcomes based on the character of the people elected and appointed to leadership positions rather than to specific forms of government.

    Perhaps you are right and the form of government doesn’t matter. But my guess is that there are checks and balances that can be built into a governmental system that can make a vital difference.

    Autocrats and juntas can accomplish the list of preferred outcomes you specify

    I don’t think they can. Autocrats depend on the vast majority of their subjects existing in misery. We don’t often realize this because the history books are written by the small fraction of one percent who are educated and wealthy enough to leave behind records.

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  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    A dictatorship could perform the same functions.

    Perhaps in theory, but I think history shows they cannot, other than for a tiny fraction of the population.

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  36. @MarkedMan: Not to be too snarky, but how is it you are certain your understanding of history is sufficient to make your case while the literature on democratic governance is insufficient to move you?

    Do you really think that the US system is the sweet spot between the failings of dictatorship and your skepticism about any other set of democratic institutions?

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  37. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Since most people don’t watch Fox News, even the Rs out there, this is clearly not the main problem.

    I think this radically understates the second- and third-order influence of what happens on Fox News. Fox dogma becomes Facebook/Xitter rehash becomes conservative truth. It isn’t necessary for a majority of individuals to actually watch Fox News for the message to permeate.

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  38. DrDaveT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And, really, the main reason people watch FNC or Colbert is the same: to be entertained.

    I could not disagree more. Liberals watch Colbert for entertainment and validation. Conservatives watch FNC for truth and validation. The difference could not be more stark.

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  39. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Do you really think that the US system is the sweet spot between the failings of dictatorship and your skepticism about any other set of democratic institutions?

    No. I’ve never said that it is, and I think it’s unlikely. But I don’t see any evidence that political parties are somehow the answer to better governance.

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  40. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    how is it you are certain your understanding of history is sufficient to make your case while the literature on democratic governance is insufficient to move you?

    I don’t understand what you are getting at here. Are you under the impression that I’m anti-democracy? Or that I think there are better forms of governance? If so, let me be clear: I think that of the countries we have today the democracies clearly have better outcomes for the largest share of their citizenry. But there are many institutional differences between these democracies and I wonder which ones lead to better outcomes.

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  41. Chris says:

    “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” ~ George Washington, President of the United States, Farewell Address on Saturday, September 17, 1796

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  42. @Chris: serious question: do you think we should farm the same way we did in 1796?

    Do you think George Washington’s understanding of agriscience is superior to what we know now?

    This is not to suggest that there aren’t things to learn from how he managed Mount Vernon, but it is also quite likely that he used words (and had understandings) that aren’t quite the same as what we know in 2024.

    The Founders did not u detained political parties as they would come to evolve (and be central to representative government).

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  43. Chris says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Washington was not perfect, nor is any one of us. However, what Washington thought and did should not be excused, as it was foundational to our current notions of good leadership and a functioning government vested within a democratic-republican system. His criticism of political parties still resonates. Why are the two major parties embedded into preferred positions within our body of laws? The Democrats and Republicans should have no more laws in their favor than any other assemblage of like minded folks. The fact they have institutionalized their privileged political perches has created a lazy political establishment that competes for power not by offering better ideas on governance to our nation’s electors, but instead they divide voters into a binary arrangement of hate for their own advantages. In this measure Washington’s words still ring true. While you wonder if today’s version of mankind is smarter than he… look around, the evidence is clear, humanity is not yet without sin.

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  44. Kylopod says:

    @Chris:

    His criticism of political parties still resonates.

    Name one functioning democracy today that doesn’t have political parties.

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  45. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: While parties and/or factions exist everywhere and always have, that doesn’t make them a good thing. If I had to place a bet, I’d say monkeying around with parties to make them “stronger” or the opposite – “more answerable to the voters”, or crafting rules to make it easier for party formation doesn’t have any long term effect on how effective governments are. As far as I can tell large parties are almost wholly about satisfying people’s need to have a team, a side to be on and a set of opponents to be against. Small parties are different. They seem more likely to have a strong core political agenda, but one limited to one or two issues, and are usually willing to trade off virtually anything else in order to promote their narrow interests.

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  46. Chris says:

    @Kylopod: We should heed Washington’s warning about parties! Parties are not granted a permanent franchise to rule under the Constitution! Our functional understanding of how we are self-governed has been eroded by corrupt individuals enacting wicked laws giving the Democrat and Republican parties an unfair advantage. That advantage must be removed, so they will truly need to work to gain the support and trust of the people they seek to influence. Without a true competition of ideas and candidates we are doomed to unending graft, hackery, and unaccountability. If a party can’t cut it in the electoral market place, they should then be allowed to go the way of the Whig or American (No Nothing) parties… into to the dust bin of failed undertakings.

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  47. Kylopod says:

    @Chris: You didn’t answer my question.

    Also, let’s not conflate two issues: America’s very rigid two-party duopoly (which I agree is not a good thing) and the existence of political parties period (which I think is one of the building blocks of a healthy democracy).

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  48. Chris says:

    @Kylopod: Washington’s words about political parties contain no provision for their elimination. Instead, his warning is that they are the vehicles by which unprincipled individuals will destroy our democratic-republic. Thus it is wise to be vigilant to the danger which is ever present by their existence.

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  49. Kylopod says:

    @Chris:

    Instead, his warning is that they are the vehicles by which unprincipled individuals will destroy our democratic-republic.

    Do you hold that every country with political parties (which is literally every democracy in the world today) is doomed to failure unless they do away with parties, or just the US?

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  50. @MarkedMan:

    But I don’t see any evidence that political parties are somehow the answer to better governance.

    The answer? Quite clearly not. Part of the answer? Absolutely, especially when combined with the conditions necessary to create them in the first place. I think you misunderstand my arguments as being about the parties themselves as opposed to how the system itself has to change and, further, how it would changes with more parties in play as vehicles for better and more transparent representation.

    In terms of evidence, first, it is difficult to figure out what evidence you would find persuasive. But, again, there is a rather vast literature about this subject that exists and while I try and bring some understanding of that literature to the table, I can’t represent it in easy to digest forms, especially in these comments.

    I will say this: almost exclusively the only people I ever encounter who think that our current party system is adequate tend to be Americans who have never studied or have much understanding of the way the rest of the world operates.

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  51. Chris says:

    @Kylopod: I don’t say do away with political parties, as that would violate our Constitution, specifically the First Amendment. Instead, I say do away with laws born out of corruption that direct our government to give the two major political parties an advantage over any another. Ask yourself, why do the 47% of Americans who identify as independents only see a Republican or a Democrat in their elected offices. It’s because those two parties have promoted laws that institutionalize their preeminence. It is not the job of our government to lean on the scales of election results and in doing so, the parties have corrupted our system and prove Washington’s point!

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