Weak Parties (Yet Again)
A clear example from North Carolina.
Via the AP: Party switch gives GOP veto-proof control in North Carolina.
A Democratic state lawmaker in North Carolina announced Wednesday that she is jumping to the Republican Party, giving the GOP veto-proof majorities in both the state’s legislative chambers that should make it easier to enact conservative policies over the opposition of Gov. Roy Cooper.
Whether the switch by Charlotte-area Rep. Tricia Cotham will soon result in further abortion restrictions in the nation’s ninth-most populous state remains unclear, given her support for abortion rights during her earlier stint in the General Assembly.
“I am still the same person, and I am going to do what I believe is right and follow my conscience,” Cotham said in a news conference at state GOP headquarters at which she announced she would soon switch her party registration.
“The party that best represents me and my principles and what’s best for North Carolina is the Republican Party,” she added.
It would be difficult to find a clearer example of a theme I constantly write about: the weakness of American political parties as organizations and, therefore, the remarkable level of autonomy individual politicians have in terms of deploying party labels. This was done, as it usually is, via press conference.
It also is a stark reminder of why the number of party members in a chamber can matter, and matter greatly.
Cotham’s switch means Republicans now hold the 72 seats required in the 120-seat House to hold a veto-proof majority. Republicans already held the 30 Senate seats necessary to override vetoes.
I will say that in terms of electoral logic, I am not sure what her strategy is. Party switchers frequently have a hard time in primaries because while the party as a whole may love a politician for switching, the hardcore base may think that a party switcher isn’t pure enough to support for nomination.
But beyond that, she won her seat 59.1% to 40.9% meaning that the district has a significant Democratic lean. If she thinks she will be able to retain a large number of those Democrats at the next election because they voted for her in 2022, she is badly miscalculating (especially in our current political climate). Perhaps she has larger aspirations and thinks this will help her, but again, while the GOP will be thrilled for her to turn coat and join their ranks, those who are so willing to betray their co-partisans are often never fully trusted by their new tribe.
I would note that the district was heavily Republican in 2018 and 2020, but the 2022 map is substantially different than the pre-2022 map. If she thinks that the pre-2022 outcomes mean that the district is actually a Republican one, she may be in for a rude awakening in 2024.
I will bet you anything Republicans have compensated this woman well.
Maybe she is on the same vacation package as Clarence Thomas.
While this is an example of a party’s inability to enforce any kind of litmus test on its members, I’m curious if that is different in multi-party parliamentary systems? If a British MOP wants to switch party affiliation after the election, is there anything there to stop them?
Also, the same effect is achieved in Parliamentary systems when a small party provides the vital few votes to form a coalition government. In an evenly divided system they often just go to whichever party gives them more of what they want, which is usually limited to a specific issue.
@MarkedMan: Sure, it can happen in other systems, and yes, she is exploiting the closeness of the chamber. I would be curious to know what it is that she thinks she is getting from the move. Generally when a coalition partner in a parliamentary system exits a coalition (or joins another) then they are extracting some kind of policy concession.
And, of course, if we are going to shift this into a comparative discussion, the fact that NC’s districting means that the GOP’s supermajority is in no way representative of the actual population of the state needs to be taken into account.
These kinds of party switchers are just the worst (and I said the same thing back when Arlen Specter switched from R to D). If she has issues with the Democratic party she can always become an independent and vote in lines with what her constituents expected from her without going to the dark side. She’s scum.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I suspect this explains it
There is a group of people out there who think that they know right from wrong better than other voters, and also think that any means necessary are justified for them to retain power. Absent a better explanation, I would assume this is likely to be a “sleeper” Republican, who ran as a Democrat for just this purpose. It could be a simple payoff, I guess.
I mean, that’s awful, right? Can one do God’s Will by making a deal with the Devil?
@Steven L. Taylor:
She claims the Democrats bullied her because of her stance on immigration and guns. As far as I know, she is still pro-choice, so if the No. Carolina Republican Party makes ending abortion access their top priority, she’ll have problems. She would have been smarter to go Independent.
Am I in comment purgatory?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have recently seen things that suggest that in the UK, party leaders have the ability to decide who can run under that parties banner. In addition, they have the ability to boot someone out, not just of their party, but out of Parliament as well. I recall Boris Johnson doing something like this, or threatening it. I’m quite sure of the first claim. It’s as if the party has a trademark on its label, and can deny use of it to individuals.
Which is something we could do, but we would need new trademarks. There are other problems with it here, too.
@Jay L Gischer:
This is correct.
@Jay L Gischer: I’ve seen people claiming that she was lobbying for right wing groups for a few years before getting elected. No sourcing for those claims, though, and I’m pretty lazy and figure if it is real it will pop up from somewhere reputable.
So, um, keep your ear to the ground, I guess.
There is an organized Republican strategy to have Republicans run as Democrats in heavily blue districts and then either switch parties or effectively govern as republicans (see Eric Adams)
@Stormy Dragon: What there is apparently is an disorganised delusion among deranged extreme side partisans who imagine incoherent and non-existent conspiracies to explain centrists being of different politics than their own.
Of course the Manchurian Mayor was a deep mole in your Democratic party, clearly a Republican plant scheming from the days of support that known Republican Party sympathiser and plant, Mayor Dinkins….
@Stormy Dragon: I would love to see some evidence for that.
Because, well, it sounds a bit delusional.
He was literally registered as a Republican during the 90s and 00s, and referred to himself as a conservative Republican in a New York Times interview in 1999.
@Steven L. Taylor: well, in this case, she won by about 10 points, making this a generally safe Dem seat, so switching so soon after could be seen as a bit…odd.
@Stormy Dragon: That he had a GOP past doesn’t equate to an “organized Republican strategy.”
Moreover, if you are going to win the NYC mayor’s race you have to run as a Dem. And he won the Dem primary. He may not be your ideal Dem, but winning the Dem nomination makes him a Dem.
@Thomm: It may well be stupid, from a re-election POV.
But that doesn’t mean there was an “organized Republican strategy.”
Makes sense, assuming that is all true. Steven’s characterization of “tribal” identity here is apropos, and the increasing tribalism of partisanship makes it increasingly difficult for candidates with heterodox views to coexist, particularly when the most tribal, base voters have outsized weight in primaries.
@Steven L. Taylor:
Ex-Florida senator charged in fake candidate scheme
6 fake Democrats fall, setting stage for GOP recalls
Real Democrats call out fake Democrats
It should also be noted this is a common tactic in Russian politics, so it should be no surprised that the growing Russian influence on the American right wing has lead to similar tactics being introduced here as well:
Fake Parties and Cloned Candidates: How the Kremlin ‘Manages’ Democracy
@Stormy Dragon: I appreciate the linkage, but none of those are examples of an organized strategy to elected Dems and then switch parties (I mean, maybe the middle kind of counts, but not really). The first one is about trying to use a name-alike independent to confuse voters and the third one was about an attempted takeover of a party organization.
All bad, sure, but not what you are claiming.
This is bizarrely conspiratorial. There’s no evidence Cotham is some king of GoP sleeper agent. She’s been a Democratic politician for many years, serving in the NC House from 2007-2016 before trying to run for the US House (as a Democrat) and losing and then returning to the NC House.
Cotham apparently had an abortion herself on the advice of various doctors she consulted, who told her that carrying the fetus would result in a stillbirth and very likely her own death.
@Steven L. Taylor:
These days isn’t “organized Republican strategy” an oxymoron? One of the corollaries of being a weak party is they have no party-wide platform or strategy. It’s 2023. All you need for a “Republican strategy” is a couple activists and one multi-millionaire funder. And a different funder will be backing a different “Republican strategy” two districts over.
Over at LGM Paul Campos presents an interesting thought experiment. Assuming:
– All barriers to voting are removed.
– The Electoral College is gone and the prez is elected by popular vote.
– Gerrymandering is gone, state leges and U. S. House.
– The Senate stays as is, just to not get carried away with all this democracy.
Would the GOPs drop their minoritarian rule strategy? Or as I would put it, would they drop the MAGA strategy of base motivation in favor of a median voter strategy.
Campos points out that several states have gone to systems of non-partisan redistricting. The result has been even nuttier GOPs. GOPs have been gnashing teeth in the outer darkness in CA and NY for some time. They don’t seem to have moderated.
My own feeling is that over time and accumulated losses they might moderate. But short term, no. It’s a collective action problem in Dr. T’s weak party. The 18 or so Reps in districts Biden won would certainly prefer to moderate. Probably a majority of the House GOPs would prefer to moderate. But the Taylor Greens and Boeberts and Gaetzes still have to survive GOP primaries in MAGA districts. As long as they are highly visible, they tar the whole party with the extremism. And the Party has no leverage to impose a national, consensus strategy on them.
@Steven L. Taylor: wait…I thought the parties are weak and decentralized with no real mechanism to control the members, yet you want evidence of high level coordination to believe that this is a strategy being done on the lower levels?
@Stormy Dragon: The record shows he registered for three years (3 years), end 1990s to 2001. He said in protest.
The record otherwise shows he was involved in Democratic politics both the decade prior (notably with Mayor Dinkins, the black mayor of the start 1990s, I personally recall fondly from my NYC residency period) to those three years of protest registration as h, and then continously since in elected Democrtic party politics in New York State. The non-delusional can see the record clearly enough, although the delusional will prefer the Manchurian Candidate level conspiracy.
Your delusional and distortion are really quite MAGA-Trumpist in the disjointed stretching for a narrative to fit the paranoid conspiracy mongering on hand.
@Thomm: I wasn’t the one who used the phrase, I was quoting Stormy Dragon, with whom I thought you were agreeing. Perhaps I misunderstood your response to my comment above in response to SD.
@MarkedMan: BTW, you make a legitimate point about both the ability of legislature to quit parties (and for coalition partners to quit coalitions, which is similar, but not identical to this situation).
But on the weakness of parties topic, it is not common for such party-switching to take place just over four months after assuming office save in the context of a significant legislative dispute. Since most global parties have more control over who their members are, such behavior is less likely.