Will the GOP Fracture?

Will there be in-fighting? Yes. A break-up? No.

There is going to be, without a doubt, some internal struggles within the Republican Party in the coming months. Losing a presidential election always has that effect on a party, especially a re-election bid. This present moment is made all the more fraught by the legacy of Trump and the clear tension in the party between those who have embraced his white-supremacist-mobilizing populism and those who, like I think Leader McConnell, want to discard him now that his usefulness is over.

But, I think it is important to understand that it is highly, highly unlikely that the party will fracture in the sense that a third party would form or that currently elected officials would change their affiliations.

See, for example, the Thomas Friedman column that James Joyner noted in his post Fantasies of a Post-Trump Republican Party.

The closest thing to that kind of break-up would be something like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska changing her party affiliation to independent and caucusing with the Democrats. But that won’t stop the Republican Party from rolling on.

Keep in mind, too, Murkowski is unique among current Senators, having managed to win her seat as a write-in candidate in 2010 after having lost the GOP primary. Alaska has also adopted new electoral rules, including a top-four primary and ranked-choice voting for the general. These could likely embolden Murkowski’s independence from the party.

Do I think an appreciable number of electable Republican politicians will change their party affiliation? No, I do not. Maybe Murkowski is a real possibility, but beyond that, it ranges from long-shots (Romney?) to not-gonna-happens (pretty much the rest of them). Susan Collins could find herself very concerned over the possibility, but we all know how that goes.

In simple terms the only party-switching we will see will be either from members of Congress who plan to retire and want in on that sweet, sweet majority party committee leadership action or those who think that their best route forward post-Trump is to run in the Democratic primary (which tends not to work out–see, e.g., Arlen Specter).

Let’s not forget: when the dust settles the Republicans will have 50 seats in the Senate and at least 211 in the House (48.5%). (At least because there are currently 3 vacancies, at least one of which is probably going to go R). The party did well in state-level elections and due to its Electoral College advantages at the moment was not that far away from winning the presidency (in terms of EVs, not the popular vote).

Too many people are forgetting all of that and are focused on the current turmoil brought on by the capitol insurrection and impeachment.

I would note that the GOP’s first test after the storming of the capitol was a vote on the Arizona electors. They failed the test (in my view, as I like democracy and they voted against accepting the results of a free and fair election) as a majority of Republicans in the House voted to reject. They did the same, and in larger numbers, over the Pennsylvania electors:

Source: WaPo

Those votes point to a House GOP, at least, who is far more in the trumpist camp, than not.


At any rate, I expect to see a lot of stories like this one from the NYT: Post Trump, Republicans Are Headed for a Bitter Internal Showdown.

Mr. Trump has vowed a campaign of political retribution against lawmakers who have crossed him — a number that has grown with the impeachment vote. The president remains hugely popular with the party’s grass roots and is most likely capable of raising enough money to be a disruptive force in 2022.

Scott Reed, the former chief political strategist for the Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobby, said that Republicans should prepare for a ferocious internecine battle. Mr. Reed, who as an ally of Mr. McConnell’s helped crush right-wing populists in past elections, said the party establishment would have to exploit divisions within Mr. Trump’s faction to guide its favored candidates into power.

It seems likely that the party will have internal fights, but that the party itself will not actually fracture.

This is going to mean primary fights in 2022 and leadership struggles within the GOP caucus in the coming weeks:

An early test for the party is expected in the coming days, with Trump loyalists attempting to strip Ms. Cheney of her House leadership role. Should that effort prove successful, it could further indicate to voters and donors that the party’s militant wing is in control — a potentially alarming signal to more traditional Republicans in the business community.

Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, has acknowledged to political donors in recent days that the departing president and some members of his faction have seriously damaged the party’s relationship with big business, people familiar with his conversations said.

If Ms. Cheney is deposed, it could encourage primary challenges against other Republicans who supported impeachment or censure, including more moderate lawmakers like Representatives Peter Meijer and Fred Upton of Michigan and John Katko of New York, whose districts could slip away from Republicans if they nominated hard-line Trump loyalists. But in a sign that Mr. Trump can’t expect to fully dictate party affairs, Mr. McCarthy has indicated that he opposes calls to remove her from leadership.

So, yes, there will be fights and other internal nonsense (see, e.g., this Politico piece: Trump blows up the Arizona GOP on his way out), but what will that mean for the party electorally? This is the key issue.

It may mean that some races, such as the Georgia governor’s race in 2020, will have primary fights that lead to trumpist wins in the GOP primary but that actually increases, potentially, Democratic chances to win the office. One could foresee a situation in which the Republicans, in a bid to stick it to Kemp, manage to oust him as the nominee, but in doing so throws out the incumbency advantage Kemp has and, thereby, helping Stacey Abrams (perhaps) win the governorship.


Let’s start with the cardinal rule of understanding the behavior of legislators: they want to be re-elected. Period.

This then leads to the way in which the pathway to re-election affects their behavior, and that leads to how they get nominated. That is: what gets them on the ballot?

In the United States this mean, almost always, winning a partisan primary.

Yes, forming a third party, or running as an independent can also get a candidate on the ballot. But that route is almost certainly more complicated than being the nominee of one of the major parties.

More important than ballot access is that the single most significant variable in determining voter behavior is partisan identification. Having an “R” or “D” by a candidate’s name will largely guarantee X% of votes in a given jurisdiction.

We just saw this on display during both the presidential election and the Georgia run-off. The whole stand-in-front-of-a-map-of-counties routine that people like John King at CNN or Steve Kornacki at NBC do is all about knowing the basic partisan breakdowns of counties down to the precinct level. Electoral outcomes at that level while not predestined are pretty darn predictable within a reasonable margin of error.

As I have stated in repeated discussions of this over the years: I am quite confident that the Republican candidate will win Alabama’s electoral votes in 2024 because, simply put, there are more Republican voters in the state than there are Democratic ones.

All of this is to say that members of Congress know what the partisan breakdown is of their district, which dictates their basic chances of re-election if they make it to the general election. The issue becomes: getting to the general and the route is the primary. If I am in a safe R district and I face no significant primary challenger, I am a shoo-in for re-election. But if I am challenged in the primary, it might all go away. So, if to be re-nominated I have to be a trumpy (or vote against slates of electors) I’ll do it and worry about how my co-partisans in the Congress feel about my behavior later.

One thing is for sure: the overall tenor of the party in Congress is dictated by those primary voters far, far more than by party leadership.

We get, for example, QAnon types in the House not because whole districts buy into such things, but because a slice of partisans in that district are willing to nominate a Marjorie Greene who is then carried to victory by the overwhelming partisan lean of the district.


A second cardinal rule of legislative politics is that being in the majority rules and being in the minority drools. The majority party controls the legislative agenda and leadership of committees.

There is a nontrivial chance that the GOP could win control of one, if not both, chambers in the 2022 mid-terms. As such, if I am Republican, why would I want to run the risk of being in the minority by switching to a third party label, especially given the inherent electoral risk of doing so as noted above?

Again: the GOP is one seat away from controlling the Senate and has 48.5% of House seats. This will help keep Republicans in the fold because more power is potentially just under two years away.

The basic point is that to have influence on committees one has to caucus with one of the major parties and the majority party controls the committees. Being a lonely independent without any affiliation is just a way to isolate oneself. The same would be true of forming a small third party.

Put another way: why go third party if I am going to have to publicly affiliate with one of the two major parties anyway? Sure, it works for Bernie Sanders (who nonetheless twice sought the D nomination for president). but Bernie is more the exception than the rule, yes?


By the way, all of this is why shifts in public opinion about Trump and trumpism can matter as they can influence primaries. But, national movements in public views may not reflect regional changes and, more importantly for this conversation, may not influence district-level opinion. And, even more than that, it may not reflect shifts in the sub-set of partisans at the local level who participate in primary elections.

Of course, a major reason I argue for electoral system change to move away from single-seat plurality elections to more proportional representation is because democratic government ought to be driven by a reasonable representation of the overall population, not be driven by small slices of voters who live in an arbitrary shape on a map that is predetermined either by demographics and/or purposeful design to be represented by a specific party.

The bottom line of all of this is that the GOP isn’t going away and it isn’t going to break up. The electoral and legislative incentives towards remaining in the group are too powerful.

Moreover, while there will be internal fights, the incentive to leave is probably lessened at the moment by the fact that Trump is gone. For example, if Romney was going to bail on the party, his logical exit point was probably over the first impeachment–to leave the party over its broken support of a president soliciting foreign intervention in our elections. But now it seems more likely that he will tell himself he should stay in the party to try and fix it.

All of this is to demonstrate the way structural incentives influence political behavior as well as to say that any speculation of all this leading to the GOP actually rupturing strikes me as more wishful thinking/looking for angles for stories than it does anything else.

The issue is not that the party will fracture, but rather which faction will be dominant?

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Democratic Theory, Electoral Systems, 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. Kylopod says:

    Keep in mind, too, Murkowski is unique among current Senators, having managed to win her seat as a write-in candidate in 2010 after having lost the GOP primary.

    It wasn’t just 2010 that has given her this unique place. In 2016, Joe Miller, the same guy who had previously beaten her in the GOP primary, ran as a Libertarian, and it once again became a three-way race. These two elections have enabled her to carve out a more centrist niche than the politics of Alaska would normally predict. But unless Miller runs again in 2022, it’s likely she’s going to have to appeal to a more conventionally Republican coalition than in her previous two races. She could possibly get away with running as an independent, but caucusing with the Dems would probably be a step too far for her state’s electorate.

    1
  2. CSK says:

    There are Trump supporters vowing that if Trump forms a third party, they’ll be right there behind him.

    1
  3. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:
    I think Miller is finished in Alaska. He was accused of campaign finance violations, and then that stupidity about refusing to reveal what he was doing on his computer, which led everyone to believe he was viewing porn.

    1
  4. JohnMcC says:

    I notice that the VA R-party is having a post-Trump administration donnybrook about Convention-or-Primary. This is not the first time they’ve danced to that tune, of course. But this time the meeting was on Zoom and seems to have ended when the pro-Convention (and I suppose, pro-Trump) faction basically hung up the phone.

    From this I gather that in places where friction already exists between Repubs, it will get worse and some factions will wrap themselves in the ‘True Repub’ robe. In some cases there are probably career Republicans who’ll be cast into outer darkness. But like Dr Taylor says, a successful schism or ‘third-party’ does not seem likely.

    There might be a meaningful fracture if the issue is donors and access to media. A contest between a Koch network that appears to have discovered moderation and a Mercer network that hasn’t would likely do more to break the R-party than anything but I haven’t heard of such and the power of the internet in raising small contributions would mitigate against their intra-party power being determinative.

    I agree we’re stuck with a 25-30% rump that believes in creationism and Trump.

    Take it to the bank and ask for your 2cents.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Just to be annoying, I’ll play Devil’s Advocate.

    Forget the presidency. A congressperson just needs a district, and a senator just needs a state. So, playing a hypothetical, what if we set aside the presidency and focus on winning a state with a third party as a starting point. (Maine’s already doing it.) I think you’d want a small state in terms of population, a politically active state whose voters aren’t entirely comfortable as D or R. Say, New Hampshire.

    I don’t know what ballot access challenges are like in NH, but those rules are malleable. In my hypothetical access may be difficult but not impossible. So the D’s and the R’s each run their guy, but the I’s get a candidate on the ballot. And they win. New Hampshire’s Indy senator joins Maine’s Angus King and our hypothetically independent Lisa Murkowski. In the Senate they organize with whichever party gives them the best deal in terms of chairmanships. They don’t organize as a party of just three, but they do demonstrate how independent Senators can wield outsized power.

    Next cycle, closely-divided Georgia elects an Independent. She joins the I caucus. They organize either as R or D and do it strategically, focusing on retaining power in the chamber.

    The next cycle there are three ‘I’ candidates. Two win – maybe North Carolina and Ohio. Now the Independent caucus has six members, the D’s and the R’s each have 47. Who has the power? The Independents, who now decide it’s time to form a party.

    The ‘I’ party is a moderate middle party. A D senator who doesn’t like his committee assignments defects. An R senator looking at a tough primary defects.

    I think a third party looks impossible at the national level, but is possible at the state level. If an Independent party gets traction in half-a-dozen states it edges into national politics. All hypothetical, obviously.

    Democrats are the party of California. Republicans are the party of South Carolina. There are a whole lot of voters who don’t like either end.

    2
  6. Mu Yixiao says:

    Tossing this out there for consideration (but don’t expect it to happen).

    1) Justin Amash steps up and assumes the role of spokesman for the Libertarian Party[1]. He has the experience, charisma, and skills to do so.

    2) He redefines the brand along a centrist path. When Trump and Bernie are the standard-bearers for the two flags, I’m betting that a lot of the “I like X” is actually “I’m willing to tolerate X if it means I don’t have to suffer Y”.

    All the polls are “do you like X or Y?” They don’t ask “Would you like something else?”

    Amash as the leader, supported by Russ Feingold and Colin Powell.

    A party that:

    * Supports a free market by opposing “rent seeking” and anti-competitive laws, while enforcing laws which hold companies accountable and prevent monopolies.

    * Supports government assistance to those who need it, but opposes “free X for all”.

    * Supports quality medical care for everyone, without taking away choice, eliminating the free market, or putting everything in the hands of the government[2]

    * Is socially liberal (not progressive), and financially conservative.[3]

    Yes. It’s a pipe dream.

    But both the left and the right are starting to pull apart (the latter much more than the former), and there is an opening for a 3rd party that knows how to step up and engage the moderates[4].
    =========

    [1] He could create his own party, but he’s already identified as a Libertarian, and there’s a (small) base that will follow just based on label. It’s easier to take over and redirect a brand than it is to start one from scratch.

    [2] Ask any Brit how they feel about the NHS.

    [3] I did the math once, and UBI at $1k/month for every citizen over the age of 18 would double the US budget. That’s just UBI. It doesn’t include other progressive ideas like free tuition. Nobody ever has a realistic answer as to where all this money is going to come from.

    [4] Remember: The largest political affiliation is “independent”

    2
  7. Teve says:

    Fox is literally having Immigrant Caravan stories today.

  8. Teve says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “ Remember: The largest political affiliation is “independent””

    Yeah my dad was one of those “independents” And he voted for Reagan, Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, Bush, Romney, Trump…

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  9. Scott F. says:

    The issue is not that the party will fracture, but rather which faction will be dominant.

    I think it is true that fracture is unlikely, Steven, for all the reasons you cite. But, I suspect the factional fight for dominance will depend more on the fallout from this sordid transition than it will on the traditional structural incentives. If Rep. Cheney is deposed by the numbers, the lunatics like Gohmert, Gaetz, Taylor-Green, and Boebert are going to be emboldened to seize the asylum. They’ve not be cowed one bit by the general public’s reaction to the Insurrection Riot, so they’re really going to let their freak flags fly and Kevin McCarthy won’t be able to do a thing about it.

    If in turn, Biden can demonstrate the real world value of competent governance, vaccine distribution will improve, Democrat-authored relief packages will get passed, and the pandemic with it’s economic impacts will be mostly behind us before the primaries for 2022 start to queue up. This will set up some dramatic contrast in the results delivered in people’s day to day lives that come from capable technocrats versus conspiracy theorists. I would expect moderates to successfully challenge in the Republican primaries and should those moderates fail we’d see some real fights in the general mid-terms.

  10. CSK says:

    Speaking of fracturing, I notice that hordes of “armed patriots” did not descend on D.C. nor any of that state capitals today, as they vowed to do.

    3
  11. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “* Supports government assistance to those who need it, but opposes “free X for all”. * Supports quality medical care for everyone, without taking away choice, eliminating the free market, or putting everything in the hands of the government[2]”

    That would be really great, until some schmuck reporter dares to ask “what the hell does this empty set of words actually mean? This “let’s pretend” party might as well come out in favor of increasing fossil fuel production and consumption in such a manner that it does not increase greenhouse gases. Or be in favor of increasing immigration while at the same time making sure no foreigners are allowed into the country.

    Hey, a free unicorn for every citizen while ensuring the right of all Americans to live in a unicorn-free country!

    8
  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This is really a topic for another post but it does play into “what does the GOP become”: Money, more particularly corporate money which likes above and beyond all else, stability. They need a country that has elections and peaceful transfers of power. They will prefer fewer regulations and lower taxes, but those are issues that play around the edges of profits. Just as we need oxygen, stability is the thing they can’t live without.

    As of right now there have been a plethora of corporations pulling money out of organizations that support and the candidacies of the Benedict Arnold 145.

    #1: How serious are they? How long will they hold to this vow or will sweet nothings whispered in their ears bring them and their money back just like an abused wife who feels she has no choice?

    #2 If they do hold to their vows and continue as the jilted lovers they are, what impact will this have on the GOP?

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: Imagine that. I guess watching their buddies get perp walked by the FBI made an impression on them.

  14. Scott F. says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    But both the left and the right are starting to pull apart (the latter much more than the former), and there is an opening for a 3rd party that knows how to step up and engage the moderates.

    In case you haven’t noticed, Bernie isn’t the standard bearer for the leftist party, Biden is. And Biden’s natural successor, VP-elect Harris, is firmly centrist by any characterization not fabricated by Fox and NewsMax.

    So, it would be much more accurate to say that the left is starting the pull the country back to the center from a rightist extreme. Progressivism in this country would bring us into greater alignment with most other OECD countries and not to some unprecedented Socialist fever dream per Sean Hannity.

    7
  15. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    But…but…they swore they’d water the tree of liberty with their own blood! What’s a little perp walk in comparison to that???

    2
  16. Teve says:

    @Scott F.:

    Sunday, January 17, 2021 at 17:04
    @Mu Yixiao:

    But both the left and the right are starting to pull apart (the latter much more than the former), and there is an opening for a 3rd party that knows how to step up and engage the moderates.

    Thomas Friedman to the white courtesy phone…

    6
  17. gVOR08 says:

    @wr:

    This “let’s pretend” party might as well come out in favor of increasing fossil fuel production and consumption in such a manner that it does not increase greenhouse gases.

    I’ve often said that conservatism is a game of make believe. Let’s pretend discrimination ended when Republicans passed the Civil Rights bill. Let’s pretend that Trump was a successful businessman. Let’s pretend top end tax cuts trickle down. So there’s no need to talk about a hypothetical party hypothetically supporting use of fossil fuels, but somehow cleanly. The Republican “let’s pretend” Party we actually have, actually does support “clean coal”.

    4
  18. Kurtz says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Remember: The largest political affiliation is “independent”

    It’s been pretty well established that about 90% of those ‘independents’ are closet partisans. I’ve directed you to that research before.

    3
  19. Modulo Myself says:

    [2] Ask any Brit how they feel about the NHS.

    LMAO. Yeah, every Brit I ever known thinks American health care sucks compared to the NHS.

    The GOP’s largest problem is that its talking points are the same they’ve been since 1992. It has always been the party of bottom-feeding dogma. It was the Bush DOJ in 2001 who gave up on the the antitrust case against Microsoft and decided not to break them up because of the free market or some shit. None of that’s changing because of social media. They’re going to pretend to have new ides, but what these guys want is a ‘sane’ party of people repeatedly saying that in Britain everyone hates the NHS, and in America the government has never been of use. No New Deal, no federal government subsidizing mortgages in the 50s. Just a party based on a Ronald Reagan coloring book.

    7
  20. ImProPer says:

    @CSK:

    “There are Trump supporters vowing that if Trump forms a third party, they’ll be right there behind him.”

    He already formed a 3rd party about 5 years ago. Ever the rearward visionaries, I’m sure they’ll figure that out in another 5

  21. Sleeping Dog says:

    Reportedly, there has been a surge in R party members in places like AZ and GA switching their registration, but it has been to Independent rather than Dem. So it is definitely hurting the Rs

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The ballot access requirements in NH aren’t that onerous, but there is no tradition of independent candidates as in Maine and Bernie in VT is an outlier. Since NH has open primaries and nearly 40% of the voters are registered as independent, the candidates for the major offices, Gov, Congress Critter, Senator, tend to hone pretty close to the center. State legislative candidates are another question, as there are plenty of crazies.

    The R intra party war raises the question here, is whether Gov Sununu takes on Maggie Hassen as expected in 2022 or chooses to wait till 26 and what could be possibly an open seat if Shaheen chooses to retire.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    That and they saw their fellow revolutionaries lose their jobs.

    1
  23. Gustopher says:

    I think in states with jungle primaries, there might be different behavior, as the incentives are different. They don’t have to get through a primary with just the Republican primary electorate, so they could be more moderate. Still ostensibly Republican, but not Trumpy. The crazy vs the merely bad wings of the Republican Party might coexist rather than having one be dominant.

    It would depend on the local conditions, but jungle primaries and districts of the R+/-2 variety could make it possible.

    I can also see a cross-party moderate caucus that pushes for votes on X, Y and Z, threatening to depose the leadership if they don’t. That little range of Senators from Manchin to Murkowski could get a lot of power if they grabbed it.

  24. Scott F. says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    I was curious about how ‘any Brit felt about the NHS’, so I did a quick Google search. I found that NHS popularity was polling the WORST it had in 10 years – at 53% favorable!!

    On the other hand, according to Gallup, the US healthcare “system” is polling higher than it has in a decade just in the last year (likely due to the system’s heroic efforts in the face of COVID-19). The US high water mark for a positive/somewhat positive view of our healthcare system – 51%.

    So, the public option Biden prefers is just going to completely alienate the ‘moderates’ that might otherwise align with the Democrats. Damn liberal overreach!

    3
  25. Modulo Myself says:

    @Scott F.:

    I saw that too. I mean, I’ve never in my life a European or Canadian put their own health care system down in relation to America. It just has never happened. I’m really curious who these Brits are. Like some Etonian Earl who can trace his family back to William the Conquerer?

    1
  26. @Mu Yixiao:

    Remember: The largest political affiliation is “independent”

    That is true for a lot of reasons, but the reality is, as I have noted many times, most “independents” are reliable partisan voters. If anything this is because of our electoral system, as I also carry on about.

    The question is not, are there voters who would vote for someone other than a D or an R? The question is: does the system we have create a truly viable pathway for more than two parties? (The answer is: we could have multiple parties if some of them were regional, but it is highly unlikely we will have a true national multiparty system mostly because of math plus the primaries).

  27. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    I lived in the U.K. for four years. The doctors are fine, but what they have to work with is…not good. National Health Service hospitals are ramshackle–one bathroom to a ward with 20 people. The waiting lists for treatment are looooong. It’s probably why employer-subsidized private health insurance exists there now, and has for some time.

    I did have some dental work done there. What didn’t fall out on its own had to be removed and replaced in the U.S.

    1
  28. @Gustopher:

    I think in states with jungle primaries, there might be different behavior, as the incentives are different. They don’t have to get through a primary with just the Republican primary electorate, so they could be more moderate.

    This is the conventional wisdom, but ends up it isn’t true.

    Also, you have to keep in mind that the primary takes place with the defined structure of a district. The partisan makeup of the district matters.

    And regardless of the primary rules, the primary voters tend to be a limited slice of the overall populace, and also less moderate than the overall district.

    The mistake that a lot of these conversations make, including quite a few above, is to not take into consideration the effects that single-seat districts have on the partisan mix of the district. And there is the basic math of plurality winners and the probability calculations that both candidates and voters make (even when they aren’t fully conscious that they are doing so).

    A lot of the assumptions that are made would be more reasonable if we had a system that was more proportional and could capture the fact that yes, more people in the general population tend to be more moderate or that the largest self-identifying group is “independent” or that there are x% of people who would, in fact, vote Libertarian or Social Democrat if there was a snowball’s chance in Hell of a seat being won.

  29. Also: like it or not, most people (and by “most” I mean almost all) base their electoral choice on party affiliation (whether they call themselves “independents” or not).

    And the degree to which most people think about why they support a candidate they find out what letter is by their name and then work backward.

  30. Scott O says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Ever hear of the Free State Project?
    Tl/dr, Libertarians try to take over NH so they can demonstrate how awesome their ethos is. Antics ensue.

  31. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: What about the states where the winner is clearly going to be of a given party? Do Republicans in California cross the line to vote for the least offensive Democrat, or vice versa in some heavily Republican state? Is there enough data?

    I am surprised that you can change the structure of the primary and election that much without having any measurable effect on the outcomes of some form, whether conventional wisdom or not.

    Otherwise it’s a bit too much like “We replaced his usual coffee with Folger’s Instant, and he never noticed.”

  32. Matt says:

    @CSK: I can’t comment on the wait lists here because I cannot afford insurance thus I have no access to healthcare. Well I guess I have access to the ER as so many GOP love to point out. I waited almost 7 hours to get my broken ankle looked at and “fixed”. The bills were far beyond anything I could hope to pay but fortunately I found a charity that helped me through it. But yeah keep telling me about how horrible publicly funded healthcare is.

    I’m hoping Biden and the democrats can push through the $1400 stimulus so I can afford to remove at least one of the teeth that have been broken for years now. Two of those teeth had root canals done to them decades ago and the private “superior” dentists here in the USA sucked.

    I have been inside a variety of Hospitals here in the USA for work related activities and I’ve seen some real shit holes…

    3
  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Matt:
    I don’t know how to do this privately, so look, dude, ask @James or @Steven to give you my email. I give them permission.

    2
  34. @Gustopher:

    I am surprised that you can change the structure of the primary and election that much without having any measurable effect on the outcomes of some form, whether conventional wisdom or not.

    The change is not as big as you are assuming it is. The issues created by single-seat districts are still in operation. (I think you are assuming a more normal distribution of ideologies in a given district than is, in fact, the case).

  35. @Gustopher:

    Otherwise it’s a bit too much like “We replaced his usual coffee with Folger’s Instant, and he never noticed.”

    Not exactly. It is just that if the reason you changed the coffee was to help your spouse sleep better it won’t accomplish that goal if the caffeine content is the same.

    In other words, one can make a change assuming it will do X, but it may not do that.

    Top two in CA, for example, has just further weakened parties since races often end up being R v. R or D v D. It does not lead to moderation because the median voter in the given district is not necessarily a centrist.

  36. @Matt: Is the e-mail you entered to comment your actual email? If so, I can share it with MR. Else, email me at dr.sltaylor at gmail with a better contact address.

    1
  37. Andy says:

    The party is dead but the brand name and institutional inertia live on. “What’s in a name?”, as Shakespeare wrote. Who knows? What “Republican” means in 2 or 4 or 8 years could be fundamentally different than today which is fundamentally different than 8 years ago.

    The GoP is kind of like Rome in the third and fourth century – if you could get enough legions and keep the Praetorians happy, you could be Emporer – at least for a little while. Maybe have a bit of a dynasty before you or your line got murdered.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Also: like it or not, most people (and by “most” I mean almost all) base their electoral choice on party affiliation (whether they call themselves “independents” or not).

    Then how do you explain the 5-6 million voters who switched from Obama to Trump? How do you explain the significant ticket-splitting this election, with Trump underperforming the GoP mean? What happened to the 5% of voters who voted 3rd party in 2016 – less than 2% in 2020? Did the millions of primarily Libertarian voters in 2016 stay home or vote for someone else? And then there are the various demographics that have changed affiliation relatively recently or perhaps just due to Trump.

    I can get behind the idea that “most” voters tend to stick with their party. But the idea that it’s “all” or that this is some kind of iron law that can factored out of the electoral math just doesn’t seem to comport with the actual evidence.

    And then there is the problem which we’ve debated before – namely making assumptions based on aggregate totals and not sufficiently considering how those aggregates change from one election to the next. Unless one can actually track individual voters over time, then the assumption that these voters are all acting consistently is just a guess.

    No doubt that partisan ID is very important. And no doubt that, when given a binary choice, most voters are likely to pick the candidate from the party they most identify with. And I think it’s clear that many people are incentivized to do that by the system. But if it really was the case “almost all” voters are electoral automatons who reflexively and consistently pull the lever based on party ID, then we wouldn’t see some of the things I mentioned above. The number of voters who are not Pavlovian is usually sufficient to decide the national election. And it does seem that is true of 2020 – Trump underperformed compared to other Republicans – that means a lot of people voted for Republicans down-ballot but didn’t vote for Trump. Had they voted for Trump, he very well could have won a second term.

  38. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Top two in CA, for example, has just further weakened parties since races often end up being R v. R or D v D. It does not lead to moderation because the median voter in the given district is not necessarily a centrist.

    I had high hopes for the top-2 system and am glad that California is running that experiment. I haven’t looked at it for this last cycle, but my sense is that it is better than what it replaced, but is still not great.

    There is just no getting around the importance of having competitive districts. In states that are skewed heavily to one party, there’s really no incentive to do that.

  39. Matt says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I sent both of them an email to the contact information they provide on this blog.

    @Steven L. Taylor: Sorry the email I use here is a burner email that I almost never check. I sent you an email from my personal email account.

    EDIT : wow the edit function worked. I’ve never had it work before.

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  40. @Andy: The bottom line remains that unless we shift to multi-seat districts with at least modest PR we aren’t going to see a substantial change in our party system.

    (Although if we eliminated primaries the system might look more like the UK or Canada).

  41. @Matt: I figured that might be the case.

  42. @Andy: I think the problem is that you read me as saying everything is set in concrete. I am not saying that.

    In my book, 95% is, in fact, “almost all.” And it is the proper starting spot to explain most, if not almost all, voting outcomes. You are ignoring the “almost” in my statement.

    And, rather clearly, relatively small variations can matter, especially when you slice and dice population geographically as we do.

    But when people pull out the fact that the plurality of voters identifies as “independent” as evidence of space for third parties, we have to deal with actual behavior, which is that the vast majority of those so-called independents are reliable partisans when it comes time vote.

    Yes, individuals can change their minds, but that doesn’t mean that aggregate patterns don’t matter or aren’t real.

    Really, I always get a bit flummoxed by this debate. Are you going to tell me that we can’t with some level of certainty, predict right now, a large number of states for the EC in 2024? And we would not be able to do that based on the known distribution of partisans across that space?

    None of that changes the fact that yes, people can change their votes, and some variables will come into play that could influence specific voting blocs.

    I can get behind the idea that “most” voters tend to stick with their party. But the idea that it’s “all” or that this is some kind of iron law that can factored out of the electoral math just doesn’t seem to comport with the actual evidence.

    The problem is: I never said “all.” “Almost” is a rather important modifier, yes?

    And then there is the problem which we’ve debated before – namely making assumptions based on aggregate totals and not sufficiently considering how those aggregates change from one election to the next. Unless one can actually track individual voters over time, then the assumption that these voters are all acting consistently is just a guess.

    You are just wrong about this. It isn’t a guess if the pattern is stable. It is evidence of behavior.

    It isn’t a guess that Alabama will vote R in 2024 nor is it a guess that FL will be a swing state in 2024. This is not to say that those things can’t change, but a guess is different, at least in my mind than drawing a conclusion based on long-term patterns built from empirical evidence linked with evidence of likely stability (or not).

    When the weather report predicts a 90% of rain based on known evidence and models, is not that an “almost” certain chance of rain? If it doesn’t rain, does that mean the basis of the analysis that led to the 90% chance was wrong and should not have been stated as such?

    A guess that it will rain is different than a prediction based on known principles of meteorology, yes?

  43. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But when people pull out the fact that the plurality of voters identifies as “independent” as evidence of space for third parties, we have to deal with actual behavior, which is that the vast majority of those so-called independents are reliable partisans when it comes time vote.

    Well, to be clear, I’m not pulling that out. But it does seem rather obvious that the GoP and Democrats would both get far, far fewer votes than they currently get if we had a multi-party system.

    So you also need to look at cause and effect. “Independent” voters vote for partisans because they don’t have any other choice. That what a binary choice election forces people to do, which is obvious enough. So yes, there is no room for a third party unless it can displace one of the existing parties – I don’t think I’ve ever claimed otherwise.

    But that’ isn’t what I’m talking about – in fact most of your response doesn’t actually address the argument I’m trying to explain. Let me try a different way:

    What I’m talking about is the degree to which individual self-identified independents are faithful voters for one side or the other over time. You are claiming that that independent voters are highly faithful and that “almost all” are reliable partisans in terms of voting behavior – consistently voting for the same team year after year despite claiming to be independents. In other words, an independent who votes D will “almost always” vote D and that this is a reliable assumption to make for “almost all” self-described independent voters.

    But the evidence you rely on to make this judgment is based solely on aggregate numbers, and not by looking at how consistent individual independent voters actually are.

    So where we disagree, I think, is in the estimates of how consistent a typical independent voter is from election-to-election in terms of which side they vote for. While I do think that “most” independent voters are consistent partisans I think what little information there is on voter consistency suggests that there is a lot more churn than the aggregate numbers suggest. Call them switchers, or swing voters, or whatever, but I think there are a lot more people doing that the “almost all” consistency you are claiming.

    Here’s a simplified illustration: Suppose in election “A” that 51 voters vote for D and 49 for R. Now say in the next election four years later 49 voters vote for D and 51 for R.

    Knowing only that, what can we determine about any one of those 100 voters in terms who they actually voted for in each election? The natural assumption is that all voters voted for the same side except for two voters who switched from D to R.

    But that is not a safe assumption. There are many ways to get to an aggregate 2 vote change. It could be the case the only two voters switched from D or R. Or, it could be the case that 8 voters switched from D to R and 6 voters switched from R to D. That would result in the same 2-vote difference. So were there 2 voters who switched or 14 (or any other combination that results in a 2-vote difference between elections)?

    If you only look at aggregate data, you don’t know. You may indeed be right that “almost all” independent voters are consistent partisans over time, but you simply can’t determine that by only looking at aggregate data.

    Honestly, I think we are only talking about a difference of degree here, but I think it’s an important difference in terms of understanding what motivates real voters. Again, I do think that “most” independents tend to stick with one side or another. I simply think the number of malleable/swing/actually independent voters is larger than you’re suggesting.

    Whenever I’ve looked at data regarding voter consistency from one election to another inside each of those aggregates, I’m seeing a lot more churn than the top-line, aggregate differences would suggest. That isn’t consistent with the political narrative that everyone’s vote is destined to be locked-in to one side or the other with only a tiny handful of weirdos (like me) who aren’t consistent partisan voters.

  44. @Mu Yixiao:

    Is socially liberal (not progressive), and financially conservative. (…)

    Remember: The largest political affiliation is “independent”

    https://twitter.com/KSoltisAnderson/status/1334903984902066177

    I regret to inform you that if you are “economically conservative but socially progressive” you are still in the smallest quadrant of the American political ideological marketplace.

    [Yes, “your” party was supposed to be “socially liberal (not progressive)”, but I doubt that, in matters of public appeal, there is much difference]