It’s not your party

Last week I got into a rare extended FB argument about the nature of political parties because, damnit, I had to stick up for the academic take among some frustrated lefty Democratic friends (fortunately, never got too fractious, as the friend who’s page started it all is uncommonly decent and civil).  Anyway, it all started with this article about Democratic minority whip pressuring a progressive Dem to drop out of a primary race.  Well, my lefty friends were quite up and arms as I tried to explain to them how political parties really worked.

I realized, what we really needed, though, was a classic Seth Masket take on the matter.  Presumably, he would’ve written one even without me tweeting at him to tell him to, but regardless, he came through so that I could cut and paste into my blog:

Here’s the thing: Of course party leaders are trying to manipulate nominations. This is what party leaders do. [emphasis in original In most states, primary elections make official just who gets to call themselves the Democratic or Republican nominee, but that does not mean party leaders have to be neutral in those contests. Complete neutrality in primaries is actually pretty rare.

Now, party leaders’ activity and influence in these contests varies considerably. Sometimes prominent party members will offer their endorsements for a candidate, and maybe some money. Sometimes they’ll serve as speakers at rallies. Sometimes they’ll just subtly encourage their friends and allies to support a particular candidate. Sometimes you’ll see something like what Hoyer did in Colorado’s sixth district race, privately asking a candidate to leave the race. What Hoyer did here was actually rather genteel. Modern history is littered with examples of party leaders pressuring undesired candidates out of primary races, sometimes through threats or even physical violence. More often, a local party group will simply present a united front and discourage other candidates from entering. If you’re thinking of running for office in south Los Angeles, you’ll see that Representative Maxine Waters, local church ministers, union leaders, and Democratic club officials have already endorsed and donated to your primary opponent. You quickly get the message that this isn’t your year to run.

Now, sometimes they may make the wrong call, but this is such a case of survivorship bias– you only hear about the cases like Tillemann, not all the cases where party leaders successfully cleared the field behind the scenes to help the best candidate win and save precious resources for the general election.

And, although I wrote this a while back, long-lost Sam Brewer brings a critique to my “less power to the people” argument (us Political Parties scholars tend to be elitists) and links to this,

Twenty-five years ago, the so-called New Democrats were triumphant. Today, their political heirs are eager to prevent the Democratic Party from living up to its name. At stake is whether democracy will have a chance to function. [emphasis mine]

A fundamental battle for democracy is in progress—a conflict over whether to reduce the number of superdelegates to the party’s national convention in 2020, or maybe even eliminate them entirely. That struggle is set to reach a threshold at a party committee meeting next week and then be decided by the full Democratic National Committee before the end of this summer.

And here’s where I argue that The Democratic Party is not a democracy and nor should it be.  In the present context, the Democratic body is an amalgamation of government officials, active volunteers/workers, and ordinary citizens with liberal policy views designed to win elections so that liberal policies can be enacted.  That doesn’t mean the ordinary citizens part gets to run the show.  The actual politicians and organization activists have all sorts of knowledge, insight, and resources, that should not be put on par with a guy who maybe read something on Facebook.

In fact our system of primary elections is an anomaly in Western democracies.  In the vast majority of cases, party leaders select nominees without direct input voters.  And last I heard, nobody was claiming that the UK or Germany are not actually democracies as a result.  Yes, party leaders will get it wrong some times.  Maybe even a lot.  But, they are an easy scapegoat.  And, if there’s a bulwark against Donald Trump-type politicians, it, apparently, is sure not primary voters.

Lies, damn lies, and Donald Trump

The Post’s Dan Balz is supposed to be a straight news reporter and according to standard journalistic practice, not call the president a liar.  But, in this case his story is labeled “analysis” so he gets to reveal how fed up (and damn rightly so) he is:

Does it bother anyone that President Trump has been caught lying? Does it bother anyone that this is not new? Does it bother anyone that the president has been shown to be a liar? [emphasis mine]

These questions are again front and center before the country. People will answer them differently, depending on their views about Trump. Some will condemn the behavior. Some will condone it. Many, no doubt, will try to look away, even if that has become more and more difficult. The questions won’t go away. They are part of the fabric of this presidency.

Thanks to Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York mayor and current member of the president’s legal team, Trump has been exposed flat out about the $130,000 in hush money that his attorney Michael Cohen paid to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) to cover up an affair that the president denies having with her.

In a remarkable exchange with Sean Hannity of Fox News Channel on Wednesday night, Giuliani almost casually dropped the bombshell that, of course, the president reimbursed the money Cohen paid to Daniels, despite a long string of comments from the president and Cohen asserting otherwise…

All of this will play out in the coming weeks or months. In the meantime, the question of the public’s tolerance for the president’s behavior remains in the forefront. After nearly three years in the political arena, Trump has shown his ability to withstand controversies of many kinds. That may continue to be the case. But that doesn’t make the uncomfortable questions about truth and the president any less important.

Short version: It bothers most of us and bother us a lot.  But, sadly, there’s a lot of Americans– around 35-50%– who seem far more bothered by the threat of immigrants “taking their jobs” and Black people receive fair treatment.

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