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Daniel Ziblatt on Political Parties - Dictionary of Arguments

Levitsky I 61
Political Parties/elections/USA/Levitsky/Ziblatt: There are differences between the parties; for example, in many states the Democrats introduced quotas and funding mechanisms to ensure the representation of women and minorities. But by opting for the binding effect of primary elections, both parties have considerably relaxed their leaders' control over candidate selection and opened it up to the voters themselves. >Electoral System/United States, >Political Elections/Alexander Hamilton.
Democrats: The Democrats, whose first primaries under the new system were unpredictable and deepened the party's split(1), rowed back a little in the early 1980s when they decided that some of the party's convention delegates would be functionaries - governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives and mayors of large cities - who would not be elected in primaries but would be appointed by the party organizations of the respective states.
Superdelis: These "superdelegates", who make up 15 to 20 percent of all delegates, were intended to serve as a counterweight to the preselection voters - and as an authority that allowed the party leadership to fend off candidates it did not like.
Republicans: The Republicans, on the other hand, experienced a boom in the early 1980s under Ronald Reagan. They saw no reason to introduce superdelegates and fatally chose to maintain a more democratic nomination system.
Levitsky I 62
Problem: Binding primary elections meant putting the choice of candidates in the hands of voters and weakening the parties' watchdog function. It would possibly unhinge the peer review process and open the door to outsiders.
Levitsky/Ziblatt: Bypassing the party establishment turned out to be easier in theory than in practice.
Levitsky I 63
Hadley: In 1976, Arthur Hadley called this laborious process of alliance-building an "invisible primary" and claimed that the victorious candidate was in fact selected in this phase preceding the actual primaries. Thus, he argued, the party establishment - elected officials, activists, allied interest groups - is not necessarily out of the game. Without its representatives, Hadley concludes, it is almost impossible in both parties to be nominated as a presidential candidate(2).
Levitsky/Ziblatt: For a quarter of a century he was right.
Levitsky I 64
Pre-elections: The pre-election system introduced in 1972 is particularly susceptible to a certain type of outsider: people who are sufficiently well known or
Levitsky I 65
have money to be able to skip the "invisible pre-election"(3).
Levitsky I 67
Social media: The second main reason that reduced the power of traditional party guards was the explosive development of alternative media, especially news channels and social media(4). >Social Media/Levitsky/Ziblatt, >Conservativism/Frum.


1. In 1972, when George Wallace almost won the candidacy, the finally nominated candidate, George McGovern, suffered a crushing defeat by Richard Nixon. In 1976 the relative outsider Jimmy Carter was nominated, and in 1980 President Carter, in the form of Edward Kennedy, faced a strong primary opponent.
2. Arthur Hadley, The Invisible Primary, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1976, p. XIII.
3. For more details see Cohen/Karol/Noel/Zaller, The Party Decides.
4. Cohen/Karol/Noel/Zaller, »Party Versus Faction in the Reformed Presidential Nominating System«, p. 703–705.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Ziblatt, Daniel


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