Saturday, November 5, 2016

In Defense of Partisanship, forthcoming in Ethics in Politics

I argue for being a partisan Democrat in my forthcoming paper, "In Defense of Partisanship". Here's what I say about minor parties, beginning with an anecdote from a 2006 Senate race:

"The counterproductive nature of minor parties is well-understood by political tacticians. The $66,000 donated to Pennsylvania Green Party Senate candidate Carl Romanelli came entirely from Republican sources, except for $30 from the candidate himself. $40,000 came from identifiable supporters of Romanelli's Republican opponent Rick Santorum, or from their housemates. Romanelli received 99.95% of his funding from Republicans who hoped that he would cut into the Democratic share of the vote. Knowing how counterproductive minor parties are, hard-nosed tacticians among their ideological opponents coordinate funding schemes to prop them up.

Trying to get a major party to support a policy by voting for a minor party endorsing that policy is similarly ineffective. The major party may instead concede that policy's supporters to the minor party, and seek other ways to make up the lost votes. This is especially likely when the minor party is further from the center than the major party. If Democrats move right and win over a Republican voter, they gain a vote while the Republicans lose a vote. But if Democrats move left and win over a Green voter, they gain a vote without reducing the Republican total. So as long as Greens have less support than Republicans, winning Republican votes is twice as good as winning Green votes. Nader's pivotal role in 2000 certainly didn't create a left-wing resurgence within the Democratic Party. Two years later, 22 Democratic Senators voted for the Iraq War...

...Primaries make it easier to take over an existing party than to win with a new one. Winning three-way general elections requires at least a third of the voters. 34% will win if the opponents are divided at 33% and 33%, but usually the opposition won't be so neatly divided and more than 34% will be needed. But over a third of the electorate is always enough voters to take over one of the two major parties and win its nomination. If over a third of the population supports a policy, it's mathematically impossible for both major parties to consist of more than a third of the population entirely opposing the policy. So ideas with enough democratic support to win three-way general elections will always have enough support to enter and win a major-party primary."

Thanks to David Killoren, Emily Crookston, and Jonathan Trerise, editors of Ethics in Politics: New Papers on the Rights and Obligations of Political Agents, for inviting me to write this! It begins with an account of party coalitions. The selection above is on the section about partisan political action. The final section is on epistemic partisanship, with an argument from coalition dynamics that Democratic media will be systematically more reliable in getting the truth than Republican media and perhaps even nonpartisan media.