Teaching Shefter (1986) in November 2023

I just finished teaching/discussing a classic article on NYC party politics in the 1920s-50s. It was an interesting coincidence that the Working Families Party had just done well the day before in some Northeastern cities. (The Libertarians also did well, but that is a potential connection for later.)

Shefter’s piece is not easy to read. It was one of the first to run in Studies in American Political Development. The theory casts “political incorporation” and “extrusion” as “two sides of the same coin” of the handling of “new social forces” in American politics. All these terms need interpreting.

The argument also rests on details about many forgotten local politicians. That is a lot to keep track of. It also mentions interest groups, both formal (like the Citizens Union) and informal (like the mafia).

I taught the piece with pictures of the underlying coalition structure, light discussion of the electoral institutions, and a bit on the then-emerging New Deal party system. (The other key part of the theory is a “crisis” or “realignment” in/of the party system.) Then we interpreted the key terms. Then I had students look up names from the article (La Guardia, Marcantonio, O’Dwyer, Powell, etc) and try to say how their portrayals supported the theory.

Here is the initial post-reform coalition structure. By reform I mean the institutional changes of 1936.

Here is the coalition structure as the institutions were about to change again.

There are clear differences, and these mapped nicely onto details in the article.

The images are illustrative, not authoritative. I made them several years ago. The newer representation of these data was done instead by scaling everything together (due to the attendant research purpose).

I did not bring up the WFP at all. One student did mention AOC, and we discussed how well the framework fits her trajectory, which historical figure seems most similar, etc.

I have been thinking a lot about how all of the above relates to nationalization, as well as another book I look forward to reading on that.

What a journalist might watch for in different kinds of RCV elections

I recently wrote a post for 3streams on ten types on RCV. What sorts of campaigns might they engender?

The working assumption here is that two sides will emerge in politics. They may not track party lines, but they should be identifiable if one looks at the right data in a context where the system is ‘settled.’

To summarize the 3streams post, these systems can be used to try to get any of three things: single majority winners, majority-slate sweeps, or both sides represented in a multi-seat district. It is a bit more complicated than that, but this serves to introduce the ideas that follow.

“Anybody but X” campaigning and/or electioneering. Look for this in STV and maybe AV/IRV when they are working ‘well.’ Laver (2000) pointed to this logic in a chapter on government formation.

Slate formation. Look for this in any of the multi-seat systems. Savvy candidates would want to benefit from their “vote pooling” properties. Maja Harris has been following this in Portland (OR).

Spread-the-preferences (STP) strategies. This term is from the comparative literature. It means optimizing two imperatives: run a number of candidates that can win, and ensure a more-or-less even distribution of their first-choice votes. Neighborhoods are therefore good for recruiting candidates, doing GOTV, and possibly targeting policy benefits. Watch for STP in STV and bottom-up. I need to think more about BPV. I don’t see it as a factor with numbered-post.

Fragmentation in primaries. I need to think more about this. One, running for a nomination often is not the same as running to win power. Two, that is what our best source on the history reports. Three, most papers on “exhaustion” (IIRC) point to non-majority winners emerging from fragmented fields. Four, the game theory I have seen suggests that candidates appealing to the same group of voters may not have an incentive to encourage ranking (among other issues).

Nonpartisan primaries (so-called). I have no clear prediction beyond “anybody but X.” And yet there is the game theory I just mentioned.

I may update this later. Thanks to HB for the suggestion.