Very short reading list on parties

NOTE: I wrote this for folks in the ballot-reform community. It is not an exhaustive bibliography.

How strategic coordination (elite cues to voters), not strategic voting (voters trying to figure out who can win), is what to think about when choosing/evaluating an electoral system:

– Cox, Gary. 1997. Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World’s Electoral Systems. Cambridge University Press.

On elite cues in local politics, despite nonpartisan elections:

– Holman, Mirya R. and J. Celeste Lay. 2020. “Are You Picking Up What I Am Laying Down? Ideology in Low-Information Elections.” Urban Affairs Review, early version.

– Lucas, Jack. 2020. “Do ‘Non-Partisan’ Municipal Politicians Match the Partisanship of Their Constituents?” Urban Affairs Review, early version.

On the tendency of parties and party-like formations to emerge in legislatures, then organize voters (American politics):

– Aldrich, John. 2011. Why Parties? A Second Look. University of Chicago Press.

On the same tendency, but among interest groups (American and comparative politics):

– Bawn, Kathleen, Martin Cohen, David Karol, Seth Masket, Hans Noel and John Zaller. “A Theory of Political Parties: Groups, Policy Demands and Nominations in American Politics.” Perspectives on Politics 10 (3): 571-597.

On the tendency of both pressures (legislative imperatives, interest-group resilience) to ‘re-colonize’ politics in the wake of reform (American politics):

– Masket, Seth. 2016. The Inevitable Party: Why Attempts to Kill the Party System Fail and How they Weaken Democracy. Oxford University Press.

On the existence of legislative parties under local-level nonpartisan elections:

– Burnett, Craig. 2017. “Even city councils with nonpartisan elections can’t escape party politics.” LSE US Centre, December 4 (based on his article in Party Politics).

– Santucci, Jack. 2018. “Evidence of a Winning-cohesion Tradeoff under Multi-winner Ranked-choice Voting.” Electoral Studies 52: 128-138.

On the role of political parties in “linking” voters to government and, by extension, public policy (comparative politics):

– Dalton, Russell J., David M. Farrell, and Ian McAllister. 2011. Political Parties and Democratic Linkage: How Parties Organize Democracy. Oxford University Press.

Key moving parts and 2022

Early last month, I suggested that Democrats use their trifecta to pass open-list proportional representation (OLPR). The argument for OLPR was that it would be incredibly easy to implement, i.e., it can be done in a emergency-motivated hurry. The argument for PR of any type is now familiar: partisan geography. Related to this is the need to stop/slow down realignment by retaining House control in 2022. Republican congressional obstruction will allow Republicans to claim that Democrats get nothing done, then keep chipping away at the party’s working-class base. Meanwhile, on a parallel track, continued threats to voting access make doing something even more urgent.

In short, Democrats are subject to coalition-raiding, and the overall right to vote is in danger (and has been for seven years).

A natural question to ask is: can the bleeding be stopped by retaining single-seat districts (SSD)? This is an open question. It does seem like any federal-level redistricting legislation will include “partisan fairness criteria,” i.e., provision that new maps not systematically advantage one or the other party. Here are two more relevant considerations:

1) How easy is it to draw fair SSD maps, both as a function of partisan geography, and given operational realities of redistricting within states?

2) Assuming it is doable, does this assessment account for changing district partisanship? In short, are we so far down the realignment road that “fair” districts, drawn using retrospective data, will miss the mark anyway?

As far as I know, the answer to (1) is “well, it seems doable.” With respect to (2), I have not heard anything.