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.

Mapping the repeal of proportional representation in New York City

I may have more to say about this later.

Two sorts of hypotheses might explain the variation. One concerns third-party strength (Labor, Liberal, Communist). But ecological inference suggests a divided Labor Party!

The other sort concerns politics of urban renewal. This may help explain the pockets of opposition in Bronx and Brooklyn. Also in the book, I analyze the City Council roll-call record. Those data suggest a faction of the Republican Party feuding with the O’Dwyer (D) administration and other Republicans on budget matters.

Another point worth mentioning: this was one of few repeals (the only?) that increased assembly size. So, there may be a counterintuitive representation story too.

Feel free to comment if anything strikes you.

New York City is the largest rollout of ranked ballots in human history

More on it soon. For now, the data.

Jurisdictions not included are: other Progressive Era adoptions (hard to imagine those populations being bigger), U.S. adoptions since late April 2021 (ditto), adoptions for military/overseas voters (ditto and see link), and state/provincial/municipal adoptions in other countries (ditto).

For various reasons, population does not reflect the pool of eligible voters.