Category Archives: political parties

“The RNC’s Ground Game of Inches”

Alexander Sammon at The American Prospect has this extended piece on the RNC’s ground game focused on building support among nonwhite voters by establishing community centers across the country. Quite interested in this in light of my interest in associational party building, which Didi Kuo and I have further developed in an essay that should be out soon in the Columbia Law Review Online. The centers, as imagined, were to “beckon potential voters with everything from movie nights to free dinners to holiday parties to gun safety trainings,” but are shrouded in secrecy and it seems unclear if the commitment to retail politics is succeeding or flailing.

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“How the Proud Boys Gripped the Miami-Dade Republican Party”

The N.Y. Times is reporting on the Proud Boys’s successful efforts to join the leadership of the Miami-Dade Republican Party, once the locus of Jeb. Bush’s power. “[A]t least a half-dozen current and former Proud Boys who have secured seats on the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee, seeking to influence local politics from the inside.” A few are running for local offices. “For now, longtime party stalwarts remain in control amid an internal power struggle, but the influx of Proud Boys and the radicalization of other members have created considerable upheaval.” And this appears to be a nationwide strategy.

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Lawsuit Challenging New Jersey’s Obfuscating Primary Ballot Design to Proceed

U.S. District Court denied seven motions to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the design of New Jersey’s primary ballots yesterday. The case seeks to end the influence county party leaders exert over ballot placement. Among other things, the suit challenges a provision that allows candidates for different offices, who request that their names be grouped together, to be placed in more favorable primary ballot slots–arguing that the practice violates the United States Constitution. The essence of the challenge is nicely captured by this video comparing New Jersey’s ballot design to a reasonable ballot design.

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“Inside the Republican push to stop Trump’s ‘vendetta tour’ in Georgia”

This Washington Post article is much bigger than the headline. It is really about the Republican Governors Associations’ mission to challenge Trump’s hold over the party, and Governors Associations have long been a formidable force in American politics.

Although there are many reasons that Madison’s prediction that ambition would counter ambition as officials sought to protect their office repeatedly falls short, this article did remind me that, in the last few years, the most effective pockets of resistance (especially those within the party) have had different institutional interests–federal judges, civil servants, and, once again, state Governors.

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Intraparty Fights Taken to Court

Just a few days before Idaho’s May 17 primaries, Republicans took their internal fights to court.

“In the virtual hearing [last] Friday afternoon, Fourth District Court Judge Jason Scott heard arguments from intertwined Republican organizations — one suing the other, days before a primary election that pits establishment Republicans against ultra-conservative Republicans.

Scott ruled at the end of the two-hour hearing that the Bonneville County GOP had indeed overstepped its bounds by endorsing candidates in state-level primary, . . . saying it had determined those candidates were true Republicans.”

The county GOP’s actions violated party rules and election laws.

In the wake of the victory, Idaho GOP Chairman, is reported to have said, “‘While we’re pleased with the court’s decision, it’s regrettable that we were forced to take this action through the judiciary[.]’ . . . ‘At the end of the day, this is about party unity. The Republican Party needs to speak with one unified voice and the state party rules were put in place to ensure that happens. Rules and laws exist to help us navigate when we disagree.’”

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Will there be a “spoiler” in 2024?

Andrew Yang is the guest on the new must-listen episode of Sarah Longwell’s Focus Group podcast. They discuss the possibility of a significant third-party, or independent, candidate in the 2024 presidential race. Yang, who’s started his own Forward Party, essentially promises one–especially if the two major-party candidates are Biden and Trump again, although he doesn’t say he’ll necessarily be the candidate. He offers Mark Cuban as the example of a candidate who he thinks could compete effectively against both Biden and Trump.

Sarah Longwell expresses the concern that any third candidate would pull more votes from the Democratic nominee than from Trump, assuming that Trump is the GOP nominee. Fearing for the future of US democracy itself if Trump wins a second term, Longwell worries that any third candidacy (however well-intentioned) could end up devastating for the country by being the cause of Trump’s return to power. For what it’s worth, I share Longwell’s concern for the reasons she expresses.

Yang and Longwell also discuss the possibility of ranked-choice voting as a way to avoid the potential spoiler effect. Yang says he’s not willing to wait for ranked-choice voting to be in place in order for there to be a third-party candidate. While he’d prefer ranked-choice voting to come first, from his perspective disrupting the major-party duopoly (as he puts it) is necessary, even at the risk of creating a spoiler effect in 2024. At least, that’s how I heard him express his position on the podcast.

In any event, it’s time to dust off copies of Presidential Elections and Majority Rule, which discusses the importance of adopting ranked-choice voting on a state-by-state basis (like Maine and Alaska) as the method of appointing presidential electors, in order to guarantee that winner-take-all electoral votes are awarded to majority winners, thereby avoiding the potential “spoiler” effect of third-party or independent candidates.

Do we really want to be in the position where whether Trump wins or loses in 2024 depends on the idiosyncratic decision of an individual billionaire, like Mark Cuban, to enter the election as an alternative to both Trump and the Democratic nominee?

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“Democrats Weigh Shake-Up to Presidential Primary Calendar”

NYT:

New Jersey is billing itself as a “microcosm of the country.” Washington State is highlighting its diverse communities — and robust vote-by-mail process. And as Iowa’s status as home to the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating contest looks increasingly tenuous, other Midwestern states see an opening.

Just over two years after Iowa’s disastrous Democratic caucuses, in which officials struggled to deliver results, party officials across the country are increasingly weighing whether to pursue their own early-state primary slots — a dynamic set to rapidly accelerate.

On Wednesday, members of the Democratic National Committee’s powerful Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to begin an application process that will determine which states host the first presidential nominating contests in the 2024 cycle. The outcome may overhaul how the party’s presidential nominee is chosen and reorder which constituencies have the greatest influence.

The resolution adopted on Wednesday laid out a framework for applicants, and committee leaders also detailed a timeline for assessing applications, which are due by June 3. Committee recommendations regarding up to five early-voting states — an increase from the traditional four — are expected in July, with final approval set for a vote at the Democrats’ summer meeting.

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“Republicans represented by John Eastman sue to close Colorado’s primary elections to unaffiliated voters”

Denver Post:

Opening Colorado’s primary elections to unaffiliated voters has cost partisans their constitutional right to free association, a group of Republicans are alleging in a new lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 24 in federal court by four current or former candidates for office and a GOP party chair, seeks to let parties close their nominating elections again to just party members, and with hopes to do so in time for the June primaries.

One of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit is John Eastman, the former visiting scholar at the University of Colorado Boulder who advised then-President Donald Trump on how to overturn the 2020 election.

“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution includes the right of political parties to choose their nominees for office without interference by those who are not members of the party and have chosen not to affiliate with the party,” the lawsuit states….

In 2016, Colorado voters opened non-presidential primaries to unaffiliated voters 53% to 47%. A twin measure that returned Colorado to presidential primaries and opened them to unaffiliated voters passed by an even wider measure, 64% to 36%.

In the fall, Republican Party leaders roundly rejected invoking an opt-out clause of the 2016 referendum that would have returned the party’s nomination process to in-person caucuses and assemblies.

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Trump Pressures Wyoming Legislators to Change Primary Law to Prevent Democratic Crossover Voting for Liz Cheney in Primary

Politico:

Former President Donald Trump and his allies have been privately lobbying Wyoming lawmakers to change the state’s election laws as part of an effort to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

On Thursday, Trump endorsed Wyoming legislation that would prevent crossover voting in a primary election. Were the law to pass, Democrats, Republicans, or independents would no longer be able to switch party affiliation on the day of the state’s primary to vote for a candidate in another party.

The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Bo Biteman, is part of a push by some Republicans in the state to oust Cheney by blocking Democrats from switching parties to support her in her upcoming election against Trump-endorsed congressional candidate, Harriet Hageman.

Behind the scenes, Trump and Club for Growth’s David McIntosh have both personally called Wyoming’s Republican governor, Mark Gordon, to encourage him to back the bill, according to two people familiar with the calls.

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How Should Democrats Respond to the GOP’s Censure of Cheney & Kinzinger?

I take the censure as further evidence that the Democratic Party, if it wants to protect small-d democracy, must try to save the Republican Party from itself. To have a functioning democracy, the United States needs a responsible right-of-center party, which is willing to engage in electoral competition according to the rules, a well as a left-of-center party that does the same. Alternatively, the United States could move towards a multi-party democracy along the lines that Lee Drutman, among others, has suggested. But it doesn’t suffice for Democrats simply to condemn the GOP as anti-democratic. The task for Democrats is to take on the project of figuring out how to return the Republican Party to small-d democratic premises, when regrettably the Republican Party is clearly incapable of doing this on its own.

The answer, it seems to me, must lie in some sort of institutional reform that liberates the Republican Party that is causing it to bend to the anti-democratic pressures within it, when it’s clearly that there are elements within the party (like Lindsey Graham and Kevin McCarthy) who are doing this bending even though we’ve seen signs that they would prefer not to. It’s fine (even necessary) to condemn the GOP when it acts contrary to small-d democratic values, as it has with its censure of Cheney and Kinzinger. But this condemnation, by itself, won’t fix the problem: as has been proven again and again since January 6, this kind of condemnation won’t make the GOP any less anti-democratic or reduce the risk of losing democracy because a GOP dominated by anti-democratic forces manages to gain power through the procedural weaknesses of America’s plurality-winner electoral system. Every capital-D Democrat who professes to be worried about the future of American democracy should be asking: what changes in electoral procedures would most likely save the Republican Party, as America’s inevitably necessary right-of-center party, from the anti-democratic forces that are currently destroying it?

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“Five Best: Books on American Political Parties “

From the WSJ. Chosen by Michael Kazin, the books are:

The Idea of a Party System:
The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840

By Richard Hofstadter (1969)

Affairs of Party: The Political Culture of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

By Jean H. Baker (1983)

The Future of American Politics

By Samuel Lubell (1952)

When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History

By Daniel Schlozman (2015)

The Populist Vision

By Charles Postel (2007)

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Could bipartisan democracy-protection have worked? Could it still?

There has been skepticism voiced by some about my suggestion that, after January 6, Democrats in Congress should have pursued a strategy of finding at least ten GOP Senators to support the kind of structural electoral reform, like a majority-winner rule, that would help protect the traditional wing of the Republican Party–and thus the nation’s system of democratic competition–from Trump and Trumpism.

While it’s always prudent to avoid excessive optimism about the possibility of electoral reform, especially given the predisposition of incumbents to stick with the system in which they won their own elections, why is it unreasonable to think that a deal might have been possible if focused on the specific idea of helping the traditional GOP avoid a hostile takeover from the MAGA movement? It would have been in the rational self-interest of traditional Republicans, like Senator Roy Blunt (ranking member of the Rules Committee) and even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to be open to that kind of conversation if pursued by Democrats in good faith.

Moreover, it would have been easy to point to Alaska as an example of how structural electoral reform can help traditional Republicans from attack by Trump. Lisa Murkowski is in a much better position to survive Trump’s attack on her than Liz Cheney, for example, for the simple reason that Alaska has a adopted a different electoral system (“top 4 with RCV”) than the conventional system that Wyoming has (a partisan primary followed by a plurality-winner general election). If Democrats had attempted to work with Murkowski to educate other traditional Republicans on how this kind of electoral reform could benefit their brand of Republicanism–indeed, protect it from threatened extinction at the hands of Trump and his acolytes–a total of ten GOP Senators might have become open to the idea.

Continue reading Could bipartisan democracy-protection have worked? Could it still?
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“As the GOP sheds its moderates, a whirlwind approaches”

This Washington Post op-ed, by Democratic consultant Doug Sosnik, is a counterpoint to the Virginia GOP self-description of Younkin’s victory there, as posted by Rick Pildes.

While ranked-choice voting enabled Virginia Republicans to choose a gubernatorial nominee who was broadly acceptable in that still-purplish state, traditional party primaries may cause the GOP to pick nominees for Senate seats who identify themselves as the most Trump-aligned of candidates. (But, as the Washington Post elsewhere reports about Alabama’s upcoming Senate race, this will not occur without an all-out fight.)

Sosnick’s point is that which kind of GOP candidate wins the party’s nomination may have huge consequences for governance. An extreme GOP nominee might lose the general election in a more blue-leaning state, like Pennsylvania. But in places like Missouri and Ohio, a super-Trumpy nominee could win the general election. Whether or not the GOP wins control of the Senate after the 2022 midterms, the type of GOP Senators elected (Trumpy versus traditional) may make a big difference in the capacity of the Senate, and therefore of Congress, to function.

Sosnick singles out the retirement of five traditional GOP Senators (Blunt of Missouri, Burr of North Carolinia, Portman of Ohio, Shelby of Atlanta, and Toomey of Pennsylvania) as particular cause for concern. I, too, have been especially concerned about this, and start my law review article on the need for Requiring Majority Winners in Senate elections with this point.

While a majority-winner rule is not a cure-all, and while the specific electoral method of round-robin-voting likely would do more to protect traditionalist Republicans from decimation as a consequence of Trump’s use of the current party primary system (combined with plurality-winner general elections) to purge the party from anyone insufficiently loyal to Trump, a federal majority-winner requirement at least would require most states to consider potential reforms that would give less extreme candidates more of a chance.

Why should Democrats care which type of Republican are their general-election opponents? And why would Democrats want to help traditionalist Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, escape extinction at the hands of Trump and his MAGA movement?

The reason is that Democrats care about saving small-d democracy, or at least they claim to. If one of the two major parties becomes thoroughly anti-democratic (small-d), then the system is unsustainable. The Democratic Party can’t save democracy by claiming only it is capable of winning elections and running the government.

The lesson of 2021 is that Democrats have to figure out a way to save democracy that accepts the possibility of Republicans winning the 2022 midterms and potentially the 2024 races. Have Democrats come to terms with that?

The evidence suggests not, because if they had they’d be searching for reforms (like the majority-winner rule) that would increase the likelihood that the Republicans who win elections would be of the traditional type willing to abide by small-d democracy, rather than Trumpist insurgents who have no compunction against subverting democracy.

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