“Democracy by Deterrence: Strategic Self-Entrenchment in U.S. Elections”

Gretchen Helmke, Mary Kroeger, and Jack Paine have posted this new draft paper. Here is the abstract:

If politicians and their political parties generally want to stay in power, why would they ever forgo using anti-democratic tactics to win elections? We analyze a game-theoretic model to explain democracy by deterrence, which specifies how fear of retaliation by the opposition party can check the incumbent party, as well as describes the conditions for deterrence to break down. In our dynamic model, party leaders can strategically tilt electoral rules to their advantage. Asymmetric legal opportunities emergent in the constitutional order that enable a party to legally target certain groups of voters, combined with high partisan sorting, activate a party’s incentives for self-entrenchment. This mechanism does not require that politicians have short time horizons, nor that parties differ in anti-democratic sentiments. We apply this framework to illuminate the dynamics of gerrymandering and voter suppression, two key areas of contemporary American electoral politics that threaten fundamental democratic principles.

More about the paper here.

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