With or without what kind of parties? And at what cost?

Today was the 10th Anniversary of the Mischief of Faction Blog, which started from the premise that “on balance, a nation is better off with parties than without them.” Seth Masket and Julie Azari took the opportunity to reflect on the state of American political parties. As Masket notes, “The past decade has taught us a lot about the dark side of parties.” Ultimately, Masket, like many in this field, points to the party primary as the problem. Azari, by contrast, urges political scientists to consider whether the traditional goals and assumptions of the field match political realities and institutions. The former is a more comfortable space for election law reformers. And yet, as Azari recognizes, institutions matter. And for the foreseeable future, the Supreme Court (an institution) and its doctrine (part of that institution) significantly constrain the feasibility of many of the most promising ideas for reforming party primaries.

The question then is what options remain for encouraging democratically functional parties. One idea that appears to be gaining ground in public discourse is fusion politics. Just today, Andy Craig published a short but clear argument in favor of fusion politics for Cato. It offers a particularly nice history of efforts to ban fusion candidacies and posits fusion politics as an answer to polarization, one that will bring more independents into politics–and presumably by expanding the electorate increase democratic accountability and responsiveness. While I generally agree with those goals (the latter in particular), I do think we should all pause to reflect on Azari’s most provocative question, what if polarization is “the result of progress on race and gender issues”? Viewed in this light, should we worry that a return to moderation and compromise (even if possible) would be backsliding?

Share this:

Party Leaders Seek to Rein in Extremists through Spending–But Quietly

A new Washington Post report suggests that Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney, as party leaders, are both working to bringing order back to the Republican Party. It is only their methods and interests that differ. McCarthy’s interests appear to be mostly about maintaining his own political power–as the political science literature would expect. That apolitical interest, however, has led to a campaign of often secret spending “to create a more functioning GOP caucus next year.”

“The political machine around McCarthy has spent millions of dollars this year in a sometimes secretive effort to systematically weed out GOP candidates who could either cause McCarthy trouble if he becomes House speaker or jeopardize GOP victories in districts where more moderate candidate might have a better chance at winning.”

The article describes a large “behind-the-scenes effort by top GOP donors and senior strategists to purge the influence of Republican factions that seek disruption and grandstanding, often at the expense of their GOP colleagues.”

Share this:

Breaking–District Court preliminarily enjoins parts new Arizona voter law

The U.S. District Court for Arizona has preliminarily enjoined two key provisions of Arizona’s recent effort to regulate voter registration. Importantly, it found the statute’s provision seeking to criminalize efforts to register out-of-state voters is likely unconstitutionally vague and further that the registration cancellation provisions likely violate the National Voter Registration Act.

Share this:

NCC’s Guardrails of Democracy Project

On Wednesday, the National Constitution Center is hosting a webinar as part of its Guardrails of Democracy project. The specific topic is “Election 2022: Are We Ready?” David French, Ilya Somin, and I will be participating on behalf of the three teams that NCC created to prepare reports for the Guardrails project.

In addition, Ilya recently hosted a symposium of blog posts at the Volokh Conspiracy on the Guardrails project. Here are links to the symposium pieces:

Lana Ulrich, The National Constitution Center’s “Restoring the Guardrails of Democracy” Initiative

Edward Foley, Three Reforms to Protect Democracy from Election Denialism

Walter Olson, Restoring the Guardrails of Democracy: A Libertarian View

David French, An Upgrade, not a Rebuild

Walter Olsen, Guardrails of Democracy, Extended: Comparing Notes On The Team Libertarian Report

Edward Foley, Three Points of Agreement on Democracy Protection

Share this:

Insightful Preview of Upcoming VRA Case

Linda Greenhouse has written, John Roberts’s Long Game. Is this the End of the Voting Rights Act?–an insightful preview of Merrill v. Milligan, which will be argued on October 4. The lengthy Atlantic article cuts straight to the point:

“The justices have framed the question for this round as ‘whether the State of Alabama’s 2021 redistricting plan for its seven seats in the United States House of Representatives violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.’ But the real question, the perilous one underlying that seemingly benign formulation, is this: Is Section 2 itself constitutional?

The rest of the article proceeds to explain the intersections between John Roberts’s early career and the doctrinal backstory. It is too bad she did not directly explain City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) which would bolster why she is right to be concerned, but otherwise I found this a very accessible summary of the stakes.

Share this: