Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Must-Read: Mischiefs of Faction

Big news in the political science blog world: Parties scholars Seth Masket (of Enik Rising), Hans Noel, and Greg Koger have teamed up to write a new blog, Mischiefs of Faction, focusing on political parties. All are friends of Plain Blog and friends of your plain blogger, but besides from that they are all very smart, very interesting, and almost always right about parties. All of them are interested in both the theory and practice of parties, and all of them are connected to "real world" politics both by their personal histories and their interests. They're very, very, good, and of course, the new blog has my highest recommendation. More to the point: I'm excited to start reading it, and I'm particularly happy that Hans and Greg are going to be blogging more regularly.

On to the first substantive post, by Seth Masket, in which he makes the reasonable argument that the Republicans were inevitably going to nominate a flip-flopper this time around.

Massachusetts! I mean, Seth is right -- Pawlenty had flipped on a couple things if I recall correctly, as had Perry, but perhaps not enough to get a flip-flopper reputation. Of course many Republicans, including from conservative states, had supported TARP, or Romney-like health care reform, or climate positions that were unacceptable today (was that Pawlenty's thing?). But none of those, many of which were shared by Romney, was as big a deal as abortion, plus gay rights, plus gun control, and most elected Republicans wouldn't have had to flip on those.

I think the general point is correct, but Romney's flip-flopping is much more about Massachusetts than it is about polarization.

At any rate: a warm welcome to Mischiefs of Faction. This is just excellent news.


  1. Along these lines, Arnold Kling had an excellent post today:


    "My fear is that what will emerge is a pattern in which Republican scandals are ignored by the right and Democratic scandals are ignored by the left. The result will be a spiral of ever-worsening corruption."

    1. I'm not sure there will ever be a time when scandals are ignored. It's offers too much political capital to the other side, even if their own party is trying to ignore them. But there are several counterexamples. Rangel's career is in bad shape after being removed as chair while under ethics investigations, Wiener is obviously no longer in Congress, and several Republicans have stepped down as well due to personal mishaps in recent years. And almost all these occurred while their party was in the majority I might add. Not to mention, several other members have been removed, forced to retire, or faced serious co-partisan pressure during the "scandal warfare" of the 80s, 90s, and 00s. That includes high profile members (Wright, Gingrich, Delay), as well as some of the lesser known (Traficant, Waters, Bachus). The good news is that overt corruption is severely punshed now. We don't see scandals on the scale of the Tea Pot-Dome nearly as much or at all today. And what would be considered a relatively minor infraction in the 1920s are now seriously investigated. All these trends suggest good things. That's not to say corruption doesn't occur, but it does suggest that corruption is less tolerated and ethics are tightening, not loosening... at least from a internal Congress perspective.

  2. I take it Masket's point is that any candidate with a real shot at being nominee had to be relatively moderate a short while ago but also appeal to the Republican base in its extreme form now. If one wasn't moderate before (e.g. Bachmann), then one wouldn't have been in position to be a governor or senator in the first place. But any relatively moderate senator or governor who wanted to become the nominee had to quickly tack to the right. So while Romney had to flip more than most since MA is especially liberal, this is just a matter of degree. The conditions were such that any real contender would be forced to flip, in part due to the relative moderation required to become a real contender in the first place. In that case, Romney being from MA doesn't explain the nomination of a flip-flopper all by itself; it's just an instance satisfying the prevalent conditions.


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