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PSC 311: Voters, Parties & Elections | PSC 499: Senior Capstone

Students' Outlines of

Nivola & Rosenbloom (eds)

Classic Readings in American Politics, 3/e

Section IV: Political Parties

Compiled by Jeremy Lewis, last revised 5 Dec. '08; reformatted 17 Nov. 2014.

15: Downs, Economic Theory of Democracy
16: Stokes, "Spatial Models"
17: Fiorina, "Decline of Collective Responsibility"
18: Key, "Elections as Collective Decisions"
15: Anthony Downs, from An Economic Theory of Democracy
(Damian A. Mayho (2000?)
Parties in a two-party system deliberately change their platforms so that they resemble one another: whereas parties in a multiparty system try to remain as ideologically distinct from each other as possible.

New parties can be most successfully launched immediately after some significant change in the distribution of ideological views among eligible voters.

In a two-party system, it is rational for each party to encourage voters to be irrational by making its platform vague and ambiguous.

1. The Spatial Analogy And Its Early Use
Harold Hotelling invented a linear scale running from zero to 100 in a left to right fashion.

If the left end of the scale represents full government control, and the right end means a completely free market, we can rank parties by their views on this issue in a way that might be recognized as accurate.

The scale is unrealistic for two reasons: each party is leftish on some issues and rightish on others, and the parties designated as right wing extremists in the real world are for fascist control of the economy rather 
than free markets.

2. The Effects Of Various Distributions Of Voters
The possibility that parties will be kept from converging in two-party system depends upon the refusal of extremist voters to support either party if both are alike- not identical, but merely similar.

In a two-party system, whichever party wins will attempt to implement policies radically opposed to the other party's ideology.

Where proportional representation exists, a party which wins only a small of the total vote may place some of its members in the government, since coalition governments often rule.

Voters in multiparty systems are given a wide range of ideological choice.

3. The Origin of New Parties
There are two types of new parties: Those that win elections and those that influence already existent parties to change their policies.
The Decline of Collective Responsibility in American Politics ......


16: Donald E. Stokes, "Spatial Models of Party Competition" 
(Julie Stanton, 2000)

-The use of spatial ideas to interpret party competition is a universal phenomenon of modern politics.
- Downs interprets this as the degree of government intervention with the economy. 

The extreme left is complete government control, at the extreme right is  no government intervention beyond limited state operations.
- Each voter is somewhere on the scale according to how much government intervention and control he wants and each party according to how much government control it advocates.
- Harold Hotelling sought to answer the question of why two competing firms are often found in adjacent positions near the middle of a spatial market.
-Hotelling was able to show that the two firms would converge at adjacent positions in the middle of the market.  He felt this model could explain why Democrats and Republicans are found so close to the center of liberal-conservative dimension.
- Arthur Smithies expanded on this idea.  He argued that electoral demand is elastic since a voter who feels that both parties are too far from his ideological position can simply not vote.
- Smithies model would explain why Democrats and Republicans were some distance apart.
- The most evident criticism of spatial model is the conception of single dimension political conflict which cannot be sustained. 
- Parties may be perceived and evaluated on several levels, the levels that are salient may change widely over time.
- For spatial model to be applied, the voters and parties must place themselves on one or more common dimensions.
- The spatial scheme is the assumption of a commonly perceived space of party competition that allows the model to serve at once as a theory of voter motivation and of party positioning.
- The conclusion is that the spatial model should only be treated as explicit variables the cognitive phenomena that the prevailing model removes from the discussion by assumption.


#17 Morris P. Fiorina
Al Zachos 2004

-Fiorina is a government professor at Harvard University, who believes that government suffers increasingly from single-issue politics.

-He also said that, as of late, there has been a trend of weak leadership in times of critical importance, and also a series of short term solutions to long term problems

-He believes that the Founding Fathers tried to create a government that could not abuse power against its citizens, however, these checks and balances in American government also seriously hamper the ability to undertake major initiatives, and thus we remain at the status quo.

-He says that people are gradually losing the ability to make the government work FOR us, and he believes the chief reason behind this is the steady fading of American’s sense of responsibility in politics.

-Without responsibility, citizens will only guess at who deserves their support, and thus the act of voting loses its merit.

-He uses as an example, the fact that most people don’t understand a theory of money supply and the economy, however, the system that we are in, dictates that we must elect officials that do understand these theories.

-This system only works if those elected to power know that they will be held accountable for their actions, thus they will make decisions based on their constituencies interests.

Fiorina believes that this lack of responsibility is partly due to the continuing decline of the party in the U.S.

-He also explains the phases of party organizations in phases; the patronage system declined largely after the passage of the Civil Service Act of 1883, at the time of the New Deal there was a temporary resurgence in party organization, after 1970 there were laws passed within the two major parties that further weakened party organization

-The party in the electorate takes the form of a psychological attachment; the traditional American will identify with one of the two major parties, and many times will take the party identification of his or her parents.  The tie of parties to the electorate has greatly weakened in modern times.

-Fiorina also goes on to say that the party in government has weakened as well; this has led to a trend of split-party government throughout the state and federal governments. 

-Some of the consequences of the decline of collective responsibility are: immobilism, single-issue politics, and popular alienation from government.

-Immobilism is caused by electoral interdependence of the party in government,  however, some say that it is because of the growth of single-issue politics more so than party decline.

-Partly due to the decline in the party, party office-holders are not held as responsible for good party performance; thus, they give in to a myriad of interest groups, whose success encourages more interest groups as politics becomes more fragmented, the collective responsibility continues to elude us.

-Popular Alienation from Government- People have become disinterested in politics due to many reasons.  He finishes by saying that these trends seem as if  they will continue, and that we hold officials accountable for the proposals that they make, but not for the adoption of those actual policies                                                                                                                                               

To conclude, Fiorina finishes with. “In contemporary America, officials do not govern they merely posture.” 
18: V.O. Key, "Elections As Collective Decisions"
By Shane Newlands, Fall 2008
Despite the complexity of the task, it is imperative that scholars at least attempt to determine what opinion[s] is[are] being voiced by the electorate by casting their ballots in the manner they do.
The vast majority of the electorate vote retrospectively, that is, on their opinion of the past 4 to 8 years, especially the past 12 months.
4 Major Factors that affect voting patterns
    1. Disapprobation
      - Firm but vague.
      - Tells us that they disagree with current policy, but [do not] know how or why.
      - 1932 (Hoover v. Roosevelt), 1952 (Truman v. Eisenhower)
    2. Confirmation and Ratification
      - Again firm but vague.
      - Voices the agreement of the electorate on the policies of the current government.
      - Midterm election of 1934 and Presidential election of 1936 (New Dealers)
    3.  Rejection
      - A form of prospective voting where the electorate fears radical change in future policy.
      - In the US, policy change is usually gradual and is not a platform for campaigning, it just happens.
      - 1896, William Jennings Bryan frightened Americans because of his advocacy of mass silver coinage.
    4. Frustration of Policy-Motivated Decision
      - When voters have conflicting views on two issues, that is, each candidate shares one view with the voter but is against the other.
      - Results in non-congruent majorities.
      - This is rectified in American politics in Congress, where odd combinations of beliefs are more possible.
      - Liberal isolationists in the mid-twentieth century.
Acceptability of Election Results
Determining what decides elections is more of an art than a science.  However, the important thing is that election results ARE accepted, and power is transferred peaceably.  Individual voters also make peace with elections, either saying its best for the country, it wasn’t really too important, they never really cared which candidate was elected, or that they’d win the next round.