Archive for the ‘political science’ Category

ermakoff book forum 2: of nazis and vichy

The purpose of Ruling Oneself Out is to understand when political groups, or coalitions, literally vote themselves out of power, often with disastrous consequences. Today, I’ll briefly describe the historical cases and tomorrow I’ll discuss the theory Ermakoff uses to explain things.

The first example is the Reichstag’s March 1933 vote to give Hitler broad power. Essentially, the Reichstag abolished democratic controls over the chancellor by giving the chancellor and the cabinet the ability to pass laws with the Reichstag’s approval. Most historians concur that this was the effective end of the Weimar state. It was replaced by a Nazi party state that dispensed with republican institutions.

What is crucial for Ermakoff is that the Nazis won because they had the backing of various Center and right parties, including some who were very suspicious of Hitler. Communists had been banned from the vote and only the Social Democrats voted no.

Ermakoff’s other case is the French government’s vote to give Petain power in 1940. The complete disaster of the French war effort completely destabilized French state, resulting in the withdrawal of the government from Paris, the resignation of the leadership, and the creation of German dominated Vichy France.

In reviewing these two events, Ermakoff wants to criticize a number of explanations offered for the surrender to Nazism. For example, it is often argued that coercion was the main explanatory factor. Non-Nazi parties were justifiably fearful of violence and relented. But Ermakoff notes that this is an incomplete explanation. First, there was actually a fair amount of resistance to Nazi violence. Second, the Center party, which went all in for Hitler, actually was internally split and many seemed able and willing to resist. In France, Ermakoff shows that voting for the Vichy State was not associated with being from an area that would be under German occupation, and thus subject to more violence. Similarly, Ermakoff closely examines the evidence for other theories of abdication, such as the hypothesis that Nazi ideology contaminated its opponents. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Ermakoff’s alternative theory.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

December 23, 2015 at 7:25 am

book forum: ivan ermakoff’s ruling oneself out

Ruling Oneself Out by Ivan  Ermakoff is a book that should of had a different title. In my view, the book should have been called “When Regimes Just Give Up and Die.” This important book speaks to a political process that direly needs more attention in both politics and sociology: turning points in history when one political order simply surrenders in the face of a challenger.

The book has two layers. One layer is a close reading of two examples of political abdication – the 1933 vote in Germany to give Hitler virtually unlimited powers and the 1940 decision by the French government to transfer authority to Petain.

The second layer is an insanely ambitious attempt to reconstruct how sociologists approach historical explanations. Ermakoff presents a theory of political abdication that combines the following elements: (a) an analysis of how political groups lose cohesion in the face of threat, (b) a game theoretical analysis of how groups under threat reform themselves, and (c) a criticism of other accounts of this process. So rather than throw all explanation to historical accident, Ermakoff tries to tease out how people surrender given their historically contingent self-understanding and their incentives. Think of it as historical explanation that is part phenomonology and part rational choice.

For the next two days, I will review these layers and then wrap up with a discussion of Ermakoff’s recent ASR article that presents a more extensive theory of historical contingency.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

December 22, 2015 at 12:01 am

hating woodrow wilson before it was cool

For a long time, I have loathed Woodrow Wilson. It shocked me that a massive racist and war monger, who then bungled the post-WWI peace, should be praised over Warren G. Harding, who was anti-lynching, pro-peace, tolerant of dissent, and anti-asset forfeiture (as it existed in his day). So I am happy to see that the Black student movement at Princeton is drawing attention to the horror that was the Wilson presidency.

Many folks think that the demands of Princeton students are unreasonable. But I think that asking for Wilson’s name to be removed from the policy school is very reasonable given that he  booted thousands of Blacks from their jobs in the Federal government. Critics often say that students are too sensitive and can’t tolerate truly free speech. If that is true, then the charge applies even more so to Wilson himself who oversaw the Palmer raids, which were aimed at jailing people who criticized him, and had 75 newspapers shut down. Heck, Wilson once had a Black man jailed for telling him he thought Wilson was a horrible president.

I applaud the student activists at Princeton for saying what is common knowledge among American historians. Wilson is no friend of free speech. We should use the freedom he opposed to talk about it.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

December 15, 2015 at 12:01 am

party in the street: reason magazine

Reason magazine was gracious to feature Party in the Street in its December issue. A few clips from an extensive review of the book:

Party in the Street is a deceptively cheery title for an autopsy. In this book, the social scientists Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas dissect the remnants of “the second most significant antiwar movement in American history” after Vietnam—the post-9/11 effort to restrain the American war machine.

In the years after the September 11 attacks, Heaney and Rojas write, peace activism became “truly a mass movement”: From 2001 through 2006, there were at least six anti-war demonstrations that drew more than 100,000 protestors, “including the largest internationally coordinated protest in all of human history” in February 2003.

The authors brought teams of researchers to most of the largest national protests from 2004 to 2010, and gathered reams of survey data from more than 10,000 respondents. Early on, they noticed substantial overlap between anti-war agitation and affiliation with the Democratic Party. That “party-movement synergy” helped the war opposition to expand dramatically during the administration of George W. Bush. It also, eventually, contained the cause of its undoing under Barack Obama. “Once the fuel of partisanship was in short supply,” Heaney and Rojas note, “it was difficult for the antiwar movement to sustain itself on a mass level.”


What lessons can be learned from the collapse of the post-9/11 anti-war movement? Party in the Street‘s final chapter offers some “strategies for social movements” at a time of heightened partisanship. They won’t do much to cheer would-be reformers of any stripe. “In an era of partisan polarization, social movements risk experiencing severe fluctuations in support concomitant with variations in partisan success,” Heaney and Rojas write.

It’s a risk that seems nearly unavoidable. Resisting party loyalty is no guarantee that a movement will achieve its goals. The Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 was so wary of being co-opted by political parties that Occupiers repulsed MoveOn’s attempts at solidarity and shouted down Green Party candidate Jill Stein at one encampment. Yet “antipartisanship had the effect of drastically narrowing Occupy’s supportive coalition,” the authors note.

Check it out.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street


Written by fabiorojas

December 10, 2015 at 12:01 am

explaining a possible trump win

I still think that Trump is very, very unlikely to win the GOP nomination. But with about 60 days left till the Iowa Caucus, it looks like Trump will last longer than I thought. Real Clear Politics still shows him getting in the high 20%s in national polls, winning in New Hampshire, and still hanging on to a lead over Ted Cruz in Iowa.  At the very least, Trump will make it to Super Tuesday.

The question is why. As I noted before, the dominant political science model of presidential nominations is that party elites choose candidates. Once they choose and publicly endorse, the rank and file move to the candidates, cash contributions and support flows, and only those candidates with elite support can afford to wage a serious campaign.

But this is not an “iron law.” It is a summary of a complicated process that frequently occurs in American politics. Thus, if the conditions that enable elites to guide nominations do not hold, other processes may occur. So what is the “background” that makes elite selection of party nominees possible?

My answer: Elites can guide elections because candidates are cash poor and need the help of parties who can do voter registration, publicity, and legal work. If you  buy this argument, then it is easy to see that a candidate can go solo if they have their own money (like a real estate empire) or publicity (a long career in books and television). Thus, Trump is a very rare person who has the potential bypass the normal party process.

But of course, will he actually do it? The following needs to happen:

  • Since New Hampshire tends to vote for “local candidates,” Trump (a New York candidate) will likely take that state without much effort. To win Iowa, he needs to have a superior ground game where he out-mobilizes Ted Cruz, who is often favored by evangelicals.
  • South Carolina is probably irrelevant. He’ll win it if he’s already won New Hampshire and Iowa. If he splits, he’ll be cruising to Super Tuesday anyway, win or lose. If he loses both, he’s probably out anyway.
  • Super Tuesday has 16 states. By this point, all candidates with any serious followings have dropped out, which means Rubio/Cruz vs. Trump. That means the establishment has its machine going in an attempt to stop Trump.
  • Super Tuesday has a lot of states that look Trump unfriendly on paper: small caucus states (like Wyoming and Alaska) or Southern states (Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia) that might go for Southerners like Rubio or Cruz.
  • Ideologically, Trump must simply keep going down the same road – extreme anti-foreigner/Muslim prejudice plus more middle of the road stances on issues like social security and taxes. This appeals to the xenophobic “middle American radical” that is now squarely inside the GOP.

Ironically, a Trump win will likely mirror Obama’s 2008 primary win: out hustle the establishment candidate in caucus states and stand out on a single issue that the base cares about (immigrants for Trump, Iraq for Obama).

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

December 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

party in the street: hypocrisy or not?

One of the responses to Party in the Street is that, in some way, we refuse to acknowledge the hypocrisy of activists. For example, Robin Hanson made the following observation on his blog, Overcoming Bias:

If they had framed their story more in terms of hypocrisy, they might have asked which media or interest groups tried to tell antiwar protesters the truth before Obama was elected, what reception they received, and why did other big media chose not to tell.
A few comments. First, the purpose of the book is to study party/movement interactions, not judge the moral consistency of our research subjects. Second, I think it is harder to establish hypocrisy than many people believe. What appears to be inconsistent can be ascribed to different processes:
  1. I believe X is bad and I support people who do X.
  2. I believe X is bad but I think that my favorite person is better at dealing with X than the other guy.

#1 might be called “bad faith hypocrisy.” We know that our moral claims and actions are different. #2 is more subtle. One might call #2 hypocrisy, but that is misleading since hypocrisy seems to entail conscious contradiction of actions and moral claims. Instead, #2 might be called “misplaced trust.”

What evidence do we have that the antiwar movement declined due to misplaced trust than bad faith hypocrisy? To show that there is misplaced trust, all one needs to show is that activists supported their friend because of a plausible case that there were substantial differences that were acceptable in the moral frameworks of the peace activists. We review this evidence in detail (see chapter 2), but I’d suggest that the de-escalation of Iraq (negotiated under Bush, carried out under Obama) is the major piece of evidence that Obama did something that was consistent with their views. Perhaps the most important piece of evidence against my claim is the massive escalation of Afghanistan, but the Democratic position was always that this was good and the beef of many activists was with Iraq, not Afghanistan. i suspect that most activists simply think that a Democrat would do better and leave it at that.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

November 4, 2015 at 12:01 am

understanding the bernie strategy


Source: RealClear Politics.

A lot of people have wondered how Bernie Sanders will prevail over Hilary in the upcoming primary. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were planning to attack Hilary in much the same way that Obama did. First, indirectly attack Hilary’s framing as a candidate. Frontal assaults seem to fail. Obama offered a counter-frame of “newness.” Sanders, probably, is trying a counter framing strategy that focuses on inequality, which resonates with the Demcoratic party electorate.

Second, focus on tipping points. As the chart above shows, Obama did not became the national favorite until after he won Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina. In other words, don’t worry about national averages and focus on early states. If you win, then worry about national polls. Third, should you actually win a few early states, you need a deep on the ground strategy that maximizes delegates according the DNC’s arcane rules. This is how Obama won despite falling behind in the popular vote count when he lost big states (like California).

It is clear that Bernie is working on the first two points, which makes sense. You won’t dent Hilary’s national numbers so there is no point in trying. The goal isn’t winning national polls or even decreasing Hilary’s popularity, but boxing in Hilary’s support in between 40% and 50% and attracting all undecided voters. Currently, he’s succeeding in that Hilary is still in the low 40% range in the RCP rolling average. He’s also making gains in Iowa.

The problem for Bernie is that he might not have the infrastructure needed to fight in later rounds. Astute readers know that the Clintons have done poorly in early states only to make up ground in large states where you win through media and name recognition (see 1992 – Bill Clinton lost nine out of ten early primary/caucuses before steaming ahead in the March round). I suspect that Hilary 2016 will replay like Bill 1992 and Hilary 2008. The only question is whether the Bernie can win Iowa and then pad the delegate count before Clinton’s machine picks up steam.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

October 15, 2015 at 8:01 am


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,485 other followers