Archive for the ‘political science’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.