Jacob T. Levy writes,
The 2016 election exposed grave vulnerability and fragility in the American party system. One major party was successfully hijacked by an extremist outsider in the face of initial opposition from a huge portion of the party’s elites and elected leaders. The other party came surprisingly close (if still not objectively very close) to meeting the same fate
Pointer from Tyler Cowen.
1. I would suggest that the Democratic Party was hijacked by an outsider in 2008.
2. It appears that being hijacked by an outsider works to a party’s advantage, at least in the short run. If the Republican elite had succeeded in putting in their candidate (Rubio?), the Republicans probably would not have picked up the Rust Belt states that went for Mr. Trump. In this alternate history, Mrs. Clinton becomes President. Given that Levy laments the weakening of the Republican Party elite, he implicitly prefers this alternate history. I do not. Yet.
3. As Levy points out, partisanship is high.
89% of Democrats voted for Clinton, 90% of Republicans for Trump. Those figures are down a touch from 2012—both major parties lost more voters to third parties than in 2012—but considering the year of headlines about how unpopular both candidates were, the result is stark.
Also, partisanship is correlated with knowledge.
4. What this means is that a Presidential election is “swung” by a tiny number of voters who are only weakly partisan. My guess is that swing voters probably have the least ability to articulate a connection between the policies of their candidate and the outcomes that they desire. I would guess that if you interviewed voters in the counties that “flipped” from Obama to Trump, you would not be very impressed with their rationales behind either choice.
5. Pause and consider just how random this is. A few yahoos switch their votes, and this causes about half the country to be somewhat pleased and the other half to be bummed out of their minds.
6. What Levy seems to want to do is strengthen the parties, so that the elites can choose the candidates. He is nostalgic for the era of “the party decides.” Going back to that era would presumably produce candidates who rely less on personal charisma and more on the ability to get along well with party leaders.
7. If we go back to “the party decides,” one result would be to limit the potential impact of “swing” voters. The worst that they could do is pick the “wrong” establishment candidate, as opposed to going for an unreliable novice.
8. The outsider Obama leaves behind an unusually weak Democratic Party. It is not hard to imagine something similar happening to the Republicans under President Trump.
9. If you believe Martin Gurri, then the currents at work weakening the insiders are much deeper than nomination rules or other party mechanics.