Will political parties protect us from violence, or make it worse? | #politics | #trump

This country has experienced some significant political violence over the past year, and we may be staring down some more in the near future. We’re also experiencing historic heights in partisanship. A vital question for us right now is whether America’s political parties will help us or make the violence worse.

Parties, that is, actually play a pretty prominent role in the political culture of a country, and can affect levels of political violence. How might this work?

In their 2018 book How Democracies Die, Daniel Ziblatt and Stephen Levitsky portray political parties as playing a vital role as the gatekeepers of democracy. They decide who gets to run for high office and who doesn’t.

As the authors note, quite a few would-be authoritarians could have made promising presidential nominees in the early and mid-20th century. This includes people like Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Huey Long, and George Wallace. Then, as now, it simply wasn’t a realistic path to the presidency to run without the backing of a major political party. And the political parties of that era just weren’t interested in them.

There were any number of reasons why the parties might not have wanted to run an autocrat for president. They may have honestly thought those people would be bad for the country. More pragmatically, populist authoritarians aren’t necessarily great agents for advancing a party’s agenda; they have their own ties to the electorate, they don’t necessarily need the party all that much and aren’t on board with its plans, and so forth.

Importantly, parties generally don’t turn down these candidates because they deem them unelectable; undemocratic behavior, sadly, isn’t disqualifying as far as most voters are concerned. That’s why it’s beneficial when party leaders can simply take such options off the table in the first place.


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