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The U.S. as a party-state

David Roth’s most recent piece links to this new-to-me blog post from 2013:

The U.S. form of government is, most fundamentally, not a constitutional republic, but a variant on the party-state form — the difference being that there are two parties instead of just one. This can be difficult to see, because the predominant analysis of the great party-state forms of the 20th century, namely fascism and communism, has focused on the misleading concept of “totalitarianism…”

The problem in party-states is not that the formal state structures are too strong, but that they’re too weak to restrain the party-movement that instrumentalizes them. In China, for instance, formal state structures “exist,” but the Communist Party essentially ignores them — indeed, the Party is not even recognized as a legal organization.

In the U.S., the party-state operates by pretending that it’s not a party-state.

On undecided voters

I was wondering whether anyone actually identifies as undecided in this election and found this super informative interview with political scientist Yanna Krupnikov.

The way that I would think about “undecideds” — and this probably doesn’t make for good copy — is simply as people who, on a survey, opted to select the “undecided” box. Some of them might actually be moderate. Some might honestly be more extreme than the partisans who told you straight-up who they were going to vote for. Some have probably never thought about where they are, politically. Some probably wish everyone stopped talking to them about politics. And some might never vote. But by virtue of all of them selecting the same box in a survey, we group together a lot of people who, in other political contexts, would never actually be grouped together.

This also hit pretty hard:

My coauthor and I are currently finishing up a book project on precisely this gap: the idea that the more we elevate hyperpartisan voices and the more that politics becomes extraordinarily partisan, the more we send the message to people that how you participate in the political process is by being very vocal and harboring animosity toward the other side. You might actually see yourself agreeing with one side, but you might feel disaffected if you believe that in order to be involved in politics, you need to be constantly angry and constantly proclaiming your side versus the other.

Read the whole interview here.