Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Minor Musing About Political Party Purity

Andrew Sullivan points to the following Seth Masket maps based on state legislators' ideology. Based on data compiled by Boris Shaw and Nolan McCarty, the maps show the "location of the most ideologically extreme state parties." Masket writes a state generally has only one ideologically stubborn party; the other is usually moderate:
[T]he typical pattern is for one party to be pretty extreme while the other is pretty moderate. And that pattern shows up more or less where you'd expect it. For example, New York Democrats are very liberal because they can be, while New York Republicans are moderate because they have to be. Flip that around for Mississippi.
The maps use the requisite blue to illustrate Democrats' ideology and standard red for Republicans. The darker shades obviously show a more intensely ideological party membership in a state's legislature.

Granted the shading doesn't provide the most specific detail, but the data show a few surprises and confirm a few stereotypes. Minnesota's Democrats have the greatest ideological purity among the states' Democratic parties; that should surprise no one. I was, however, surprised to discover that Montana's Republican legislators exhibited more ideological fervor than South Dakota's Republican legislators.

The maps confirm another supposition I have had. The Republican and Democratic legislators in the Dakotas have a wider gap between them in terms of their ideological ardor than Republicans and Democrats in neighboring Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska do. Those other states differ by only one shade, but the Dakotas show a two shade difference in ideological zeal.

The maps prompt the following conclusions. First, the charge that the South Dakota legislature is populated with RINOs is specious at best. It may be laughable. Second, the state's Democrats either don't have a left flank, or they have few members willing to run and carry water for the liberal cause. Finally, given the gap in ideological fervor between the parties' members in the legislature, South Dakotans can expect more of the same when the legislature convenes next January.


Ken Santema said...

I think the charge of "Rino" comes from just certain votes. This study appears to take all votes into account, which probably does end up more Red than many will admit.

As to the lack of blue in the Dems. I wonder if it is because elected Dems are afraid to act "too liberal"? Perhaps the fear of being labeled a liberal Dem is preventing them from acting as they feel is right.

Kal Lis said...


I'm pretty sure that you're right.

At the risk of committing cliche, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The scorecards that I have seen reveal more about the persons creating the scorecard than they do about the persons being scored.

As for the South Dakota Dems in the legislature, I really don't know why they're so timid.

I know the South Dakota right screams about liberals and liberal ideas in South Dakota. I doubt, however, that liberals outside the state would recognize more than one or two kindred spirits in the South Dakota legislature