(2016-03-02) Thompson The Voters Decide

Ben Thompson: The Voters Decide. Hans Noel’s op-ed in The New York Times on Tuesday. Noel is, along with Marty Cohen, David Karol and John Zaller, the author of the 2008 book The Party Decides. (tldr: what issues get spread is in the power of the people (e.g. emergent) rather than the party; though influenced by the mindless algorithmic feed)

We argued that the leaders of party coalitions have great influence over the selection of a presidential election nominee.

We argued that since that 1976 contest, party leaders had been exerting influence by coordinating on their choice during the “invisible primary” — the period before any voting when the leaders observed, met with and vetted candidates — then supporting that candidate throughout the process. When party leaders work together, they nearly always win, we said… This year’s election has not followed our script. Mr. Donald Trump is the clear front-runner, but is loathed by the party establishment.

three potential theses

  • Maybe the political environment has changed
  • Maybe the party is falling apart
  • Maybe Mr. Trump just got in the way

I think Noel’s scope is too narrow: politics is just the latest industry to be transformed by the Internet.

A few weeks ago Clay Shirky wrote a tweetstorm

The new scale Facebook introduces into politics is this: all registered American voters, ~150M people, are now a medium-sized group

Reaching & persuading even a fraction of the electorate used to be so daunting that only two national orgs could do it. Now dozens can (link). This set up the current catastrophe for the parties. They no longer control any essential resource, and can no longer censor wedge issues.

Long-time readers should recognize the tell-tale signs of Aggregation Theory.

It is all these disparate pieces: partisan media members, advertisers, donors, large associations, plus consultants and specialists to manage them that, along with traditional politicians, made up the “party” in The Party Decides

What is critical to understand when it comes to this more broad-based definition of a “party” is that its goals are not necessarily aligned with a majority of voters

They want to win elections, but they do not necessarily wish to represent a majority of voters. As a by-product of their wish to govern, parties must offer a degree — perhaps a large degree — of responsiveness to popular majorities, but responsiveness to voters is not why parties exist. They exist to achieve the intense public policy demands of their constituent groups.

To summarize: parties are not just politicians, but coalitions of actors who care intensely about certain policy outcomes. These actors work together to get politicians elected who will serve their interests; voter interests are a means, not an ends. And, according to Noel and company, such parties succeed because they control all of the apparatus necessary to win elections.

there are no incentives for Facebook to explicitly favor any type of content beyond that which drives deeper engagement; all evidence suggests that is exactly what the service does.

The likelihood any particular message will “break out” is based not on who is propagating said message but on how many users are receptive to hearing it. The power has shifted from the supply side to the demand side

by extension, the most successful politicians in an aggregated world are not those who serve the party but rather those who tell voters what they most want to hear.

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