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Partisans and PartnersThe Politics of the Post-Keynesian Society$
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Josh Pacewicz

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226402550

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226402727.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

The Activist Party

The Activist Party

(p.195) Seven The Activist Party
Partisans and Partners

Josh Pacewicz

University of Chicago Press

This chapter shows how community leaders’ avoidance of partisan politics transforms grassroots parties, resulting in a new ideal typical form of grassroots organization: the activist party. The chapter first engages with accounts that point to changes in campaign finance as a cause of partisan polarization, arguing that political spending has risen but not sufficiently to alter political elites’ organizational reliance on grassroots activists. The chapter then shifts focus to party activists, using archival records and ethnography to identify three trends constitutive of the shift towards activist parties, which occurred among Democrats and Republicans alike: community leaders disengaged from parties, parties became dominated by activists disengaged from community governance, and parties became egalitarian, which set into motion mechanisms that further polarized activists, making them appear collectively more partisan. These mechanisms include activists adoption of one another’s issue positions, inability to police fringe groups’ use of the party label, and tendency to circle the wagons when these fringe groups encounter community ridicule. The chapter argues that activist parties polarize politics, because politicians need activists’ support in primaries and come to see the world through their eyes.

Keywords:   political parties, activist party, campaign finance, partisan polarization

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