Rule of Three

This poll analysis confirms a lot of things that have been fairly obvious for quite some time: 1) young voters are liberal on social issues and lack a go-to ideology on economic issues; 2) young voters are less partisan; 3) young voters were more motivated by the campaign of Barack Obama in 2008 than they were the principles of the Democratic Party.

As someone who supports a strong party system, one point in here is particularly jarring: the re-consideration of the Rule of Three.  According to the Rule of Three, once a person has voted for a particular party in three consecutive elections (generally their first 3 elections), they develop a loyalty to that party that is hard to shake.

But according to this NYT analysis: “Some academics who study voting patterns say that the rule of three is too simplistic, and that lots of factors combine to determine a person’s place on the political spectrum. Individual votes, said Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Yale who studies voter behavior, matter less than the social fabric that people grow into — in jobs, social life, community and values.”

Over the past few decades there has been a steady erosion of ancestral party ties; now it seems people are less likely to even reliably stick with a party they choose themselves.

I know defending the party system is unpopular, particularly in online political discussions in which the limitations of party politics are a common topic.  There will always be independents, there will always be third party voters, and there will always be people who don’t feel comfortable identifying as Democrat or Republican (or liberal or conservative for that matter) and choose to flip their vote with the circumstances of a given election.  That’s fine.  But without a core of loyal partisans (replenished with each generation), parties are less likely to hold onto a stable set of principles, instead needing to build a voter coalition that helps carry them over whichever electoral threshold they currently face.  Candidates themselves become less dependent on their respective parties and often instead turn to showboating for campaign dollars and headlines.  And the irony is, the more embarrassing the state of American politics becomes as a result of weakened parties, the more fed up voters become with politicians, the more likely voters are to blame partisanship and sever allegiance with their Party.

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10 thoughts on “Rule of Three

  1. Another problem for the youth is the whole “what about the issues nearest and dearest to me?” thing.

    Let’s say that you’re a youth and you are hoping for gay marriage to be legalized.

    Let’s say that that is your Number One Concern.

    Which party will you align yourself with? Or, let’s say, you aligned yourself with Obama in 2008. How do you feel about him?

    How do you feel about the people who explain that politics doesn’t work that way when you complain about Obama not doing enough?

    There are a number of similar issues, I reckon.

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  2. Looking at the article, the first thing that leaps out is how obvious this outcome is- young people have been told repeatedly, and frankly a tad unrealistically, that the sky’s the limit for them, given their energy, smarts, ability to use computers, and sheer gusto. All of that is fine and well, but now, thanks to the lousy economy, they’re being told to lower their expectations greatly until someone figures out how to fix this mess- that exists thanks, in part, to the stupidity of their elders. I don’t think I’d have faith in much of anything if I was their position. As for the apathy of their generation- I think it’s a pretty good sign of their intelligence.

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  3. He thought he saw a Garden-Door
    That opened with a key:
    He looked again, and found it was
    A Double Rule of Three:
    ‘And all its mystery,’ he said,
    ‘Is clear as day to me!’

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  4. A couple things are going on that should really upset the traditional party applecart.

    First, both parties have become deeply corrupt. The Republican sex scandals, as well as Abramoff, pushed a lot of people to realize that the Republicans were corrupt, even if they hadn’t heard about Rove’s K Street project. Obama’s reluctance to clean up Wall Street, putting Geithner and other ‘streeters in charge of fixing the mess, has made it clear that Dems have their corruption problems too.

    Neither party seems very interested in fully restoring Habeas Corpus. The Republicans became anathema to me because of this issue, and the Obama administration showed me Democrats are little better, with its embrace of an extra-judicial assassination program targeting terrorist citizens. Habeas Corpus forms the foundation of our political freedom, so protecting and preserving it is a no-brainer. That neither party does really appalls me. So I no longer have a political home – clearly neither side genuinely cares about protecting our Constitution and freedoms.

    Third, we’re in the early years of a vast economic and cultural change. Call it the Information Age, or whatever you want, neither party shows much understanding of the issues involved, nor much sympathy for online freedom. Both parties are much more aligned with corporate interests than with the citizens interests in this arena. While other countries race ahead with high speed internet, our politicians allow corporations to milk their internet monopolies instead of keeping pace. And neither party says much about how to adapt the educational system in the wake of these huge economic, technological and cultural changes. So again, I have no home.

    I’m not alone. The ‘independent’ political affiliation has grown tremendously over the last few years. It’s pretty clear that a political vacuum formed and is growing. In an environment like this, is it realistic to expect things like the ‘Rule of Three’ to apply?

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    • @Daulnay, I agree with you about habeus corpus and despair over what’s become of us but I attribute it to the right having taken over the republicans. And not just the right but the crazy, Neanderthal far right. There are just a few actual republicans left and not enough to effect our polity. The politicians cater to them and then proceed to do as they please which has (finally) angered the base – instant tea party – yet they blame democrats. Not that this would ever be good for a country or people but these seem like the very worst times to have an ineffective party. Whether they are in power or out, they are pretty useless right now.

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  5. One of the major problems with the parties is that they naturally tend towards their own extremes – to right-wing, too left wing and both rejecting compromises to a fault. The parties have also been handed too much power over how elections are conducted.

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  6. I’m not clear in this, because I learned it using different terminology, but what does the rule of three exactly apply to? Do you mean voted a straight party ticket in three consecutive elections? Well yes, that would obviously indicate strong party loyalty. Do you mean a particular race? Congress, president, governor, what?

    See, what I learned was that the biggest predictors of party ID were 1) party ID of parents and 2) religion. Which is to say, things totally unrelated to factual analysis of a situation, and entirely based on culture and socialization.

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  7. But without a core of loyal partisans (replenished with each generation), parties are less likely to hold onto a stable set of principles….

    You are describing republicans here. They are stuck on tax cuts for the rich as the answer to everything that gutting SS can’t do. Their loyal partisans actually insist they never evolve or adjust to new conditions.

    … turn to showboating for campaign dollars and headlines.

    This is exactly where we are.

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