Friday, May 13, 2016

A political science blogger lies through his keyboard to cover up being wildly wrong

I started this blog primarily for the "Trump to Political Science: Drop Dead" series.  Political scientists said Trump had no chance.  We were wrong.  We need to understand why.

I have been hardest on a book called The Party Decides (see my original comments here).  The book argued that party elites control the presidential nomination process.  Anyone arguing that at this point, well, nothing can be done for them.

The worst offender in the bunch wasn't even a co-author of the book.  No, I have dubbed Jonathan Bernstein as the "high priest" of The Party Decides for the religious fervor with which he embraced the book.  Bernstein was one of the first political science bloggers, and has done a lot to help educate people about political science.  But on this one, the problem really was that he took a book as absolute, unquestionable gospel truth, handed down from the mountaintop for us mere mortals to read closely, for it is the divine light shining down upon us.

I've been wondering for a while how Pope Jonathan I would begin to deal with Trump's victory.  The answer?  To lie.  Egregiously.

Today, Pope Jonathan I posted this.  Towards the end, he says that we need to figure out whether or not the Party Decides model "will still be a useful framework."  The problem is that word, "still."  The answer here is pretty clear.  It never was a useful framework.  But that's not where His Holiness really crosses the line into flat-out lying.

The lie is buried in the middle.  "Of course, no one ever believed that armies of voters simply did whatever their leaders told them to do."  LIE!  LIE, LIE, LIE!  You know who did believe that?  Jonathan Bernstein!  And he said it over, and over, and over again!

As recently as last month, he posted a piece called Why Parties, Not Voters, Choose Their Nominees. Of course, it was mostly about the Democratic side...

But, the text of the article doesn't quite say what the title does.  But he's said it elsewhere. Here's one from last year.  What's the first sentence?  "Those of us who argue that political parties, rather than the American voters, are decisive in choosing presidential nominees are being challenged."  There is no plausible interpretation of this sentence other than that Bernstein counts himself among those who say that voters aren't even really part of the process.  It's all about the leaders.  You can go over to his blog, and find plenty of examples like that.

Go through Bernstein's writing and try to find a line that attributes real agency to voters in the nomination process.  Go on, try.  I've never heard or read of him attributing agency or independent thought to voters such that they can over-ride party leaders' decisions.

Now, I know Jonathan Bernstein.  We've talked about this face-to-face.  As recently as last April, we spent an hour or so at a bar during a convention arguing about The Party Decides.  At one point, I said that he sounded like he believed that The Party Decides is just "proven" beyond doubt, and settled science.  He nodded enthusiastically and un-ironically.

Over and over again, Jonathan Bernstein has characterized the presidential nomination process as one in which voters don't even really participate in any meaningful way because they just mindlessly rubber-stamp the elites' choices since they are incapable of anything else.  Elites decide, signal their choice to voters, and voters do as their told.

That is pretty obviously bullshit now.  Those who took The Party Decides as gospel need to reckon both with the debunking of that model, and their own past statements.

I understand that Bernstein dug himself a deep, deep hole here.  But, at some point, intellectual integrity requires recognizing that.

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