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Muller and Strom: Policy, office, or votes

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Muller and Strom. 1999. Policy, office, or votes: How political parties in Western Europe make hard decisions (ch 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In Brief

Party leaders value all three of the things that competing models have identified: office, policy, and votes. (See figure 1.1 (13) and the preceding page.) They must make tradeoffs among these. These tradeoffs are affected and constrained by (1) constraints on leaders, (2) the institutional environment, and (3) specific situations. More on each of these follows, in order.

  1. Constraints on leaders: a strong party needs both capital (e.g. surveying and advertising funds/technology) and labor (mobilization, voters). Some activists (labor) can be paid for with good policy, but others want access to office--the ratio btw a party's office and policy benefits deteremines the ratio btw number of professional and number of amateur activists. However, leaders need mechanisms to make their policy and office commitments (to activists) credible (since they aren't paid until after the election). Three ways: (1) decentralize intraparty decisions, (2) restrict party advancement to existing activists, (3) make leaders accountable to activists/members.
  2. Institutional environment: See Figure 1.2 (pg 20) for an excellent summary. Institutions have either direct effects (i.e. change leaders' incentives) or indirect effects (lead to the selection of different leaders, thus changing leaders' incentives).
  3. Situational determinants: Five big ones. (1) Which other parties are involved; (2) Other parties' office strengths, vote shares, policy ("initial endowments"); (3) Other parties' histories; (4) Past events; (5) Domestic and international context (essentially, everything else).
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