Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Inaugural Post

Welcome, and thank you for visiting The Mischiefs of Faction. The name of this blog comes from the Federalist Paper #10, in which James Madison famously warned about the dangers of selfish political groups but conceded their inevitability in a free nation. While Madison had never seen a modern political party, many today take his warning as an indictment of our political parties: bickering, polarized Democrats and Republicans that might seem to be ruining democracy.

We take a slightly different view, close to that of political scientist E.E. Schattschneider, who somewhat less famously claimed that “modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of parties.” Parties help to organize debate, to generate policy ideas, to provide critiques of the ruling administration, to encourage voter turnout, and to give elections meaning. Parties and other factions do make their mischief, but a democracy without them would be impoverished in fundamental ways.

This blog is devoted to advancing and debating our knowledge of political parties. Our main focus, at least initially, is on the "elite" side of parties. That is, we're interested in the things that party leaders, broadly defined, do to build and protect their parties and win debates and elections. A major theme in our research—individually and collectively—is that American political parties are best understood as broad teams of actors, not just politicians and formal organizations. The true Republican and Democratic parties also include allied media, think tanks, donors, Super PACs, and perhaps even bloggers. We will certainly pay some attention to public opinion, although that is not our main area of expertise and there are already several excellent blogs dealing with this topic. Our writings will largely stay focused on trends in the United States, both nationally and at the sub-national level.

The founders of this blog attended graduate school together and collectively have nearly half a century of experience in political science. Additionally, each of us worked in political positions, to one extent or another, prior to entering academia. Between us, we have experience in journalism, in the White House, on Capitol Hill, on campaigns, and in local government, and our perspectives are informed both by our research and by these "real world" experiences.

“Mischiefs of Faction” joins a growing list of political science blogs aimed at making political science research more accessible and available to the media and the general public, perhaps most notably The Monkey Cage. We share that mission, but we aim to promote dialogue not only between political scientists and journalists, but also among political scientists, and anyone else interested in the role of political parties in democracy

Again, welcome, and thank you for joining us. Let the games begin.

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