Did the Party Decide the Presidential Election?

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The Party Decides has been cited to be one of the most influential books about how nominees in the United States are selected for presidency. The book is authored by political scientists John Zaller, Hans Noel, David Carol, and Marty Cohen. Cohen et al. argue that although there might exist reforms that are meant to gain control of the process from the insiders at the nomination conventions, whoever makes it to the general elections is dependent on what the political parties have in mind (Cohen et al., 4). I tend to agree with this view that the 2016 election disproved the long-standing position.

The immediate essence of the book is to give an explanation of the nomination of the presidential candidates suitable for the party. The nominations have however, been considered to be a puzzle used in the exploration of how plausible the broader understanding of the nature of political parties. Cohen et al. make a revival of the broader theory relating to the existence of political parties in the American politics (Cohen et al. 14). The theory stands in contrast with the more dominant candidate-centric view that had held the political arena for a while.

The influence of political parties is done partly through what Cohen et al. (18) described as ?invisible primaries'. The authors further argue that political parties are notorious for sending cues and signals to the voters as means to convince them to ratify the choices they have in the primary elections. It is interesting to note that when reference is made to political parties, they are not limited to just elected officials prominent in the government or the insiders present at the DNC or RNC. To them, the party encompasses interest groups, issue advocacy groups, ideological activists chatting over the bear, pundits aligned with ?the party' and bloggers within the coalition. (Cohen et al. 56) this group, they referred to as intense policy demanders (57). So, in the event that party members line up behind the single candidate of their preference, the candidate carries the presidential flag.

In addition, the book notes that the essence of the elites is not just to push for the favored candidate in vain. The team seeks something from the politics of the nation, which makes them invest a lot of effort, time and in many instances, money, in the process. The belief here is that it is easier to have a candidate who is friendly to their beliefs and demands into the office than negotiating with one who already is in the White House. The trend has been on the parties, lanes of compromise, negotiations and conversations to find the candidate that they consider more acceptable compared to the others. This is done in comparison to the broader range of the factions of the party (Cohen et al. 61). Upon figuring out the best candidate for the party, all the resources they have put behind the candidate, result in a united front during the general elections.

In the run-up to the 2016 nominations, almost every political scientist was out and about with the ?Part Decides' (Bitecofer, 59). In fact, ?The New York Times' Ross Douthat had to cope with the failure to realize that Donald Trump will win in the primaries. He wrote, the best place to start isn't with the Republican Party's Leaders- the opportunists, the cowards, the sleepwalkers- but with its voters, and the once-reasonable assumptions about voter psychology that Trump seems to have disproved (cited by Friedersdorf). He further wrote that among the assumptions was that the voters were meant to follow signals by the elites in the party and the holders of the office. This assertion, as discussed above remains the basis of the ?party decides' in political science. His progress had indeed undercut the very thesis that had a hold for a long time. I tend to agree with this view that the 2016 election disproved the long-standing position.

In 2016, the parties were threatened by the trend in the nomination and the popular notion. During the nominations, the choice of the GPD was not on a single individual, yet the choice was not on Donald Trump. An interview contacted by Kurtzleben of the National Public Radio with Cohen indicated the truth of the change in trend. In the interview, Cohen stated that the extent to which politics were still driven by the influences of the celebrities, has just been epitomized and reached its logical conclusion in this election cycle. (Kurtzleben). He further asserted that previously, about 20 or so years, back, until the election of Trump, the politicians were considered to be celebrities.

There are, however, a number of reasons that can be attributed to the falsification of the theory during the nominations. First, it is with regard to the endorsements in the Republican Party. Data collected by the authors of the 2008 book indicated that there were no mass endorsements within the party (Cohen et al, 717). In fact, the data indicated that there was a range of endorsements between seven or so candidates. This implies that there was no one favorite for the endorsement. Indeed, at the moment Trump had no endorsements. This was the opposite for the democratic party where Hillary was everyone's favorite.

The election-cycle indicated how parties unified behind a single candidate. In addition, the appeal is also made to the factional candidate (Nelson, 234). The truth is Donald Trump was not considered to be a factional candidate even though he attracted a group of voters represented within the party. What happened was that although the party leaders did not have a favorable candidate or liked Trump at all, they made no effort to stop him until it was too late. What Donald Trump did was mounting an insurgent campaign.

What is evident is that the Republican party, although not having a favorable candidate, did not have the means to stop Donald Trump (Hershey, 98). He clearly according to the events at the time did not require to be endorsed by the party to get through. Also, as he is a billionaire and a business mogul he did not require the party to fund his presidential bid. Further, he proved himself to be a master when it came to getting publicity, spending less on the advertisement. The critiques he got from powerful members of the Republic Party including Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Jeb seemed to be non-consequential.

A critical analysis of the rallies Trump made can be identified as further being the source of his success. His followers seemed the angry lot who got tired of the current status quo and were curious about how he was to ?Make America Great Again'. He even included the participation of the audience in many key moments such as when he asked who was to pay for the wall and the crowd shouted, ?Mexico!'(Drezner). He further validates the views of his followers through the crowd which he does not look down upon. He expresses the views plainly even though most of them express political impropriety and insincere to admit. The economic discontent due to stagnation in the wages, disappearance in the manufacturing industry as well as the bleakness of the future made him trump a following among the lower-to-middle income electorate.

By the time the nominations were nearing, he had a huge electorate following that the party could not stop his bid. His support continued to grow regardless of the ratings which did not in any way favor him. The media even tried to crop Marco Rubio close to him, but after Iowa, nothing would turn the people back.

In summary, the Party Decides is a political theory that asserts that a presidential candidate to be considered in the nominations, they have to pay attention to the views of the influential people within the party and what they do as the same has a great impact on the outcome of the nominee. Although there is proof that the theory has been validly supported with the result of the previous presidential elections, the test seemed to fail when it came to the 2016 Presidential Elections. This was partly due to the fact that The Republican party did not have what to consider as a favorable candidate to drum their support behind. Further, the party did not have mechanisms to bring down the bid by Donald Trump who had already won the support of the electorate.


  1. Bitecofer, Rachel. "The Party Decides?" InThe Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election, pp. 59-80. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2018.
  2. Cohen, Marty, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller. "Party versus faction in the reformed presidential nominating system."PS: Political Science & Politics49, no. 4 (2016): 701-708.
  3. Cohen, Marty, David Karol, Hans Noel, and John Zaller.The party decides Presidential nominations before and after reform. University of Chicago Press, 2009.
  4. Drezner, Daniel. 2016. "The Easy Test for 'The Party Decides' Suddenly Doesn't Look So Easy".Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/01/26/the-easy-test-for- the-party-decides-suddenly-doesnt-look-so- easy/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d1decf7228f2.
  5. Friedersdorf, Conor. 2016. "How The Republican Party Decided On Trump".The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/how-gop-influencers-cued- voters-to-choose-Donald-trump/480294/.
  6. Hershey, Marjorie Randon.Party politics in America. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
  7. Kurtzleben Danielle, "Celebrities, Lies and Outsiders: How This Election Surprised One Political Scientist". 2016.NPR.Org.
  8. https://www.npr.org/2016/06/21/482357936/celebrities-lies-and-outsiders-how-this- election-surprised-one-political-scientist.
  9. Patterson, Thomas E. "Pre-Primary News Coverage of the 2016 Presidential Race: Trump's Rise, Sanders' Emergence, Clinton's Struggle."Browser Download This Paper(2016).
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Did the party decide The presidential election?. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved February 29, 2024 , from

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