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What Happened to Jeff Flake’s Cascade?

On Wednesday, Senator Jeff Flake R-AZ announced in a fiery speech that he was fed up with President Trump and that he would no longer be “complicit” in “damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty.” As a result, he would not be running for reelection. Sen. Flake ended his speech by saying, “As our political culture seems every day to plumb new depths of indecency, we must stand up and speak out. Especially those of us who hold elective office.”

Flake’s comments were clearly intended to trigger an information cascade by breaking away from the status quo of “complicity.” Was Flake successful? Not really.

It’s likely that if there were to be a cascade of defectors from the GOP, previous defections would have already started it. Sen. Murkowski R-AK, Sen. Collins R-ME, and Sen. John McCain R-AZ are the most notable examples of GOP defectors who have spoken out about President Trump, and Flake is just one in a series of these politicians speaking out.

Regardless, I would argue that an informational cascade of the kind that Flake hopes for will never occur simply due to the nature of elections and partisanship. Unlike in a cascade, in politics there is (contrary to what one would assume) a great deal of informational transparency. That is, all members in the prospective cascade (members of Congress and other elected officials) can see both what others do¬†and what they know. Data on voter sentiment and the strength of Trump’s base in each constituency is openly available to each user. Senators Murkowski and Collins are very popular and electorally secure in their relatively moderate states. Other members can see and understand this reasoning. Ultimately the transparency makes the attempt at a cascade fall apart.


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