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The Democratic and Republican Networks: How to Compare

To begin, this is just one possible theory that explains the differences in the networks and political processes of the Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S. — there’s certainly no hard proof that can be found for this kind of thing.

Many people tend to view our major political parties in the U.S. as simply two different factions that equally seek to represent certain interest and ideological groups — however, there are some glaring differences in the ways they gather their coalition, the kinds of candidates they like to elect, and how those candidates run their campaigns in the general election. Here’s a fact that you might find surprising — though it’s common to picture the Democratic primary in 2016 as one of “Liberal Wing vs. Centrist Wing,” the reality is that, as explained in the article, Hillary Clinton actually won, or at the very least matched Bernie Sanders’ support among those who identified as “liberal” or “very liberal” — that race was not as much one of ideology as it was of identity, which ensured Clinton the win because of her widespread appeal to fundamental voting groups in the Democratic coalition like African Americans, Latinos, and women (the votes of whom which she decisively won throughout the primary). This is commonly the case in Democratic primaries simply because of the way their voting network is built, often with specific and discrete social groups represented directly by policies popular within those communities. This actually plays into the commonly held political idea that, generally speaking, Democrats have to put more effort into unifying their party around a candidate (because of the diversity of the party), and particularly in presidential elections, that candidate has to have star power. The article posits that this is quite different from the Republican Party, which is more ideological (certainly more homogeneous at the very least, in terms of interest groups) in its voting bloc — in looking at nomination acceptance speeches all the way back from 1948 until 2012, they found that Republican candidates had much higher mentions per paragraph of conservative principles than Democrats had of liberal principles, and Democrats beat them slightly less so in mentions of social/interest groups. I think it’s actually quite clear from the information presented in this article that, regardless of whether their analysis of identity-or-ideology as a base for voting choice is correct, the structure of their social networks and the ways in which they choose candidates is quite different; I wonder if it would be then possible to use this conclusion, combined with our knowledge of how ideas spread within networks, for either party to more effectively exploit weaknesses in their opposing voting blocs during elections.


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November 2018