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Concepts for Analyzing Political Parties (cont)

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said that the "strategic interaction" among parties, so essential to coalition theory, simply "collapses" in two party systems (1990, 586).

Electoral strength: In party theory, measures of electoral performance occasionally serve as dependent variables in studies assessing the "effectiveness" of party organizations. Despite the popular academic opinion that party organization counts for little in turning out votes, practical politicians think otherwise. The expansion and strengthening of the Republican Party's national organization, particularly in the area of campaign finance, was done "to win elections and to maximize the number of elective offices won" (Sorauf and Wilson 1990, 199). Similarly, the strengthening of American state and local parties, observed by Gibson et al. (1989) and mentioned earlier, was aimed at being more effective, not less. As Huckfeldt and Sprague said, "If party activity is so ineffective, why do parties and candidates continue to invest their resources in the activity?" (1992: 84). Their detailed study of party mobilization in one U.S. community stressed the "catalytic function of party activity" in the neighborhood, not just its direct effects on individual voters. "Party organizations mobilize the faithful, and the activity of the faithful sends a message to the rest of the public (p. 84)."

As already noted, one study (Dalton 1985) found that centralized parties were more able to communicate their message to voters. Others have noted a tendency toward increased organization and centralization of power in certain conservative European parties as they employed the new campaign techniques of mass media and polling to combat the mass organization of leftist parties, which, in turn, responded in kind--producing a "contagion from the right" (Epstein 1980 257). Deschouwer (1986) sought to determine what type of party organization was most effective for parties across countries. He distinguished between "electoral" effectiveness, measured in votes won and "political" effectiveness, measured by both cabinet participation and governmental leadership. Relating these measures to various measures of party organization and the environment, Deschouwer found results consistent with the contingency model of organizations. It holds that there is no "best way" to organize for effectiveness, which is contingent on environmental factors.

Participation in government: More commonly, however, the concept of governmental status has served as an independent variable in studies on the "impact" of political parties on governmental policies under the assumption of party government (Wildemann 1986, Katz 1987). A spurt of such research in the late 1970s used governmental status in conjunction with party ideology. (Small parties typically were ignored in this research; see Müller-Rommel and Pridham 1991.) Studying 25 western industrial countries, Hewitt (1977) found a correlation between the strength of socialist parties in the legislature and expenditures for social services. In Hibbs' study (1977) of twelve nations, the longer socialist labor parties were in the executive from 1960 to 1969, the lower the mean unemployment rate but the higher the inflation rate.[28] Cameron's analysis (1978) of public expenditures in 18 countries found that "the dominance in government of leftist parties was a sufficient condition for a relatively large increase in the scope of public activity" (p. 1253). In a pair of articles (1978a and 1978b), Cowart looked over time at socialist dominance in government in seven nations and concluded that leftist governments were more likely than rightist governments to respond to changing economic conditions and to employ more diverse policy instruments.

Castles (1982) edited an important collection of cross-national studies of party impacts on policies in democratic states. Using various measures of the legislative and cabinet strength of leftist and rightist parties in analyzing public expenditures in 18 nations, Castles' own study found that the "best measure of partisan control typically 'explains' between 20 and 50 percent of the variance in expenditure" (p.85). The other studies in his book showed fewer party effects. Schmidt's research (1982) on macroeconomic policies (tax base, unemployment, inflation) questioned how much party control really matters and looked to "extra-parliamentary" politics for explanation. Armingeon's article (1982) on redistribution of income also downplayed the role of leftist parties alone in the absence of the commitment by union wage negotiators to party goals (p.269), and Arnhem and Schotsman (1982) reached a similar conclusion about the role of labor unions. In short, this set of studies loosened the linkage between leftist parties' governmental status and government policy made in the earlier studies. Lehner and Schubert (1984) and Weede (1990) addressed such mixed findings.

Budge and Keman (1990) advanced the study of party influence on government policy by separating cases in which the parties governed singly from those of government by party coalition. They rigorously set out a series of four general assumptions and some auxiliary ones (p.42), from which they drew implications for policies pursued by governments. For example:

(iv) Each party in the government will have some of its preferred policies put into effect: for instance, governments including an Agrarian party will pursue policies more
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