pp. 369-370

The Inevitable Party: Why Attempts to Kill the Party System Fail and How they Weaken Democracy, Seth E. Masket

Reviewed by Daniel Disalvo





In a variety of ways over the last half century, reformers have sought to make the practice of American democracy correspond more closely with the theory of majority rule. However, a spate of recent scholarship argues that these reform efforts often failed to solve the problems they aimed to fix. More often, they generated unintended consequences. While some old abuses may have been eliminated, we now have intense partisan polarization, little trust in government, and majorities reporting that the country is on the wrong track.

In The Inevitable Party, Seth E. Masket joins the current antireform chorus. He argues that efforts to eradicate political parties weaken democracy. Party reform is a game of whack-a-mole: change one part of the party system and the parties adapt and emerge as strong, or stronger, than before. While “the actual substance of party behavior in American politics, over the long run, changed very little in response to various reforms” (p. 6), each reform effort “exacts a price on democracy” (p. 150). Masket concludes by urging “reformers to simply stop reforming” (p. 16).

To make his case, Masket focuses on parties in state government. In five empirical chapters, he examines the consequences of reform in California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Each state has tried diffe

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