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The Promise of Party in a Polarized Age, Russell Muirhead

Reviewed by Marija Anna Bekafigo



Partisanship is a dirty word with a bad reputation. Instead, scholars have advocated bipartisanship in theories of the common good, and politicians promise the same in their campaign speeches. Yet in the American political system, parties are seen as essential to democracy by serving myriad critical functions. For example, they hold elected officials accountable, engage and educate the citizenry, and form legislative majorities. Russell Muirhead’s thought-provoking volume is a defense of “better partisanship, not less partisanship,” which he calls the “party spirit.”

The first part of the book both defines and defends party spirit from a theoretical perspective. It is the good side of partisanship that provokes citizens to vote, volunteer, and unite in protest. Party spirit inspires us to become good democratic citizens. It also brings politicians together to advance the common good. It is akin to the feeling we get when our favorite team is winning, but it also motivates us to put up a good fight when our team is losing. Good partisanship is also knowing when to concede. It does not ask us to leave our principles, convictions, and disagreements behind, but it requires loyalty to the partisan mission (but not blind loyalty), memory (of accomplishments and failures so that goals can be realized), and patience (successes are celebrat

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