In this episode, Chris Martin (@Chrismartin76) talks to Matt Grossmann (@MattGrossmann), associate professor of political science at Michigan State University and director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. He specializes in the study of interest groups and parties. His latest book is Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, co-authored with David A. Hopkins.
0:00 What do undergraduates know about the parties?
04:00 Should we trace change to the Gingrich era?
07:35 Matt’s new book on asymmetric politics
15:00 People project their mirror image on the opposite party
17:10 Does Donald Trump represent the core of Republican party?
20:00 Comparing American parties to parties elsewhere
24:11 New research #1: Do the rich buy off politicians?
28:53 How this relates to Heterodox Academy’s mission
31:58 Think tanks and ideology
More about Matt Grossmann: http://mattgrossmann.tumblr.com/
Books we discussed:
Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group-Interest Democrats by Matthew Grossmann and David A. Hopkins
It’s Even Worse Than It Look: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism by Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann
Think Tanks in America by Thomas Medvetz
[On polarization] I think we may be overlearning a little bit on the public level. I wouldn’t want students to come away thinking the public is divided into two clear factions, that they disagree with each other on everything, and they’re sort of driving the parties. I think it’s worth separating what elites are doing in Congress and the ways that the public is changing.
Each party tends to understand itself but they sort of misunderstand the other political party, so the Democrats commonly portray the Republican party as just a vehicle for the rich, for big business, and they’re just about distributing benefits to their constituencies, and that’s just basically the Democrats seeing the Republicans as the mirror image of themselves. And in similar terms, the Republicans tend to see the Democrats as a more ideological party than they are, that is, they see the Democrats as favoring big government for its own sake, favoring centralization for its own sake and rather than just pursuing lots of benefits for their constituencies and trying to solve their constituencies’ problems.
Our only difference with [social psychological research] is that those studies tend to compare liberals with conservatives, which is a pretty reasonable thing to do, except that when it comes to the American public, if you’re comparing conservatives, you have the fact that almost all Republicans are conservatives, whereas only about the half the Democratic party is liberals, so you get these comparisons that are really your modal Republican with your—kind of—half of the Democratic Party. There’s a whole other section of the Democratic Party that really doesn’t identify as liberal, and might have a tie to the Democratic party that’s just based on one issue or based on the sense that the party represents their minority group and so they’re not necessarily going to follow those same practices that you would get if you’re comparing liberals and conservatives.