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119 Colum. L. Rev. Online 1 (2019)

handle is hein.journals/sidbarc119 and id is 1 raw text is: 


VOL.  119                  JANUARY   30, 2019               PAGES   1-17


                            Michael S. Kang*


    American   party politics may be as nationally competitive as they have
ever been, but at the same time they are perhaps as unresponsive to aver-
age  citizens as they have been in  a long time. It is this paradox that
Professor  Tabatha  Abu   El-Haj  creatively interrogates in  her  essay,
Networking the Party: First Amendment Rights and the Pursuit of Responsive
Party Government.
     Of course, the major political parties are the subject of constant aca-
demic  criticism these days, but Professor Abu El-Haj's critique of today's
parties is distinctive. Contemporary criticism of the parties largely targets
what  most   see  as the  excessive partisanship  running   rampant   in
American  politics. This hyperpartisanship spills off many ugly byprod-
ucts, including legislative gridlock, democratic unresponsiveness,  and
toxic antipathy  among   partisans.2 Professor Abu El-Haj recognizes all
these symptoms  of hyperpartisanship,  but unlike most critics she identi-
fies and focuses on the parties' withdrawal from traditional associational
politics as the most noteworthy cause.4 The parties, as Professor Abu El-
Haj describes, have increasingly become elite-directed, campaign finance-
focused  vehicles driven overwhelmingly  by  ideological missions. What
have  gradually faded from  party politics are thick social networks that
once  undergirded  the major  parties, in which volunteers, rather than
donors, take the lead.' The consequence, in Professor Abu El-Haj's view,
has  been  that the parties spun  off toward  the ideological extremes,

     *  William G. and Virginia K. Karnes Research Professor of Law, Northwestern
Pritzker School of Law. Many thanks to Christine Thomas and Ella Vacca for outstanding
research assistance.
     1. Tabatha Abu El-Haj, Networking the Party: First Amendment Rights and the
Pursuit of Responsive Party Government, 118 Colum. L. Rev. 1225 (2018).
     2. See Michael S. Kang, Gerrymandering and the Constitutional Norm Against
Government Partisanship, 116 Mich. L. Rev. 351, 411-18 (describing hyperpartisanship's
negative consequences).
     3. See Abu El-Haj, supra note 1, at 1226-27 (listing the ways the United States is
failing to live up to its intended democratic function).
     4. See id. at 1231 (arguing that reforming political parties as associations is the way
to solve the current political crisis).
     5. See id. at 1230 (To the extent there is accountability today, it is almost entirely to
party donors and ideological groups.).
     6. Id. at 1269.


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