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Do the Words Matter? Party Platforms and Ideological Change in Republican Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  D O THE W ORDS M ATTER ? P ARTY P LATFORMS AND I DEOLOGICAL C HANGE IN R EPUBLICAN P OLITICS Julia Azari PhD Candidate, Political Science, Yale University and Stephen M. Engel PhD Candidate, Political Science, Yale University Friday, April 13, 2007 Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Chicago, IL ABSTRACT: The national party platforms are often denigrated as meaningless with planks allotted to party activists as a means to quell internal dissent and diffuse intra-party fractionalization. However, we suggest that platforms do, in fact, matter precisely because they serve as a justification for ideational change and redirection of the governing party. We test this claim by examining three mechanisms of how platforms affect politics: they (1) signal faction strength, (2) create expectations of accountability among relevant issue publicans and thus serve as instruments to shift existing policy, and (3) function as linguistic and communications resources for politicians and candidates to reframe their rhetoric. We build this theory by examining the ideological disjunction apparent in the 1976 and 1980 Republican party platforms, focusing particularly on that party’s shifting on abortion, women’s rights, and family values. Evidence confirming two of these mechanisms suggests that platforms may have some effect on altering the terms of the political universe following an election.

Authors: Azari, Julia. and Engel, Stephen.
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D
O THE
W
ORDS
M
ATTER
?
P
ARTY
P
LATFORMS AND
I
DEOLOGICAL
C
HANGE IN
R
EPUBLICAN
P
OLITICS






Julia Azari
PhD Candidate, Political Science, Yale University
and
Stephen M. Engel
PhD Candidate, Political Science, Yale University
Friday, April 13, 2007
Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association
Chicago, IL

ABSTRACT:
The national party platforms are often denigrated as meaningless with planks
allotted to party activists as a means to quell internal dissent and diffuse intra-party
fractionalization. However, we suggest that platforms do, in fact, matter precisely because they
serve as a justification for ideational change and redirection of the governing party. We test
this claim by examining three mechanisms of how platforms affect politics: they (1) signal
faction strength, (2) create expectations of accountability among relevant issue publicans and
thus serve as instruments to shift existing policy, and (3) function as linguistic and
communications resources for politicians and candidates to reframe their rhetoric. We build
this theory by examining the ideological disjunction apparent in the 1976 and 1980 Republican
party platforms, focusing particularly on that party’s shifting on abortion, women’s rights, and
family values.
Evidence confirming two of these mechanisms suggests that platforms may have
some effect on altering the terms of the political universe following an election.


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