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Do the Words Matter? Party Platforms and Ideological Change in Republican Politics
Unformatted Document Text:  32 process of intra-party faction power battles necessitating greater attention to the 1972 or 1964 platforms to uncover the foundations of the planks comprised in the 1980 Republican platform. We suggest three mechanisms specifying how platforms matter in terms of shaping the political universe, namely (1) they signal the strength of one intra-party faction relative to others; (2) they are cues to relevant issue publics about party commitments and thus are mechanisms of accountability; and (3) they serve as a resource of other candidates to frame their election rhetoric. Using content analysis of media coverage of platform battles curing the 1976 and 1980 Republican convention as well as communications between interest groups and the Reagan administration, we find initial evidence to support the first two mechanisms. Next steps in this research agenda will include gathering evidence to test the third hypothesized mechanism. To do this, we would inquire as to whether incumbent Republican senators seeking re-election in 1982 re-frame their campaign rhetoric to align with the 1980 platform as compared with their 1976 election rhetoric. If the 1982 rhetoric demonstrates a marked change from the 1976 rhetoric, then we can more confidently claim that the platform is affecting the candidates rather than the candidates re-writing the platform. Yet the evidence gathered and analyzed thus far is compelling. Evidence confirming these two mechanisms suggest that platforms may have some effect on altering the terms of the political universe following an election. As such, understanding how one intra-party faction acquires more power within a party to control a platform becomes increasingly important if we are to understand more fully how ideological change of American parties occurs. We see the need to be more attuned to interest group interaction with the party, and particularly to how this interaction both shapes the content of platforms and signals policy commitment and politician accountability down the line. Furthermore, attention to this dynamic will help to gain leverage on the shifting power

Authors: Azari, Julia. and Engel, Stephen.
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process of intra-party faction power battles necessitating greater attention to the 1972 or 1964
platforms to uncover the foundations of the planks comprised in the 1980 Republican platform.
We suggest three mechanisms specifying how platforms matter in terms of shaping the
political universe, namely (1) they signal the strength of one intra-party faction relative to
others; (2) they are cues to relevant issue publics about party commitments and thus are
mechanisms of accountability; and (3) they serve as a resource of other candidates to frame
their election rhetoric. Using content analysis of media coverage of platform battles curing the
1976 and 1980 Republican convention as well as communications between interest groups and
the Reagan administration, we find initial evidence to support the first two mechanisms. Next
steps in this research agenda will include gathering evidence to test the third hypothesized
mechanism. To do this, we would inquire as to whether incumbent Republican senators
seeking re-election in 1982 re-frame their campaign rhetoric to align with the 1980 platform as
compared with their 1976 election rhetoric. If the 1982 rhetoric demonstrates a marked change
from the 1976 rhetoric, then we can more confidently claim that the platform is affecting the
candidates rather than the candidates re-writing the platform. Yet the evidence gathered and
analyzed thus far is compelling. Evidence confirming these two mechanisms suggest that
platforms may have some effect on altering the terms of the political universe following an
election. As such, understanding how one intra-party faction acquires more power within a
party to control a platform becomes increasingly important if we are to understand more fully
how ideological change of American parties occurs. We see the need to be more attuned to
interest group interaction with the party, and particularly to how this interaction both shapes the
content of platforms and signals policy commitment and politician accountability down the
line. Furthermore, attention to this dynamic will help to gain leverage on the shifting power


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