About this Blog
About The Author
Email Me

RealClearPolitics HorseRaceBlog

By Jay Cost

« The Most Absurd Post-Election Spin | HorseRaceBlog Home Page | Pinochle and the Politics of Health Care »

How To Divide a Party, In Three Easy Steps!

So, you've decided to become the leader of a big political party. Only one problem: it's too big! What to do?

Well, you've come to the right place. Here at the Horse Race Blog, we've developed a three-step guide to making that broad party a little more...narrow. Just follow these simple instructions and your majority party will be smaller and a little easier to handle in no time!


Step 1: Participate in a bitterly divisive nomination battle against a prominent opponent, making sure that you only win certain factions within the party. Leave your opponent to win other factions, even down to the very last contest. If possible, make condescending remarks about how bitter, clingy, and xenophobic some of those other factions in your own party are. This will ensure that they remain perpetually skeptical of your administration.

Having won the nomination, make no serious effort to unite this divided and fractured party. Do not nominate for vice-president somebody who is a prominent member of the opposing faction. For instance, if you're a Northern/urban candidate looking to alienate Southern/rural members of your party - make sure that the well-regarded governor of Tennessee does not find his way onto the ticket. Also, no unity tickets. Make your primary opponent swallow hard and endorse you, then give the veep nomination to somebody else.

If you complete Step 1 perfectly, you should see early signs of success. Namely, lifelong members of your party will vote for the opposition, perhaps for the first time ever. If they do this in an election that you win decisively anyway, all the better. That's how you know you're off to a good start.

Step 2: Design your cabinet so that there are few (if any) prominent members of the opposing faction installed in any important posts. If you followed Step 1 perfectly, it means your primary opponent is still out in the cold. You might have to nominate her to a prominent spot. That's less than ideal, but it is understandable. However, make no additional gestures to those other factions in the party.

That popular governor from Tennessee? He should be nowhere to be found. That senior statesmen from Georgia? Again, nowhere. How about that bipartisan bridge-builder from Louisiana? I don't know where he is, but he better not be at your cabinet meetings. After all, what you don't want are those hard feelings being softened because of the composition of your government.

Also, think big. It's important to be as broadly dismissive as possible. For instance, your cabinet should not only sample almost exclusively from the North, it should also draw heavily from urban areas. Bottom line: don't think one-dimensionally about your cabinet. It can be used to disgruntle multiple factions in your party at once!

Finally, it's smart to staff your West Wing with as many "hacks" from your campaign as possible. After all, these are the people who helped you split your party into two pieces in your quest to win the nomination. It's a good idea to keep them around, for there is a lot more work on that front left to do!

Step 3: These opposing factions in your party will now be thoroughly frustrated. Good work! It's time to kick it up a notch - by aggressively, relentlessly pursuing a legislative agenda that they obviously can't support.

Ideally, you'll want the leadership in the Congress to be chock full of fellow Northern/urban members. You can't control that yourself, but if you're so lucky as to have leaders equally committed to shrinking the size of your party - you can let them do most of the work. Take a back seat and just exhort them to follow their instincts. They'll know what to do!

Again, think multi-dimensionally. For instance, if the focus is on health care, encourage them to push through a massive expansion of government. That's bound to aggravate the South, which has never been too thrilled about the idea of a big federal government. But also, do not try to stop your urban allies if they push for a "robust" public option, which would be a particularly tough pill for rural members of Congress to swallow.

Other things like a massive government bureaucracy for "cap-and-trade," subsidization of the auto industries, and retaining your predecessor's bailout of (mostly Northern!) banks are all excellent ways to tweak those pesky Jacksonian "friends" of yours! Also, encourage those congressional leaders to help you blow a huge hole in the deficit, so that those Southern deficit hawks know that there's a new sheriff in town.

Ultimately, what you want are not simply defections for the major bills, but also defections on small ball procedural matters. That's a sign that your rank-and-file "allies" have realized that your legislative program is so unpopular in their districts that they must oppose you on every vote. Voting against the rule is halfway to joining the opposition, which means you're halfway to your goal!


Following these steps to the letter will ensure a nicely divided party heading into the midterm elections. Of course, the mainstream media will not notice this, as they will be obsessing over the comparatively insignificant divisions in the opposition. But take heart! You have now finished the hard work necessary for long term success: a smaller political party that is less able to build a majority coalition in years to come. Congratulations!

That's what you wanted, right?

Follow me now on Twitter!

-Jay Cost