No Moderates Left in California Politics: Author Seth Masket on KCRA

by kris bishop on April 16, 2010

Click below to watch the April 12, 2010 KCRA interview with Seth Masket, author of No Middle Ground (2009):

Masket_cover_small No Middle Ground
How Informal Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures
by Seth E. Masket

Cloth: 978-0-472-11689-8
Ebook Formats: 978-0-472-02212-0
Request Exam Copy

Despite the debilitating effects of partisanship on democratic government, political parties have gained strength in state governments as well as in Washington in recent years. In many cases these parties function as machines, manipulating votes and determining which candidates can credibly compete in a primary.

Focusing on the history and politics of California, Seth E. Masket reveals how these political machines evolved and how they stay in power by directing money, endorsements, and expertise to candidates who often tend toward the ideological extreme. Masket’s provocative conclusion argues that typical politicians are not inherently partisan. Instead, partisanship is thrust upon them by actors outside the government with the power to manipulate primary elections, to the detriment of the democratic process.

Seth E. Masket is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver. Visit the author’s website: and blog:


“Masket’s analysis is fresh, convincing, and interesting. It offers a new perspective on American political parties.”
—David Mayhew, Yale University

“Masket develops an original, insightful account of the polarization of American politics over the last few decades. It is rooted in the development of new methods by which policy motivated activists have organized to influence political parties in nominations and in policy-making. He provides a convincing explanation for one of the most important political phenomena of the last forty years.”
—John Aldrich, Duke University

No Middle Ground takes on the very hard task of documenting behind-the-scenes partisan behavior in the especially murky world of pre-nomination maneuvering.”
—Casey Dominguez, University of San Diego

“This is a fascinating book. It is one of the best studies of the ways that parties and politics get conducted in any American state. Masket shows that legislators can be perfectly content without parties that control agendas and does a terrific job of explaining the transition from free-wheeling legislators to rigidly partisan voting blocs.”
—Sam Popkin, University of California, San Diego

No Middle Ground makes a significant contribution to the study of American parties and legislative politics.”
—Matthew Green, Catholic University of America

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