Henry Farrell explains why I'm wrong about conservative activists and John McCain. What's more, he does so by quoting a George Tsebelis book:
Contra Matt, there’s a good case to be made that it would be rational under many circumstances for conservatives to oppose McCain. George Tsebelis, in his book Nested Games, makes just this argument about the internal dynamics of the UK Labour party in the 1980s. The relevant chapter is entitled “Why Do British Labour Party Activists Commit Political Suicide?” As Tsebelis discusses, left-wingers within the Labour party often opposed more moderate candidates, even when there was a real risk that this would lead to defeat for the party in the general election. This is because they were playing a nested game, in which they were concerned not only about a one shot electoral victory, but also in getting others to take them seriously over the longer term.
I sometimes tell people that Tsebelis' Veto Players is a book I always have mixed feelings about recommending. I think it's incredibly insightful and explains an enormous amount of very important things. But it's also a very long, hard, slog of a read and something you probably don't want to undertake. But very informative. So I guess I'd better pick up Nested Games, too.
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