No Middle Ground

How Informal Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures
Seth E. Masket

The new political machines fuel partisanship by supporting only candidates who follow the party's agenda


Despite concerns about the debilitating effects of partisanship on democratic government, in recent years political parties have gained strength in state governments as well as in Washington.  In many cases these parties function as machines. Unlike machines of the past that manipulated votes, however, today's machines determine which candidates can credibly compete in a primary.

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

Seth E. Masket is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver.

Praise / Awards

  • "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 at San Diego

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

  • "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 California at San Diego

  • "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 40 years."
    —John Aldrich, Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of Political Science, Duke University

  • "Masket's analysis is fresh, convincing, and interesting. It offers a new perspective on American political parties."
    —David Mayhew, Sterling Professor of Political Science, Yale University

  • "This book is a welcome addition to the American politics literature. Scholars from a variety of subfields-most notably polarization, legislative politics, political parties, and state politics-will want to add this book to their reading lists."
    —Matthew S. Levendusky, University of Pennsylvania, Public Opinion Quarterly

  • "Masket deserves praise and gratitude for the rich blend of qualitative and quantitative research underlying this tightly-written and thoughtful book . . . We should regard No Middle Ground as a splendid preface to an important field and an invitation for others to follow his lead."
    —John J. Pitney, author of The Art of Political Warfare (Oklahoma, 2000), The Forum

Look Inside

Copyright © 2009, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Classroom Resources

Discussion Questions | Word doc

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Review Public Opinion Quarterly | 11/9/09

Read: Review Abstract Politics | 2/2/10

Product Details

  • 240 pages.
  • 11 Tables, 19 Figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02212-0

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

Add to Cart
  • $30.95 U.S.

  • Kindle

Add to Cart

Choosing any of the above format options will take you to the appropriate e-retailer to complete your purchase. Pricing may vary by individual e-retailer. Please see e-retailer site for purchasing information.

For more information about our Digital Products, including reading systems and accessible formats, visit our Digital Products page.

Related Products

Add to Cart
  • $29.95 U.S.



  • California politics, legislatures, state politics, Assembly, parties, polarization, informal parties, local parties organization, cross-filing, party discipline, parties, legislative polarization, party organization, informal party