My research uses qualitative and statistical methods to produce innovative findings on political regimes, regime transitions, political parties, and Latin American politics. My main line of research examines channels through which former dictators and their allies have protected their core interests and continued to exert influence in nascent democracy.
I examine the post-democratization fates of political parties founded by former dictators and other high-level authoritarian elites (i.e., so-called authoritarian successor parties, or ASPs). An emerging scholarly consensus attributes the electoral success of some ASPs in nascent democracy to their vast antecedent strength, which supplies them with a marked competitive advantage against opponents. I challenge this consensus, arguing that antecedent organizational strength cannot explain ASP success in much of Latin America, where some of the most successful ASPs embarked on democracy in positions of severe organizational weakness. How have inchoate and habitually weak ASPs sometimes become major and enduring electoral actors in nascent democracy? Put briefly, they have done so by capturing a committed nucleus of political and economic elites, whose material and symbolic resources facilitate further party-organization building and the construction of multi-class constituencies in nascent democracy.
I further underscore the importance of two moments in the process of elite capture. The first moment, occurring in dictatorship, consists in the foundation of an authoritarian project. Such projects lay a foundation for ASPs’ eventual success by elevating a particular coalition of political and economic elites and enshrining its long-term interests in authoritarian institutions. The second moment, occurring in the run-up to democratic transition and its immediate aftermath, consists in ASPs’ adoption of strategic intransigence. Strategic intransigence, which denotes immoderation in terms of ASP parliamentary behavior, policy programs, and public discourse, brings elites to the ASP fold by signaling ASPs’ continued commitment to the defense of those elites’ interests.
I develop and test my argument using a combination of statistical and detailed, qualitative analysis of select ASPs: namely, the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) and National Renewal (RN) parties of Chile, the Fujimorista Party of Peru, and the National Democratic Action (ADN) party of Bolivia. My analysis draws on original data compiled on all Latin American ASPs from 1900 and 2015 and more than 100 interviews with ASP leaders in Chile and Peru.