Bully for partisanship!

Matthew Yglesias summarizes the advantages of a highly partisan political atmosphere. Back in the days of Dixiecrats and Rockefeller Republicans, when many candidates completely disagreed with their own parties’ platforms, you never knew what you were voting for:

So while pundits may not like it when the parties draw clear distinctions, it seems to me that it’s clearly preferable for the voters to be put in a situation where they feel like they understand the stakes and there’s a relationship between votes cast and policy outcomes.

This is a good point, and one that resonates in Massachusetts, where conservative Democrats often ran against liberal Republicans as late as the 1980s. But one problem that Ygelsias neglects to mention in his post is that clear party divisions can lead to more uncontested elections, as each party’s label becomes toxic in different parts of the country. Here in the Bay State, it’s possible that voters are happy with their all-Democratic congressional delegation and 80 percent Democratic legislature because their representatives vote in predictably liberal ways. But it’s hard to be certain when the Republican Party concludes that it’s futile to even offer an alternative in most elections.