Polarization without Parties: The Rise of Legislative Partisanship in Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature
Despite a history of nonpartisanship dating back to the 1930s, the Nebraska state legislature appears to be polarizing. How does polarization happen without parties? Using interviews, roll call votes, and campaign finance records, we examine politics in the modern Nebraska Unicam. We find that term limits, which began removing incumbents from office in 2006, created opportunities for the state’s political parties to recruit and finance candidates, and they have done so in an increasingly partisan fashion. Social network analysis suggests that there is an increasing level of structure to campaign donations, with political elites less likely to contribute across party lines than they used to be. The results offer a compelling example of parties overcoming an institutional rule designed to eliminate them.