Article in a refereed journal
This article shows that the disloyalty of political brokers causes party fragility. Lacking distinctive brands, organization, and activists to mobilize individuals, parties “hire” local notables to broker votes among a local, nonpartisan constituency. However, brokers may be unreliable agents, regularly changing political allegiances in search of better returns for their brokerage among the module of voters they control. This free agency from brokers hinders durable party–voter linkages and results in electorally vulnerable parties. Measuring how brokers influence parties is empirically complex, but taking advantage of the fact that in Brazil these agents are also local candidates, this article demonstrates the negative electoral consequences of brokers' free agency on party performance. Natural experiments and an unexpected, temporary institutional reform that discouraged disloyalty for brokers demonstrate this relationship.