Bobbie Macdonald is a PhD student in political science at Stanford University. He studies the behavior of political elites, intergroup co-operation, and charitable giving using network methods, text analysis, and experiments. In short, he is trying to understand why politicians do what they do and why we can’t all just get along (with a particular focus on Sub-Saharan Africa). He has an MSc in International Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a BA in International Development from the University of Winnipeg.
When do elected representatives in young democracies allocate their eﬀorts to-wards national issues rather than towards particularistic goals that only beneﬁt their constituents? Existing explanations emphasize the eﬀects of electoral institutions, non-credible pre-electoral promises, and entrenched local interests on the incentives to pur-sue particularistic goals. In this study, we propose an alternative explanation for the persistence of particularism in young democracies, highlighting the diﬃculty of achiev-ing broad-based co-operation on national issues (e.g. judiciary reform, civil service reform) when legislators believe they are surrounded by a majority of particularistic types. We examine the dynamics of this coordination failure by estimating a structural topic model from a newly constructed panel of parliamentary speeches for every Kenyan Member of Parliament (MP) between 1963 and 2012. We then analyze how electoral competition at the constituency level aﬀects MP behavior and apply social learning models to examine how MPs update their strategies in response to the behavior of their colleagues.