In this new view, Democrats and Republicans have each developed an “extended party network” that connects politicians and citizens to a wide variety of other powerful actors that include interest group organizations, financial donors, policy experts, strategists and consultants, and — especially for Republicans — media sources. Scholars of party networks argue that these other figures are sufficiently integrated into the organizations of each party that they should properly be considered components of the party itself — especially because they can sometimes pressure the titular “leaders” of their party to satisfy their demands.
Hannity has never held elective office, does not work in government and does not serve on a party committee. In fact, as of 2014, Hannity was not even registered as a Republican voter. But Moore showed that he thinks Hannity holds more sway over Alabama Republican voters — and his own electoral fortunes — than the party’s top senator. For political scientists and other students of American politics, treating Hannity as a party leader in his own right — and one with no small degree of influence in today’s GOP — seems more appropriate than restricting our definition of the party organization to its formal apparatus alone.