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Political Parties


... dominant parties in the U.S. are the Republican and Democratic parties ... The major function of the political party is to nominate candidates for public office ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Political Parties

Chapter 5
  • Political Parties

Section 1
  • Parties and What They Do

What is a Party?
  • A political party is a group of persons who seek
    to control government through the winning of
    elections and the holding of public office
  • A more specific definition would be a group of
    persons, joined together on the basis of certain
    common principles, who seek control of government
    in order to bring about the adoption of certain
    public policies and programs

What is a Party?
  • The two dominant parties in the U.S. are the
    Republican and Democratic parties
  • Neither of the two parties are made up of persons
    who are all of one mind
  • Coalition- a union of many persons of diverse
    interests who have come together to get their
    candidates elected to public office

What Do Parties Do?
  • Political parties are essential to democratic
  • Develop broad policy and leadership choices and
    then the options from the parties are sent to the
  • Vital link between people and their government

The Nominating Function
  • The major function of the political party is to
    nominate candidates for public office
  • The nominating function is exclusively a party
  • One activity that most clearly sets political
    parties apart from all of the other groups
    operating in politics

The Informer-Stimulator Function
  • Parties inform the people and stimulate their
    interests and participation in public affairs
  • Parties try to inform and stimulate votes in
    several ways
  • Mostly they campaign for their candidates
  • Both parties try to shape stands that will
    attract as many voters as possible

The Seal of Approval Function
  • A party grants seals of approval to its
  • In choosing its candidates, the party tries to
    see that they are men and women who are both
    qualified and of good character

The Governmental Function
  • Government can be described as government by
  • Most appointments to executive offices, both
    federal and state are made with an eye to
    political considerations
  • Provide a basis for the conduct of government
  • Its political parties that regularly provide the
    channels through which the two branches are able
    to work together

The Watchdog Function
  • Parties act as watchdogs over the conduct of the
    publics business
  • Usually the function of the party out of power
  • Plays a role as it criticizes the policies and
    behavior of the party
  • Tries to convince voters that they should throw
    out the party in control and put them into power

Section 2
  • The Two Party System

  • Minor Party- a party which is less widely
    supported in the political system
  • Two Party system is what most people are familiar
    with in the U.S.

Reasons for the Two-Party System
  • Throughout most of history, the United States has
    been a two-party nation
  • Several aspects help contribute to the mainstay
    of the two-party system in the U.S.

The Historical Basis
  • The two-party system is rooted in the beginnings
    of the nation
  • Since the beginning of the first two political
    parties of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists

The Force of Tradition
  • The fact that the nation began with a two-party
    system is a large part why the system has
  • Most Americans accept the idea of the two-party
    system because there has always been one

The Electoral System
  • Some features of the electoral system promote the
    existence of only two major parties
  • One of these features is the single member
    district arrangement
  • Almost all elections held in the country are
    single-member district elections- only one
    candidate is elected
  • Plurality- largest number of votes cast for the

The Electoral System
  • Another reason is that American election law is
    shaped to preserve, protect and defend the
    two-party system
  • In most states it is difficult for minor parties
    and independent groups to nominate their

The American Ideological Consensus
  • Americans over time have shared the same ideals,
    basic principles, and the same patterns of belief
  • America has been divided at times
  • The Civil War and years in the great depression
    and for some time of issues of racial
    discrimination and the Vietnam war
  • Nation has not been divided by economic class,
    social status, religious beliefs or national

Multiparty Systems
  • Multiparty arrangement is a system in which
    several major and many lesser parties exist
  • In a typical multiparty system parties are based
    on interest, economic class, religion,
    sectionalism, or political ideology
  • Problem is that it does not support the
    single-member districts

One-Party Systems
  • One-party system is in fact a no party system
  • You have some instances in which the Democrats
    used to dominate the Southern U.S.
  • Two-party competition has spread throughout the
    country in the past years

Membership of the Parties
  • Membership in a party is voluntary
  • You do see members of society align themselves
    with one another of the parties at least for some
  • Party allegiance comes from the parents
  • Economic status may also influence the party
  • Age, place of residence, level of education and
    work environment also contribute to party choice

Section 3
  • The Two Party System in American History

The Nations First Parties
  • Beginnings of the two-party system can be traced
    to the battle over the constitution
  • The Federalist party was the first political
    party in history
  • The federalists were the party of the rich and
    the well-born
  • Urged for liberal interpretation of the

The Nations First Parties
  • Jefferson led the opposition to the federalists
  • For the common man
  • Favored a limited role for the new government
  • The party created by Jefferson was the
  • Eventually became the Democrats

The Nations First Parties
  • The two parties first clashed in the election of
    1796 in which John Adams won
  • Jefferson worked tirelessly to build up his party
    and their efforts paid off in winning the
    election of 1800
  • Federalists never returned to power

The Eras of One-Party Domination
  • The history of the American Party system can be
    divided into four major periods
  • Period 1- 1800-1860
  • Period 2- 1860-1932
  • Period 3- 1932-1968
  • Period 4- Start of the new Era

The Era of the Democrats, 1800-1860
  • Jeffersons election marked the beginning of this
  • The Era of Good Feeling
  • 9 of 13 Presidents either Democrats or Democratic
  • Other Notable Democrats
  • Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
  • Spoils system
  • Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)

The Era of the Republicans- 1860-1932
  • The Civil War signaled the beginning of the
    second era of one party domination
  • For 75 years, the republicans dominated the
    national scene
  • Abraham Lincoln started the trend
  • Electorate- people eligible to vote
  • Other Notables
  • Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
  • 12 of 16 presidents during this time were

The Return of the Democrats- 1932-1968
  • The Great Depression brought Franklin Roosevelt
    back to power and the democrats back into power
  • Other Notables
  • Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)
  • John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
  • 4 out of 5 presidents during this time were

The Start of a New Era
  • Richard Nixon made a successful return to
    presidential politics in 1968
  • This starts a string of Republicans who come to
    power until 1993
  • Other Notables
  • Ronald W. Reagan (1981-1989
  • George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)

Section 4
  • The Minor Parties

Different Minor Parties
  • Over 8 minor parties fielded candidates for the
    2000 election
  • We know that none of these parties had any real
    chance of winning
  • Does not mean that they are unimportant
  • We will find out what the parties contribute to
    American politics

Minor Parties in the United States
  • Minor parties are difficult to describe and
  • Some limit their efforts to a particular stance,
    others to a single state
  • Most of these parties have been short lived
  • 4 distinct minor parties that can be identified

Minor Parties in the United States
  • Ideological parties- based on a particular set of
  • Most of these minor parties have been built on
    Marxist thought
  • Ex. Socialist, Socialist Labor, Socialist worker
    and Communist parties
  • Others emphasize individualism and call for doing
    away with most of governments functions and
  • Have not been able to win too many votes

Minor Parties in the United States
  • Single Issue Parties- concentrate on a single
    public policy matter
  • Free Soil party, Know Nothings
  • Deal with issues like spreading of slavery and

Minor Parties in the United States
  • Economic protest parties- rooted in periods of
    economic discontent
  • Do not have a clear-cut ideological base, but
    rather show disgust with the major parties
  • Focus their anger on imagined enemies such as
    Wall Street bankers, railroads or foreign imports
  • Mostly sectional parties
  • Each of the parties have disappeared as the
    nation has climbed out of difficult economic

Minor Parties in the United States
  • Splinter parties- parties hat have split away
    from one of the major parties
  • More important minor parties in the country
  • Ex. Bull Moose progressive party of 1912
  • Most splinter parties have formed around some
    strong personality- most often one who has failed
    to win his major partys presidential nomination

The Key Role of Minor Parties
  • Do have an impact on American politics and on the
    Major parties
  • National conventions to pick presidential
  • A Strong third party can play a spoiler role in
    an election
  • Most important role of the minor parties have
    been those of critic and innovator

The Key Role of Minor Parties
  • Unlike major parties, Minor parties have been
    willing and able to take clear cut stands on the
    controversial issues
  • Many of the important issues have been brought
    about by the minor parties
  • Once brought to the forefront by minor parties,
    ideas often become adopted by the major parties

Section 5
  • The Organization of Political Parties

The Reality of Political Parties
  • Both parties are highly decentralized
  • Fragmented, disjointed and they are often beset
    by factions and internal squabbling
  • Neither party has a chain of command running from
    the national, state and local levels
  • State party organizations are loosely tied to the
    partys national structure

The Role of the Presidency
  • Presidents party is usually more solidly united
    and more cohesively organized than the opposition
  • President is the party leader
  • Can use his popularity and his power to make
    appointments to federal office and to dispense
    other favors
  • Other party has no one in a comparable position
  • A number of personalities that form a group of

The Impact of Federalism
  • Federalism is a major reason for the
    decentralized nature of the two major political
  • Main goal is to gain control of government by
    winning office
  • Because the governmental system is decentralized,
    so too are the major parties that serve it

The Role of the Nominating Process
  • Major cause of party decentralization
  • First, nominations for an office are made in the
  • Second, the process of nominating can be and
    usually is a dividing process
  • Where there is a fight over a nomination, that
    puts one member of the same party against another

National Party Machinery
  • Four elements in the structure of both major
    parties at the national level

The National Convention
  • The national convention is basically the parties
  • Meets in the summer of every presidential
    election year to nominate the partys
    presidential and vice presidential candidates
  • Also adopts party rules and the writing of its

The National Committee
  • National Committee handles the parties affairs
    between conventions
  • On paper, the national committee appears to be
  • In reality, does not have too much power
  • Most of its work is on the next national
    convention in 4 years

The National Chairperson
  • National chairperson heads up the national
  • Chosen to a 4 year term by the national committee
  • Decision is made following the national
    convention and made by the nominated presidential
    candidate and ratified by the committee
  • Directs the work of the partys headquarters and
    its small staff in Washington
  • Between years of nomination, attention is focused
    on strengthening the party, promoting party
    unity, raising money, recruiting new voters and
    preparing for the next presidential season

The Congressional Campaign Committees
  • Campaign committees exist in both houses
  • Work to reelect incumbents and save the seats of
    retiring party members
  • Try to unseat incumbents in other parties
  • Members of these committees are chosen by their
    colleagues and serve for two years

State and Local Party Machinery
  • At the state and local levels, party structure is
    largely set by State law

The State Organization
  • Party machinery at the state level is built
    around a state central committee headed by a
    state chairperson
  • Together, the chairperson and the committee work
    to further the partys interests in the state
  • Building an effective organization and party unity

Local Organization
  • Generally follow the electoral map of the state
    with a party unit for each district in which
    elective offices are to be filled
  • In some places, local party organizations are
    active year around

Three Elements of the Party
  • Three basic elements
  • The party organization
  • The party in the electorate
  • The party in government

The Future of Major Parties
  • Political parties have been in a period of
    decline since the late 1960s
  • Can be traced to several factors
  • Sharp drop in number of voters willing to
    identify themselves as Rep. or Dem.
  • An increase in Split-Ticket voting
  • Various structural changes and reforms
  • Changes in technology of campaigning for office
  • Growth of single issue organizations
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