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American Political Parties


A political party is a group of voters, activists, candidates, and office ... Parties recruit and run candidates for public office under the party label. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Political Parties

American Political Parties
What are Political Parties?
  • A political party is a group of voters,
    activists, candidates, and office holders who
    identify with a party label.
  • Parties recruit and run candidates for public
    office under the party label.
  • Parties try to organize and coordinate the
    activities of government officials under the
    party name.

The Role of Political Parties in a Democracy
  • Many political scientists believe that parties
    are essential to democracy.
  • The political party is seen by some as the main
    instrument of popular sovereignty and majority
  • Parties provide a way for the people to keep
    elected officials responsive and responsible
    through competitive elections.

Parties and Majority Rule
  • Parties mobilizing activities contribute to
    democracy by educating people about politics.
  • Elections create an incentive for parties to
    include as many voters as possible under their
    umbrella, with winning support from a majority
    being the goal of each party.
  • Parties try to broaden their appeal by running
    candidates from many ethnic, racial, and
    religious groups.

The Two-Party System
  • Most nations have either one-party systems or
    multiparty systems.
  • Most Western democracies have multiparty systems.
  • But two parties have dominated the political
    scene in the United States since 1836.

Why Only 2 American Parties?
  • Winner-take-all electoral system
  • Legislative seats are awarded only to first place
    finishers in each district.
  • Institutional rules
  • Congress and State legislatures provide no power
    base for minor parties.

The Evolution of American Party Democracy
  • Hamilton and Jefferson, as heads of the
    Federalist and Anti-Federalist groups
    respectively, are often considered 'fathers' of
    the modern party system.
  • By 1800, this country had a party system with two
    major parties that has remained relatively stable
    ever since.

Democrats and Republicans
  • From the presidential elections of 1860 to the
    present, the same two major parties have
    contested elections in the United States
  • Democrats
  • Republicans.

  • 1854 Anti-slave activists met in Ripon, WI
  • 1854 Republicans first met in Jackson., MI.
    The name emphasizes a connection to the
    Democratic-Republican Party.
  • 1856 John Fremont was first presidential
    candidate of a national Republican Party.
  • 1860 Lincoln is the first Republican elected
    President as Republicans replace Whig Party as
    one of the 2 major national parties.

The Elephant (11/7/1884)
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  • 1792 Thomas Jefferson organized opposition to
  • 1798 Officially named the Democratic-Republican
  • 1824 4-way split among D-R
  • 1832 Reunification of Democrats under Andrew
    Jackson presidency. Jacksonian Democrats
  • 1844 Officially re-named the Democratic Party
  • 1848 Democratic National Committee established.

The Tiger
The Donkey Appears (1/19/1870)
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What the party symbols mean.
  • To A Republican
  • Elephant dignified, strong, intelligent
  • Donkey stubborn, silly, ridiculous
  • To A Democrat
  • Elephant bungling, stupid, pompous
  • Donkey humble, smart, courageous, lovable

History of Party Competition
  • 1860 -1876 -- Republican Dominance
  • 1876 -1896 -- Competitive Republican
  • 1896 -1932 -- Republican Dominance
  • 1932 -1952 -- Democratic Dominance
  • 1952 -1968 -- Competitive Democrat
  • 1970 - 2000 -- Neither party dominant
  • 2004 - Start of Republican domination?
  • 2006 Looking toward a competitive 2008?

Realignments and Critical Elections
  • Each period begins with a critical election, a
    landslide by one party.
  • 1860, 1896, 1932, ???
  • Each critical election leads to permanent
    realignment of voter preferences
  • Cycle of dominance - about 40 years
  • 1860 to 1896
  • 1896 to 1932
  • 1932 to 1968

Modern Politics Wither the Realignment?
  • Weve actually been waiting for the realignment
    to follow 1932 for about 30 years.
  • We live in a de-aligned world. Party is not as
    important a cue to voting as it once was.

The Roles of American Parties
  • The two party system has been used to resolve
    political and social conflicts.
  • Mobilizing Support and Gathering Power
  • A Force for Stability
  • Unity, Linkage, Accountability
  • The Electioneering Function
  • Party as a Voting and Issue Cue
  • Policy Formulation and Promotion

3 Views of the Political Party
  • Party as Organization
  • Party in Government
  • Party in the Electorate

The Party in Government
  • The Congressional Party
  • The Presidential Party
  • The Parties and the Judiciary
  • The Parties in State Local Government

The Party-In-The-Electorate
  • The party-in-the-electorate is the mass of
    potential voters who identify with specific
  • American voters often identify with a specific
    party, but rarely formally belong to it.

Third Parties in America
  • Historical Parties
  • American Independence
  • Progressives
  • Bull Moose
  • Free Soil
  • Anti-Masons
  • Socialist
  • Contemporary Parties
  • Libertarian Party
  • Green Party
  • Reform Party
  • American Nazi
  • Socialist Labor
  • Socialist Worker
  • American Constitutional

Third Parties Their Impact on American Politics
  • Rarely win elections. Rarely last long.
  • But, they bring new groups and people into
    politics who often stay involved.
  • Two-party system discourages extreme views.

Third Parties Electoral Impact
  • Minor parties are not a threat to the two major
    parties today (although they may influence who
  • Only eight third parties have won any electoral
    votes in a presidential contest.
  • The third parties that have had some success
    (aside from Ralph Nader in 2000) include

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Impact of 3rd Parties on Issues
  • Prohibition (Prohibition Party)
  • Womens Right to Vote (Prohibition Socialist
  • Immigration Restrictions (Populist Party)
  • Child Labor (Socialist Party)
  • 40 Hour Work Week (Populist Socialist Parties)
  • Progressive Income Tax (Populist Socialist
  • Social Security (Socialist Party)
  • Crime Control (American Independence Party)

The Republicans as a 3rd Party
  • Of course, despite modest electoral successes and
    policy impact via adoption, most third parties
    aspire to share or hold power.
  • Some make it. The Republicans did not start as a
    major party but became the beneficiary of the
    1850s battle over slavery between Whig and
    Democratic Parties.

Q How do our parties enhance democracy and
government effectiveness?
  • Four Answers
  • The responsible party model
  • The retrospective voting model
  • The median voter model
  • Overcoming the separation of powers

Proposals to improve the parties
  • Make the party elements stronger
  • Strengthen ties between elements of the parties
  • More power to the party centers more
  • Make better ties to the public party sentiments
    strengthened in the public.

Critics Reactions to Party Reform
  • Parties are already too strong increases public
  • Proposals to strengthen parties are by those who
    want big govt.