Political Party - An organization that seeks political power by electing people to office so that its positions and philosophy become public policy.
Party Functions: Mobilizing support and building coalitions; Encouraging stability in the political system; Providing accountability for public policy; Running candidates for office; Providing a cue for voters; Formulating policy through a national party platform. Organize the Competition: Parties exist primarily as an organizing mechanism to win elections and thus win control of government. Unify the Electorate: Parties help unify the electorate and moderate conflict, at least within the party. Parties have a strong incentive to fight out their internal differences but come together to take on the opposition. Organize the Government: Although political parties in the United States are not as cohesive as in some other democracies, they are important when it comes to organizing our state and national governments. Congress is organized along party lines. The party that controls the White House, the governor’s mansion, or city hall gets patronage, which means it can select party members as public officials or judges. Translate Preferences into Policy: American parties have had only limited success in setting the course of national policy, especially compared to countries with strong parties. The European model of party government, which has been called a responsible party system, assumes that parties discipline their members through their control over nominations and campaigns. The American system is largely candidate-centered; politicians are nominated largely on the basis of their qualifications and personal appeal, not party loyalty. Loyal Opposition: The party out of power closely monitors and comments on the actions of the party in power, providing accountability. When national security is at issue or the country is under attack, parties restrain their criticism. There is usually a polite interval following an election—known as the honeymoon—after which the opposition party begins to criticize the party that controls the White House, especially when the opposition controls one or both houses of Congress. The caucus played an important part in pre-Revolutionary politics and continued to be important in our early history as elected officials organized themselves into groups or parties and together selected candidates to run for higher office, including the presidency. As early as the 1820s, however, critics were making charges of “secret deals.” During the 1830s and 1840s, a system of party conventions was instituted to draw more voters and reduce the power of the bosses to pick party nominees. States adopted the direct primary, in which people could vote for the party’s nominees for office. Today, the direct primary is the typical method of picking party candidates. In states with open primaries, any voter, regardless of party, can participate in the primary of whichever party he or she chooses. This kind of primary permits crossover voting—Republicans and Independents helping to determine who the Democratic nominee will be, and vice versa. Other states use closed primaries, in which only persons already registered in that party may participate. Some states, such as Washington and California, experimented with blanket primaries, in which all voters could vote for any candidate, regardless of party. The Iowa presidential caucuses, in which a record-setting 347,000 Iowans participated in 2008 are highly publicized as the first important test of potential presidential nominees.
Factors Behind the American Two-Party System: Two parties arose during the ratification of the Constitution, contributing to “it’s always been this way” mentality and the belief that Americans generally agree on key matters Parliamentary systems usually have a head of state, often called the president, but they also have a head of the government, often called the prime minister or chancellor, who is the leader of one of the large parties in the legislature In Germany, the president’s responsibilities are mostly ceremonial, and he or she is expected to function in a politically neutral way. In democracies like Germany with multiparty systems, because no one party has a majority of the votes, coalition governments are necessary The multiparty system favors the existence of minor parties by giving them incentives to persevere and disproportionate power if they will help form a government In some multiparty parliamentary systems, parties run slates of candidates for legislative positions, and winners are determined by proportional representation, in which the parties receive a proportion of the legislators corresponding to their proportion of the vote. In our single-member district , winner-take-all system, only the candidate with the most votes in a district or state takes office In multiparty systems, parties at the extremes are likely to have more influence than in our two-party system, and in nations with a multiparty system, legislatures more accurately reflect the full range of the views of the electorate. In contrast, our two-party system tends to create centrist parties that appeal to moderate elements and suppress the views of extremists in the electorate. Multiparty parliamentary systems often make governments unstable as coalitions form and collapse. In contrast, two-party systems produce governments that tend to be stable and centrist, and as a result, policy changes occur incrementally.
1. Third party that exists to promote an ideology rather than to win elections. Based on certain social, economic, or political ideas. Not powerful but long lasting - The socialist parties, which have run candidates in virtually every presidential election in this century are ideological parties 2. Third party that arises in response to issues of popular concern which have not been addressed by the major parties. Appear during tough financial times. Criticize the economic actions and plans of the major parties - William Jennings Bryan of the Populist Party did not win the presidency in 1896, but he came very close 3. Third party formed around one particular cause. Fade away once the issue has been resolved – Examples: Prohibition Party, Green Party 4. Third party formed by a dissatisfied faction of a major party. Usually have a strong leader who lost a major party’s nomination - Strom Thurmond was a States’ Rights Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1948. The party formed in protest to the civil rights plan in the Democratic Party platform
Realigning Elections. Also called critical elections, are turning points that define the agenda of politics and the alignment of voters within parties during periods of historic change in the economy and society. Realigning elections are characterized by intense voter involvement, disruptions of traditional voting patterns, changes in the relationships of power within the broader political community, and the formation of new and durable electoral groupings Political scientists generally agree that there have been four realigning elections in American party history: 1824, 1860, 1896, and 1932. Jackson, brilliantly aided by Martin Van Buren, a veteran party builder in New York State, knitted together a winning combination of regions, interest groups, and political doctrines to win the presidency in 1828 and begin the Democratic party. Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 with the support not only of financiers, industrialists, and merchants but also of many workers and farmers. For 50 years after 1860, the Republican coalition won every presidential race except for Grover Cleveland’s victories in 1884 and 1892. William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate for president in 1896, was a talented orator but lost the race to William McKinley. The 1896 realignment differs from the others, however, in that the party in power did not change hands. In that sense, it was a converting realignment because it reinforced the Republican majority status that had been in place since 1860. The 1932 election was a turning point in U.S. politics. In the 1930s, the United States faced a devastating economic collapse. Roosevelt promised that his response to the Depression would be a “New Deal” for America.
The same early leaders who so frequently stated their opposition to them also recognized the need to organize officeholders who shared their views so that government could act to pass its measures. The Washington administration had to fashion a coalition among factions. This job fell to Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton, who built an informal Federalist party. Secretary of state Jefferson and other officials, many of whom despised Hamilton and his aristocratic ways as much as they opposed the policies he favored, were uncertain about how to deal with these political differences. When Jefferson left the cabinet at the end of 1793, many who joined him in opposition to the administration’s economic policies remained in Congress, forming a group of legislators opposed to Federalist fiscal policies and eventually to Federalist foreign policy, which appeared “soft on Britain.” This party was later known as Republicans, then as Democratic-Republicans, and finally as Democrats.
The once “Solid South” that the Democrats could count on to bolster their legislative majorities and help win the White House has now become the “Republican South” in presidential elections and increasingly in congressional elections as well. Congress has had divided control with one party having a majority in the House and the other in the Senate. Although there have been significant periods of unified party control of government during the past half century, they have been more volatile and short-lived than earlier realignments. The current system of party identification is built on a foundation of the New Deal and the critical election of 1932, events that took place three-quarters of a century ago. In the early 1980s, there seemed to be a possible voting realignment, when Republicans won several close Senate elections and gained a majority in that body. Democrats, however, won back the Senate in 1986, and until 1994, they appeared to have a permanent majority in the House.
National Party Leadership : In charge of the national party, when it is not assembled in convention, is the national committee. Delegates are elected in primaries, caucuses, or state conventions. Each major party has a national chair as its top official . The national committee formally elects the chair, but in reality, this official is the choice of the presidential nominee The chair of the party without an incumbent president has considerable independence yet works closely with the party’s congressional leadership. In addition to the national party committees, there are national congressional and senatorial campaign committees Party Platforms : Every four years, each party adopts a platform at the national nominating convention. The typical party is often a vague and ponderous document, the result of many meetings and compromises between groups and individuals. Many politicians contend that platforms rarely help elect anyone, but platform positions can hurt a presidential candidates. Parties at the State and Local Levels : In addition to the national party committees, there are national congressional and senatorial campaign committees. The state and local levels are structured much like the national level. Members of state committees are usually elected from local areas. Below the state committees are county committees, which vary widely in function and power. Political parties are central to the operation of our government. Members of Congress take their partisanship seriously. Congressional staffs are also partisan. Presidents select nearly all senior White House staff and cabinet members from their own party. Partisanship is also important in presidential appointments to the highest levels of the federal workforce. The judicial branch of the national government, with its lifetime tenure and political independence, is designed to operate in an expressly nonpartisan manner. The landmark case establishing the principle of judicial review, Marbury v. Madison (1803), concerned the efforts of one party to stack the judiciary with fellow partisans before leaving office The importance of party in the operation of local government varies among states and localities. In most states and many cities—parties are important to the operation of the legislature, governorship, or mayoralty. Judicial selection in most states is also a partisan matter.
Party Registration. When voters register to vote in the states, they are asked to state their party preference. They then become registered members of one of the two major parties or a third party, although they can change their party registration. Party Activists : People who invest time and effort in political parties are often called party activists. They tend to fall into three broad categories: party regulars, candidate activists, and issue activists. Party Identification : Partisanship is what political scientists call party identification— a psychological attachment to a political party that most people acquire in childhood from their parents. This type of voter may sometimes vote for a candidate from the other party, but without a compelling reason to do otherwise, most will vote according to their party identification. Party identification is the single best predictor of how people will vote. Partisan Dealignment : Some experts argue that Independents are increasing in number, suggesting that the party system may be in a period of dealignment, in which partisan preferences are weakening and there is a rise in the number of Independents.
This unit rule was replaced by a system of proportionality in which candidates won delegates in rough proportion to the votes they received in the primary election or convention in each state The reforms following 1968 achieved greater diversity of representation among delegates and, as noted, meant that more states adopted primaries. But the new process also meant that elected officials who wanted a voice in determining presidential candidates had to run for delegate to the national convention. State Republican parties were urged to encourage broader participation by all groups, including women, minorities, youth, and the poor. The Republican party has long been better organized than the Democrats. In the 1970s, the GOP emphasized grassroots organization and membership recruitment. Analysts point first to the long-run adverse impact on political parties of the Progressive movement They also point to the spread of nonpartisan elections in cities and towns and to the staggering of national, state, and local elections that made it harder for parties to influence the election process. Legislation limiting the viability and functions of parties was bad enough, say the party pessimists, but parties suffer from additional ills. The rise of television and electronic technology and the parallel increase in the number of campaign, media, and direct-mail consultants have made parties less relevant in educating, mobilizing, and organizing the electorate.
Political parties are the means by which politicians secure office, participation in the parties can help determine the course of American government. Parties also provide opportunities to learn about how other people see issues and to learn to compromise.
Although parties cannot exert tight control over candidates, their ability to raise and spend money has had a significant influence. Under the post–Watergate reforms (Federal Election Campaign Act or FECA, as amended in 1974), contributions to the parties from individuals were limited to $20,000, whereas the limit for political action committees (PACs) was $15,000. After the 1976 election, both parties pressed for further amendments to FECA, claiming that campaign finance reforms resulted in insufficient money for generic party activities such as billboard advertising and get-out-the-vote drives. The 1979 amendments to FECA and the interpretations of this legislation by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) permitted unlimited soft money contributions to the parties by individuals and PACs for these party-building purposes. After repeated defeats in one or both houses of Congress for 15 years, Congress regulated this unrestricted soft money under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) in 2002. In 2004, individual giving to both parties set new records, and the DNC and RNC raised as much in hard money from individuals and PACs as they had raised in both hard and soft money combined in 2000 or 2002.
In the last several election cycles, the party committees have concentrated their contributions and coordinated expenditures in the most competitive contests. Parties, like individuals and groups, can now also spend unlimited amounts for and against candidates as long as the expenditures were independent of the candidate or a party committee. Unlike soft money, party-independent expenditures had to use money raised with normal hard money contribution limits. During the debate over BCRA, and in the court case on its constitutionality, some, such as political scientist Sidney Milkes, speculated that BCRA’s soft money ban would weaken political parties. The surge in individual contributions has demonstrated the opposite; the DNC and RNC could and did find an alternative to unregulated money. Holding the United States aside, wealthier countries (by GDP per capita) have broader regulations than do less-wealthy countries.
Political Parties: Essential To Democracy Political parties have existed since the first decade of the new government’s existence. Americans have always had ambivalent feelings about them. Parties are necessary, and they perform vital functions. But they have always been complicated, full of internal conflict, disorganized and decentralized, rigid but capable of being taken over by reformers. Parties often mirror American society and are deeply rooted in the democratic process.
What Parties Do for Democracy•Party Functions •Organize the Competition •Unify the Electorate •Inspire and Inform Voters •Translate Preferences into Policy •Provide Loyal Opposition •Organize Government •Help Govern •Act as Watchdogs •Nominate Candidates •Ensure Candidate Quality•Party Systems – Multiparty and Two Party System•Minor Parties: Persistence and Frustration
Party Systems Multiparty Two party Coalition government • Winner-takes-all is necessary system Minor parties have an • “Wasted vote” incentive to persevere syndrome discourages minor Proportional parties representation • Government tends Governments tend toward stability toward instability • Policy change is incremental The U.S. is a two-party system; most other democracies have a multiparty system
Party SystemsAlthough the United States has many minor parties, only thetwo major parties have much of a chance to win elections.Multiparty systems are almost always found in countries thathave a parliamentary government, in contrast to ourpresidential system. Barriers to Minor-Party Success • History • Tradition • Consensus
Minor Parties: Persistence and Frustration Ideological Parties Protest Parties Single Issue Parties Splinter Parties Libertarian Party Green Party Reform Party
The purpose of Political Parties is to a. recruit potential officeholders b. simplify alternatives c. unite the electorate d. all of the above
Which of the following is not a present-day function of Political Parties a. distribution of welfare handouts b. stimulation of interest in public affairs c. recruitment of political leadership d. linkage between the mass public and government
A Brief History of American Political Parties•Our First Parties•Political parties emerged largely out of practical necessity.Federalists and Anti-Federalists•In 1787, parties began to form as citizens debated theratification of the U.S. Constitution.•Realigning Elections •1824 Andrew Jackson and the Democrats •1860 The Civil War and the Rise of the Republicans •1896 A Party in Transition •1932 FDR and the New Deal Alignment•Divided Government•The 2008 Election: Witnessing History
American Party History• Federalist Party• Anti-Mason Party• Two minor anti-slavery parties in the 1840s: – Liberty Party – Free-soil party• Greenback Party• People’s Party• American Socialist Party• Socialist Labor Party
The Last Half Century •Major shifts in party demographics have occurred in recent decades. •Since 1953, divided government, with one party controlling Congress and the other the White House, has been in effect twice as long as united government. •Elections during the past few decades have seen power change hands numerous times without any long-term shifts in the population in party allegiance. CONTROL OVER NATIONAL POLITICS HAS GONE BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE PARTIES SINCE THEIR1789 1800 1860 BEGINNING 1932 1968 2000 2011Federalist Anti-Federalist; Republicans Dem R D R D R D R D Democrats
Minor Parties in the United StatesYear Party Presidential Percent Electoral Candidate Popular Votes Vote Received1832 Anti-Masonic William Wirt 8% 71856 American Milliard Fillmore 22 81 Democratic John C. Breckenridge 18 72 (Secessionist)1860 Constitutional Union John Bell 13 791892 People’s (Populist) James B. Weaver 9 221 Bull Moose Theodore Roosevelt 27 88 (Progressive)1912 Socialist Eugene V. Debs 6 01 Progressive Robert M. LaFollette 17 13
Minor Parties in the United StatesYear Party Presidential Percent Electoral Candidate Popular Votes Vote Received1 States’ Rights Strom Thurmond 2% 39 (Dixiecrat)1948 Progressive Henry A. Wallace 2 01 American George C. Wallace 14 46 Independent1 National Unity John Anderson 7 02 Reform Ross Perot 19 03 Reform Ross Perot 8 02000 Green Ralph Nader 3 0 Reform Pat Buchanan 0 02000 Independent Ralph Nader 0 02008 Reform Ralph Nader # #
American Parties TodayParties as Institutions•National Party Leadership•Party Platforms•Parties at the State and LocalLevelsParties in Government • In the Legislative Branch • In the Executive Branch • In the Judicial Branch • At the State and Local Levels
American Parties Today (continue)Parties in the Electorate•Party Registration When voters register to vote in the states, they are asked to state their party preference.•Party ActivistsPeople who invest time andeffort in political parties•Party IdentificationPartisanship is what politicalscientists•Partisan Dealignment?
Party IdentificationWhy do yousuppose 1/3 to40% of theelectorateconsidersthemselvesnon-partisan?
Party Identification, 1950 – 2000sAre the Political Parties Dying?
Are the Political Parties Dying?•Critics of the U.S. party system make threeallegations against it.(1) parties do not take meaningful and contrasting positionson most issues,(2) party membership is essentially meaningless, and(3) parties are so concerned with accommodating the middleof the ideological spectrum that they are incapable of servingas an avenue for social progress.•Some analysts fear that parties are in severe declineor even mortally ill.•Legislation limiting the viability and functions ofparties was bad enough, say the party pessimists, butparties suffer from additional problems.
Are the Political Parties Dying?Reform Among the Democrats•Agreed to a number of reforms, responding to the disarrayand to disputes about the fairness of delegate selectionprocedures•Established a process that led to greater use of directprimaries for the selection of delegates to the nationalconvention and greater representation of younger voters,women, and minorities as elected delegates.•Abolition of the winner-take-all rule (the unit rule) that gaveall delegates to the primary or convention winner.Reform Among the Republicans•Republicans did not make changes as drastic as those madeby Democrats•Did give the national committee more control overpresidential campaigns
Are Political Parties Dying?Continued Importance of Parties•Political parties are vital to the functioning ofdemocracy, organizing electoral competition, unify largeportions of the electorate, simplify democracy for voters,help transform individual preferences into policy, andprovide a mechanism for opposition.•Parties are just as important in organizing thegovernment, straddling the separation of powers as fellowpartisans cooperate between the executive and legislativebranches or between the House and Senate.•Parties provide an important way for citizens toinfluence government.
How Parties Raise and Spend MoneyHow Parties Raise and Spend Money•Political parties rely on contributions fromindividuals and interest groups to fund their activities.•Because of the close connection, political parties havewith office holders, the courts have long permittedregulation of the source and amount of money peopleand groups can contribute to parties, as well as theamount parties can spend with or contribute tocandidates.
Effects of the 2002 Campaign Finance Reforms (BCRA)
How Parties Raise and Spend MoneyParty Expenditures•Party committees arepermitted to makecontributions to candidatesand can spend a limitedamount of money in whatare called “coordinatedexpenditures.”•Compared to othercountries, the U.S. has lesspublic funding of politicalparties and candidates.
Which of these is NOT a characteristicof a realigning election?a. Weak voter involvementb. Disruptions of traditional voting patternsc. Changes in the relationships of power within the broader political communityd. The formation of new and durable electoral groupings
A major cause for the persistence of thetwo-party system in the United States isthata. the major parties have become disciplined and issue-oriented.b. election districts have a single incumbent.c. third parties have failed to point out issues.d. major party ideas and platform are too much like religious dogma.
The _____ party evolved out of thecrisis over slavery.a. Whigb. Democraticc. Modern Republicand. Second Federalist
The _____ party put together a grandcoalition lasting from the Civil Waruntil 1932.a. Whigb. Democraticc. Republicand. Bull Moose
Third-party leaders have included all ofthe following excepta. Ralph Naderb. Ross Perotc. George Wallaced. California Governor Jerry Brown
When a voter must be registered in aparty to vote in the primary, it is called a. closed b. open c. direct d. crossover
After passage of the BCRA, ________.a. Political parties were weakened because of limits on fundingb. There was a surge in individual contributions resulting in a strengthening of political partiesc. There was no change in contributionsd. There was a short weakening of contributions followed by a modest increase