American Government and Politics Today Chapter 8 Political Parties
What is a Political Party? • Definition: a group of political activists who organize to win elections, to operate the government, and to determine public policy. • Parties versus interest groups • Parties control • IG influence
Functions of Political Parties • Recruit candidates to run for elective offices at all levels of government • Mobilize citizens to vote and participate in elections • Bear the responsibility of operating government at all levels • Providing organized opposition to the party in power is an essential role for a party that does not control one or another branch of the government.
History of Political Parties • The Formative Years: Federalists and Anti-Federalists • The Era of Good Feelings • National Two-Party Rule: Whigs and Democrats • The Civil War Crisis • The Post-Civil War Period • “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion” • The Triumph of the Republicans
History of Political Parties • The Progressive Interlude • The New Deal Era • An Era of Divided Government • In the years after 1968, the general pattern was often a Republican president and a Democratic Congress. • 2000 Presidential Election (Red state-blue state)
The Two Major Parties Today • The parties’ core constituents • Economic beliefs • Recent economic convergence? • Republican and Democratic Budgets • Democrats have the reputation of supporting the less-well-off, and Republicans the prosperous.
The Three Faces of a Party 1-The people who identify with the party or who regularly vote for the candidates of the party in general elections 2-Party organization • National • Convention delegates • National Committee • National Chairperson
Three Faces of a Party (cont.) • State party organization • Local (grass roots) organization • Patronage and City Machines • Local Party Organizations Today • 3-The Party in Government • Divided Government • The Limits of Party Unity • Party Polarization
Questions for Critical Thinking • Do democratic governments need political parties? If a democratic government has political parties, will the structure always be a two-party system? What factors impact how many political parties will exist? • Is party identification a major factor for voters in presidential elections?
Why Has the Two Party System Endured? • Often, on major issues confronting the country there have been two clear sides. This duality helped to initiate a two-party system and has maintained this system through the present. • Political socialization and practical considerations • The Winner-Take-All Electoral System • Presidential Voting • Popular Election of the Governors and President • Proportional Representation • State and Federal Laws Favoring the Two Parties
The Role of Minor Parties in U.S. Politics • Ideological Third Parties • Splinter Parties • The Impact of Minor Parties • Influencing the Major Parties • Affecting the Outcome of an Election
Mechanisms of Political Change • Realignment: a process in which a substantial group of voters switches party allegiance, producing a long-term change in the political landscape. • The Myth of Dominance • The Myth of Predictability • Is Realignment Still Possible? • Dealignment: a major drop-off in support for the parties. • Independent Voters • Not-So-Independent Voters • Tipping
Questions for Critical Thinking • Why is it difficult for independent candidates or minor party candidates to get elected to Congress? • What inferences can be made about the voting population through the closely divided elections of 2000 and 2004?