Political Parties By Loren Miller
The Two Party System • The Constitution is silent about political parties and about such important party matters as conventions and primaries. • Because political parties were known in 1787, the Founding Fathers’ omission was probably deliberate. • In Washington’s Farewell Address, he expressed the attitude of many of the Founding Fathers when he warned against the “baneful effects of the spirit of party.”
The Two Party System • It is also probable that some members of the Philadelphia convention realized the inevitability of political parties in American government. • James Madison in Federalist #10 wrote that different interests “grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views.”
The Development of the Two Party System • Whatever the thoughts and wishes of the men in Philadelphia, by the beginning of Washington’s second administration, two political parties were already operating. • Factional disputes within Washington’s Cabinet between Hamilton and Jefferson led to Jefferson’s resignation from the Cabinet and the development of the Republican Party (this is what the Jeffersonians called themselves) • Jeffersonians primarily small property owners and farmers • Federalists primarily an elite group of men of wealth
The Development of the Two Party System • The objective of a political party is to gain control of government by winning elections. Responsible Party Model: parties campaign on coherent ideological platforms Big Tent Model: parties try to appeal to the broadest range of potential voters
The Development of the Two Party System • The United States has always had a two-party system because we have only one winner per election (single member constituency) • While there are minor parties around, they rarely last very long because they don’t win elections • Major parties make it very difficult for minor parties to get on the ballot.
The Development of the Two Party System • In Texas, for a minor party to get on the ballot they must obtain almost 50,000 valid signatures within 75 days (by June 29) of the Democratic and Republican primaries. • In Texas, for an independent candidate to get on the ballot requires more than 80,000 valid signatures within 60 days of the Democratic and Republican primaries.
Why We Have a Two-Party System Election Results: Party A 40% Party B 30% Party A wins as they have the most votes Party C 20% Party D 10% Party D, which received only 10% of the votes tries to make a deal with one of the other three parties. You incorporate some of my ideas and I’ll throw my support to you. Also, how difficult would it be for Party D to raise funds knowing that it is unlikely to win. So Party D merges and most support Party B, but some support Party C
Why We Have a Two-Party System Election Results: Party A 40% Party B 38% Party A wins as they have the most votes Party C 22% Party C, which received only 22% of the votes tries to make a deal with one of the other three parties. You incorporate some of my ideas and I’ll throw my support to you. Also, how difficult would it be for Party C to raise funds knowing that it is unlikely to win. So Party C merges and most support Party B, but some support Party A And we end up with two major broad based parties
Why Political Parties? • Political parties provide for popular control of government. • To gain control of government requires politicians to compete for the votes of the people. • No longer are claims to power based on birth, family, religion or class • A candidate is required to establish broad political support within the party.
Why Political Parties? • Parties reconcile competing interests. • Most public policies reflect major compromises among competing blocs and interests. • To win, parties must develop programs and policies that appeal to many groups and voting blocs. • Parties develop issues and educate the public • During election time, parties focus on issues and sharpen the differences between the contending sides. • They educate the public while seeking to influence it.
Why Political Parties? • Parties recruit political talent • During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, persons interested in a political career had to work within the party structure waiting for a nod from party leaders before seeking office • Nominations were made by the caucus-convention system that, as a rule, were under the tight control of the leaders. • With the development of primary elections the recruitment process changed. Now candidates may jump in without serving an “apprenticeship.”
Political Parties • American political parties exist on four levels: • National • State • County • Precinct • A political party is loosely organized with power diffused among the different levels. • State and local party organizations are free to decide their positions on party issues
Political Party Structure in Texas • The Democratic and Republican Parties have both national and state party structures. • As mandated by the Texas Election Code, Texas’s two major parties are alike in structure. • A “major party” is one that received at least 20% of the vote in the last election for governor • Each has permanent and temporary organizational structures
Political Party Structure in Texas • Major political parties are required to select their candidates by primary elections. • Minor political parties (between 2% and 20% of the vote) can select their nominees either by convention or by primary elections. • If a party’s nominee for governor receives less than 2% of the vote, they are required to nominate candidates by the conventionmethod.
Temporary Party Organization • The temporary party organization of each party assemble for a few hours or days in general election years (even numbered years) to allow party supporters a chance to participate in the party’s decision-making process. • Primaries • Conventions • Precinct, County or District, and State
Party Primaries • Primaries have been a part of Texas elections since the Terrell Election Law in 1912 mandated that major political parties use primaries to select their nominees. • Prior to 1912, parties were free to make their nominations however they pleased, with nominees usually being chosen by nominating conventions composed of party leaders. • Progressives promoted primaries as a means of expanding political participation to the masses.
Party Primaries • Primaries require separate voting booths for each party in every precinct in the state. • Minor parties use conventions to nominate candidates as they are much less expensive than primaries • Party primaries are usually held the first Tuesday in March • Texas uses a closed primary system • .
Party Primaries • To win a party primary in Texas, a candidate must receive a majority of the votes. • This is because of the state’s one party history • “Raiding” • Parties may also include nonbinding referendum items (casino gambling, status of illegal immigrants, public prayer, etc.) • If no candidate receives a majority, then a runoff is required one month later. • Added expense • Very low voter turnout especially during non-presidential election years
Precinct Convention • On the evening of the March primary after the polls have closed, Texans who voted earlier in the day may attend precinct conventions, usually in the same location as the polling place. • A person who votes in one party’s primary may not attend the convention of the other party • In presidential election years the turnout is much higher than during the “off years.” • Typically less than 4% of those who voted in the primary • This makes it possible for a determined minority to gain control and dominate
Precinct Convention • Agenda: • Adopt resolutions to be passed on to the county or senatorial district convention • Select delegates to the county or senatorial district convention
County or District Convention • In the week following the precinct convention, delegates selected at those conventions meet at the county or senatorial district level. • Agenda: • Adopt resolutions to be considered at the state convention • Select delegates and alternates to the state convention
State Convention • Both the Democrats and the Republicans hold their state conventions in June. • Agenda: (non-presidential year) • Elect state party officers • Elect 62 members to the state executive committee • Two from each senatorial district • This committee selects a chair and a vice-chair • Adopt a party platform • Certify to the Secretary of State the candidates nominated by their party
State Convention • Agenda: (presidential year) • Elect state party officers • Elect 62 members to the state executive committee • Two from each senatorial district • This committee selects a chair and a vice-chair • Adopt a party platform • Certify to the Secretary of State the candidates nominated by their party • Elect Texas delegates and alternates to the national convention • Select electoral college candidates
Permanent Party Organization • The permanent structure of the party consist of people selected to lead the party organization and provide continuity between election cycles. • Precinct Chair • County Chair • County Executive Committee • State Executive Committee • State Chair and Vice Chair
Precinct Chair • The precinct chair is the jumping off point for political involvement. • The precinct chair is elected by the voters in the primary election • They serve a two-year term and there is no limit to the number of terms they may serve • The precinct chair is the point of contact between the party and the people who support it. • A precinct chair does as little or as much as they want to do. • Usually responsible for holding the primary in their precinct and presiding over the precinct convention. • Some promote the party by helping with voter registration, mailing out newsletters, arranging transportation to the polls and soliciting campaign contributions.
County Chair • The county chair is elected by the voters in the primary election and serves a two-year term. • Presides over the county executive committee which is composed of all precinct chairs in the county. • Acceptance of candidates on the primary ballot, printing of ballots and renting the voting machines is their responsibility. • They certify the names of the party’s nominees to the secretary of state’s office.
County Executive Committee • The county executive committee: • Assembles the temporary roll of delegates to the county convention. • Canvasses the returns from the primary for local offices and helps the county chair prepare the primary ballot. • Accepts filing fees and conducts a drawing to determine the order of the candidates on the primary ballot.
State Executive Committee • A the state convention delegates choose one man and one woman from each of the 31 senatorial districts to serve on the state executive committee. • They also select a chair and a vice chair (one man and one woman)
State Executive Committee • Responsibilities Include: • Determining the site of the next state convention • Canvassing statewide primary returns • Certifying the nomination of party candidates • Produce and distribute press releases and other publicity • Fund raising and coordinating special projects • These responsibilities have necessitated the hiring of full time staff.
Temporary Party Organization Permanent Party Organization State Convention State Chair and Vice Chair Elects Elects Delegates to County or District Convention State Executive Committee Elects Delegates to County Executive Committee Precinct Convention County Chair Precinct Chair May Attend Primary Voters Elect Elect
Early Politics (1845-1873) • No political parties came into existence during the brief period of the Texas Republic. • Political factions tended to coalesce around personalities (pro or anti Sam Houston) • This situation continued for a few years after statehood, although continual efforts were made to organize the Democratic and Whig parties.
Early Politics (1845-1873) • By the 1850s, the Democrats were firmly entrenched in Texas. • The Democrats were still split based on personalities. • Pro Sam Houston forces began calling themselves Jacksonian Democrats (Unionists) • Anti Sam Houston faction began calling themselves the Calhoun Democrats • In the first three presidential elections after annexation there was considerable Whig votes, but they did not approach those of the Democrats.
Early Politics (1845-1873) • As the Civil War approached, the Democratic Party became split into Unionists and states’ rights factions. • In the course of the Civil War, Texas politics became firmly aligned with the Democratic Party.
Early Politics (1845-1873) • During the period of Reconstruction (1865-1873), the Republican Party controlled Texas politics. • The Reconstruction acts passed by the U.S. Congress purged all officeholders with a Confederate past. • Congress also disenfranchised all Southerners who had even held a state or federal office before secession and who later supported the Confederacy.
Early Politics (1845-1873) • In 1869, Republican Governor E.J. Davis’ administration quickly became unpopular with Texas’s Anglo majority. • He took control of voter registration • He appointed more than 8,000 public officials • His administration was noted for graft, corruption and high taxes
Agrarian Politics (1875-1900) • A very difficult time for Texans: • Aftermath of Reconstruction • Two depressions • The growing pains of a pioneer state • The beginnings of industrialization • The Democratic Party was the dominant party but it had to contend with sizable Republican votes in Presidential elections and with formidable competition at the state and local levels from the Greenback and Populist Parties (farmer’s discontent)
Agrarian Politics (1875-1900) • After 1884, the Greenback Party disappeared in Texas, but agricultural discontent continued and produced the larger Populist Party. • The Republican Party survived during this period, partly dominated by Blacks. It polled large presidential votes but was of little consequence in state politics.
Agrarian Politics (1875-1900) • In the early 1890s, the Democrats, under the leadership of James Hogg, introduced some notable reforms. • He regained over a million acres of land illegally obtained by the railroads • He drove many insurance companies from the state • He sponsored anti-trust and railroad commission measures and a number of other regulatory measures • The return of prosperity in 1897 coupled with the Democratic reforms ended the Populist Party in Texas.
One Party Dominant (1900-1970) • The turn of the century ushered in a new period of Texas politics, characterized by the complete dominance of the Democratic Party. • Having adopted Populist issues, Democratic candidates faced no opposition from Populist candidates. • Prosperity had returned and was destined to continue until the Depression of the late 1920s. • The Republican vote dwindled noticeably after 1900. • Texans became used to conducting their politics within the shell of a single party and the primary became the election.
One Party Dominant (1900-1970) • Two factions emerged within the Democratic Party: conservatives and liberals. • Fighting between these two factions was often as fierce as between two separate political parties. • In 1923, R. B. Creager of Brownsville, won the post of Republican national committeeman for Texas and held it until his death in 1950. • He used his position to dispense political patronage whenever the Republicans held the presidency (not often).
One Party Dominant (1900-1970) • By the late 1940s, Republican presidential candidates began enjoying greater support from the Texas electorate. • With the backing of conservative Democratic governor Alan Shivers (Shivercrats/Texas Regulars), Eisenhower carried the state in 1952 and again in 1956. • Alan Shivers was so popular with Republicans that he won both the Republican and Democratic nominations for governor in 1956 (cross filing)
One Party Dominant (1900-1970) • In 1960, Lyndon Johnson was on the ballot both for Vice President and for reelection to the Senate. When he became Vice President, Texas held a special election to fill his Senate seat. • In an election with a very low voter turnout, John Tower, a political science professor from Midwestern University, became the first Republican Senator from Texas since Reconstruction.
Emerging Two Party (1970-1990) • In the late 1940s, a majority of conservative Democrats began to support the Republican ticket. However, at the state and local level, the Democratic Party remained in control. • By the 1970s, the Republican Party enjoyed greater electoral support in Texas. No longer was the winner of the Democratic primary assured of victory in the November election.
Emerging Two Party (1970-1990) • In 1978, Bill Clements became the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. • In the 1980s, Republican voters elected growing numbers of candidates to the U.S. Congress, the Texas legislature, and county courthouse offices. The GOP began to dominate local politics in suburban areas around the state.
Emerging Two Party (1970-1990) • In 1992, Bill Clinton became the first Democratic president elected without carrying Texas. • By 1993, both Texas U.S. Senators were Republican (Hutchison and Gramm). • In 1994, George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards for governor and Republicans won six of the ten state races that year.
Republican Dominance (2000- ) • In 2000, Governor Bush ran for and was elected President, easily carrying Texas. In Texas, every Republican candidate for statewide office also won. • By 2004, the Republican Party had a majority in both the Texas House and Texas Senate, elected both U.S. Senators, all statewide offices as well as a majority of representatives in the U.S. House. Party Composition