These are the questions you need to be able to answer on the test! Check
What coalitions make up the two main political parties in the United States? Why do third parties so often fail in U.S. politics? What effect has dealignment had on political parties? Are there serious policy differences between Democrats and Republicans? How does the Constitution control special interests?
How have interest groups helped to democratize the U.S. political system? Why are interest groups a threat to democracy? What role do interest groups play in setting the political agenda? What techniques do PACs use to get their messages across? How do interest groups achieve and exert their influence?
Few political acts are the work of a single person. Most politically active people work within groups to achieve common political goals. They are political parties, interest groups, and political actions committees (PACs)
Political Parties Not mentioned in the Constitution Framers disliked and hoped to prevent them Since 1800 they are here to stay Goal to unite those who share political beliefs to elected like-minded representatives to pursue legislative goals In return, parties expect loyalty Two party system: Democrats and Republicans Reinforced by electoral system Agreed upon by two parties Difficult for third parties Play a formal role in the process of influencing election outcomes and legislative struggles
Party Characteristics Parties serve as intermediaries between people and the government Parties are made up of grassroots members, activist members, and leadership Parties are organized to raise money, present positions on policy, and get their candidates elected to office. Parties were created outside of the Constitution Important to know: Since 1960, more states have passed laws requiring parties to select candidates through state-run primary elections. Reduced the power of political parties Candidates must raise their own money for primaries, campaign for party’s nomination with little or no support from the party itself. Multiple candidates vying for the nomination can splinter the party membership
Third Parties Third parties that represent an ideology considered too radical are call doctrinal parties. Examples: Socialist Party or the Libertarian Party Single issue parties promote one principle The American Independent Party George Wallace 1968 Segregationist Major impact on elections The Green Party Ralph Nader 2000 Took votes from Al Gore, tipped election to George W. Bush Third Parties form to represent constituencies that feel disenfranchised from both of the major parties. These bolter parties usually united around a feeling that the major parties are not responding to the demands of some segment of the electorate Example: Ross Perot 1996 Presidential election for the Reform Party Do not confuse with independent candidates who run without party affiliation.
Direct result of a system designed to only support two parties. Winner-take-all system for electoral votes Electoral count does not reflect popular vote Additionally, national campaigns using equal, single-member, plurality voting districts require huge sums of money and vast organization. We’ll talk more about this in the module on elections.
The party among the electorate Voters enroll in and identify with Generally vote for candidates who support their party The party in government Government officials belong to political parties They act together to pursue common goals The party organization Made up of political professionals who ▪ recruit candidates and voters ▪ Organize campaign events ▪ Raise money to promote the party
Recruit and nominate candidates Educate and mobilize voters Provide campaign funds and support Organize government activity Provide balance through opposition of two parties (loyal opposition) Reduce conflict and tension in society
Not hierarchal National, state, and local organizations are largely autonomous and serve different functions One doesn’t take order from another Party committees-Geographic subdivisions Locally ▪ precinct, town, ward ▪ Electoral district level coordinate ▪ Get-out-the-vote drives ▪ Door to door canvassing ▪ Leaflet distribution
County level ▪ Coordinate local elections ▪ Organize the efforts of committees on precinct level ▪ Monitor local elections State committees ▪ Raise money ▪ Provide volunteers to staff campaign events ▪ Support candidates for both state and national office Powerful congressional district and senatorial committees ▪ National elections their responsibility ▪ Chaired by incumbents and staffed by professionals ▪ Part of the national party organization who becomes involved if they fear losing a seat National Party ▪ Plans the national convention every 4 yrs. to nominate a presidential candidate ▪ Sponsors polls to keep party members informed of public opinion and manages issue-oriented advertising and propaganda
Political parties consist of a combination of groups, which consist of a combination of individuals. The larger the coalition the more likely the candidate will win. Party candidates and party positions on policy are designed to attract more groups of voters, putting together a winning coalition.
REPUBLICAN COALITION (2004/2008) Disaffected conservative Democrats called “blue dogs” Veteran’s groups The religious right Pro-lifers Opponents of gay rights Missile-defense supporters Opponents of affirmative action Cuban Americans Supporters of the development o f natural resources on public lands Religious conservatives Always exceptions DEMOCRATIC COALITION (2004/2008) Pro-choicers African Americans Labor unions Intellectuals People with lower incomes City dwellers Non-Cuban latinos Feminists Jewish people Environmentalists Always exceptions
Greatest difference between the liberals in the Democratic Party and conservatives in the Republican party are the party bases.
Both try to appeal to the independent centrist voter during election campaigns, each party counts on its base to get out and vote. Party leaders must use great care in choosing policy positions so they do not lose their party base. They must avoid alienating the moderates of the party by taking extreme left or right positions.
Less disposed to spend on defense Less disposed to use vouchers, or other public funds to attend private schools More disposed to spend money to advance social- welfare programs More disposed to use government money for public education More disposed to spend money on government run health programs More disposed to grant tax relief to targeted groups such as the lower and middle classes Against private ownership of assault weapons and for broader regulations on the ownership of firearms.
More disposed to spend on defense More disposed to use vouchers for private schools and to give government aid to parochial schools More disposed to grant tax relief to everyone, including the wealthy and corporations Less disposed to spend money on social-welfare programs Less disposed to spend money on government run health programs Less disposed to regulated firearms
Article 31 “America the Liberal” deals with this issue in depth!
Occurs when coalitions making up the two parties fall apart Realignments are usually rare and the result of some major traumatic event (war, depression) Signaled by what is called a critical election, when a new party comes to dominate politics. Article 31 discussion on soft and hard alignments : refer to your notes!!! Some argue the trend today is toward dealignment, which is a result of party members becoming disaffected as a result of policy positions taken by a party Disaffected join no party Vote for the candidate (split ticket) Today the parties are now nearly equal in membership, with the democrats declining as independent numbers grow.
Defined as organizations dedicated to a particular political goal or to a set of unified goals. Group members share a common bond.
Religious: example, Christian Coalition Racial: example, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Professional: example, American Medical Association Share a common interest the environment: Sierra Club Political reform: Common Cause
They are similar to political parties in that they try to influence the outcome of elections and legislation Unlike political parties Do not nominate candidates Do not try to address a wide range of issues When interest groups try to influence legislators, we say they are lobbying for a bill or issue Most highly paid professionals Many are former legislators, whose experience and friendships in the capitol make them very effective.
Economic groups Promote and protect members economic interest U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, American Medical Association, ABA Most have existed a long time, well funded, and very powerful
Public interest groups Nonprofit organizations Organized around a well-defined set of public policy issues Consumer groups that promote safe products, informative labeling, rights of consumers Examples: Public Citizen (Ralph Nadar), Sierra Club, Christian Coalition, NRA, National Right to Life Committee, NOW Government interest groups Most states, many cities, and localities maintain lobbying groups in the nation’s capital Separate groups represent governors and mayors Most foreign governments and business lobby also
Direct lobbying Testifying before Congress Socializing Political donations Endorsements Court action File class action lawsuits Submit amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs: in lawsuits to which they are not a party so that judges may consider their advice in respect to matters of law that directly affect the case in question. Rallying their membership Propaganda
Most laws that try to limit the scope of lobbyist activities are ineffective Strong efforts to limit them run the risk of violating the first amendment 1946 Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act Intended to monitor by requiring public disclosure of salaries, expenses, nature of activities Applies only to a small % of active lobbyist Some laws to counteract the appearance of influence peddling which is the practice of using personal friendships and inside information to get political advantage
Former legislators must wait one year before lobbying Congress directly BUT they may lobby the executive branch directly, may work as consultants In reality they can do everything except call a congressperson to directly plead for support of a bill A similar limit applies to former executive officials: prevents lobbying for 5 yrs. Limits set in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the case that equated donations with free speech. Federal laws prohibit campaign contributions from corporations, unions, and trade associations. This is side stepped by the formation of PACs.
1974 Federal Election Campaign Act Allows corporations, unions, and trade associations to form political action committees ▪ Means of raising campaign funds Certain restrictions ▪ Have at lease 50 contributors ▪ Must donate to at least 5 different candidates ▪ May not donate more than $5,000 per year to any single candidate ▪ No more than $15, 000 to a national party per year ▪ Must raise the money from their employees and members ▪ May not take the money direct from their accounts.
Interest groups and legislators themselves also form PACs to collect and distribute contributions Federal law limits Donor to candidate- no more than $2300 Donor to national party-no more than $28,500 Donor to individual PACs- no more than $5000 Total may not exceed $108,200 over two years Prices are scheduled to increase slightly for each future election cycle.
More than 4,000 registered with the national government 50% represent corporations More than 1,000 are issue oriented Contribute most heavily to House campaigns, still heavily to Senate Predominantly to incumbents who are likely to win reelection – hoping to purchase access to legislators in the next Congress.