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It is sometimes said the political parties in the US are much weaker in terms of their organisation and influence than in the UK. Why might this be so?

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Presentation on theme: "It is sometimes said the political parties in the US are much weaker in terms of their organisation and influence than in the UK. Why might this be so?"— Presentation transcript:

1 It is sometimes said the political parties in the US are much weaker in terms of their organisation and influence than in the UK. Why might this be so?  starter activity

2 Reasons for the weaknesses of US political parties Separation of powers – executive & legislature separate bodies, with different mandates, weakening the political ties between them Separation of powers – executive & legislature separate bodies, with different mandates, weakening the political ties between them Federalism – parties organised at state level, 50 different Democratic & Republican parties Federalism – parties organised at state level, 50 different Democratic & Republican parties No mass membership No mass membership No party leaders – president is leader of the country not the party, no leader of the opposition No party leaders – president is leader of the country not the party, no leader of the opposition

3 Reasons for the weaknesses of US political parties No party manifestos – only ‘platforms’, congressional candidates stand on local issues No party manifestos – only ‘platforms’, congressional candidates stand on local issues Finance raised by candidates not parties Finance raised by candidates not parties Candidates selected by primaries & caucuses not the party Candidates selected by primaries & caucuses not the party Labour’s 2005 manifesto

4 Is the party over? To understand the structure & organisation of US political parties To evaluate the strengths & weaknesses of the 2-party system To assess the strengths of third parties To assess reasons for party decline  Aims

5  Your task Read p and take notes on the organisation of the two major parties under these headings: Read p and take notes on the organisation of the two major parties under these headings: National Committees National Committees Congressional Committees Congressional Committees State-level organisation State-level organisation

6  Find out more about the ‘last of the big city bosses’, Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley

7  Your task Read p. 136 and define what is meant by a ‘two- party system’. Read p and list the reasons why this system exists in the USA. Does the US really have a 2-party system? Read p. 136 and define what is meant by a ‘two- party system’. Read p and list the reasons why this system exists in the USA. Does the US really have a 2-party system?

8 Reasons for US two-party system FPTP – support for 3 rd parties is widespread & shallow, 3 rd party candidates lower majority needed for winning candidates FPTP – support for 3 rd parties is widespread & shallow, 3 rd party candidates lower majority needed for winning candidates Big tent parties Big tent parties Minimal need for protest voting – primaries make parties more accountable to electorate Minimal need for protest voting – primaries make parties more accountable to electorate

9 What do commentators mean when they describe the two parties as Tweedledee and Tweedledum?

10 Challenges to the two-party idea Homogeneity over policies – e.g. Clinton’s, ‘the ear of big government is over’ could have been a Republican policy Homogeneity over policies – e.g. Clinton’s, ‘the ear of big government is over’ could have been a Republican policy “As of today there are two republican parties separated by the issue of abortion” Mark Shields (Washington Post) “As of today there are two republican parties separated by the issue of abortion” Mark Shields (Washington Post) USA has a 50 party system – party politics are highly decentralised USA has a 50 party system – party politics are highly decentralised

11  Your task Study the information on p How powerful a force in US politics are so-called ‘Third Parties’? How does this compare with the UK? Study the information on p How powerful a force in US politics are so-called ‘Third Parties’? How does this compare with the UK? Nick Clegg – Ah, bless!

12 Third Parties Types of third parties: issue-based, ideological, state level etc. Types of third parties: issue-based, ideological, state level etc. Examples include: Reform Party, Libertarian Party, Green Party Examples include: Reform Party, Libertarian Party, Green Party Regional Parties, e.g. Strom Thurmond’s States Rights Party Regional Parties, e.g. Strom Thurmond’s States Rights Party

13 Strom Thurmond, Dixiecrat, ran for presidency in 1948 and won 2.4% of vote Oldest-serving senator in US history – retired at the age of 100! Conducted longest ever filibuster – Civil Rights Act (1957, 24 hours 18 minutes non stop!)

14 Types of 3 rd Parties Permanent 3 rd parties – e.g. Greens & Libertarians Temporary parties – Reform Party Issue-based parties – Prohibition Party Ideological parties - Socialist

15 Power of 3 rd Parties Limited combined popular vote, e.g. 2008, third parties polled 1% of popular vote Limited combined popular vote, e.g. 2008, third parties polled 1% of popular vote 3 rd parties can be crucial in deciding outcome of presidential elections – e.g. Ralph Nader, Green Party (polled 2.7%) cost Al Gore presidency in rd parties can be crucial in deciding outcome of presidential elections – e.g. Ralph Nader, Green Party (polled 2.7%) cost Al Gore presidency in 2000 

16 3 rd parties can influence congressional elections – Dean Barkley won 15% of popular vote in Minnesota senate race, helping to defeat Republican candidate Norm Coleman and leaving Al Franken the winner with under 300 votes 3 rd parties can influence congressional elections – Dean Barkley won 15% of popular vote in Minnesota senate race, helping to defeat Republican candidate Norm Coleman and leaving Al Franken the winner with under 300 votes Dean Barkley, Minnesota Independence Party

17  Your task Read p and list the reasons why 3rd parties find it difficult to achieve electoral success. Read p and list the reasons why 3rd parties find it difficult to achieve electoral success.

18 Third party electoral theft! FPTP works against them – 1968, George Wallace won 45 EC votes with 13% of vote, 1992 Ross Perot won O EC votes with 19% of vote FPTP works against them – 1968, George Wallace won 45 EC votes with 13% of vote, 1992 Ross Perot won O EC votes with 19% of vote Finance - federal funding only given to parties with 5% of vote in previous elections Finance - federal funding only given to parties with 5% of vote in previous elections Ballot access – 1980, John Anderson required 1.2m signatures & $3m funds Ballot access – 1980, John Anderson required 1.2m signatures & $3m funds

19 Campaigning – lack of funding makes it hard to secure media coverage & national awareness Campaigning – lack of funding makes it hard to secure media coverage & national awareness Lack of well-known candidates & running mates Lack of well-known candidates & running mates Third party candidates often portrayed as ideological extremists, e.g. George Wallace Third party candidates often portrayed as ideological extremists, e.g. George Wallace Major parties steal 3 rd party policies – e.g. Perot’s flagship policy, federal budget deficit Major parties steal 3 rd party policies – e.g. Perot’s flagship policy, federal budget deficit ‘If you liked Hitler, you’ll love Wallace’ Watch his campaign ad and decide if you agree with this sentiment 

20 How similar or different is the position of third parties in the UK?

21 What can be done to give 3 rd parties a greater say in US politics?

22 UK 3 rd Parties Have a mass membership Have a mass membership Centralised, top-down organisation Centralised, top-down organisation National party makes rules controlling the whole party National party makes rules controlling the whole party Stringent selection & de-selection processes Stringent selection & de-selection processes Control over manifesto Control over manifesto Finance for campaigns Finance for campaigns Exist between elections Exist between elections Potentially the leader can become PM Potentially the leader can become PM Strong party discipline through whipping system Strong party discipline through whipping system

23 The cover of David Broder’s influential book, ‘The Party’s Over’ (1972), prophesying the end of major political parties in the US. Complete a scales chart for and against the idea, using the evidence from Bennett, p

24 This house believes the party system is dead in US politics. Discuss

25 Plenary Plenary What evidence is there for and against that the US has a 2 party system? What evidence is there for and against that the US has a 2 party system? Why do 3 rd parties find it so difficult to make electoral advances? Why do 3 rd parties find it so difficult to make electoral advances? How true is the notion of party decline in the US? How true is the notion of party decline in the US?

26  Homework Draw up a list of similarities and differences between US and UK party systems. Try to find recent examples to illustrate your points Draw up a list of similarities and differences between US and UK party systems. Try to find recent examples to illustrate your points Prepare for a slip test on US political parties Prepare for a slip test on US political parties


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