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American Government Political Parties. Political Parties & the Founders Political parties are complicated, important informal institutions of government.

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Presentation on theme: "American Government Political Parties. Political Parties & the Founders Political parties are complicated, important informal institutions of government."— Presentation transcript:

1 American Government Political Parties

2 Political Parties & the Founders Political parties are complicated, important informal institutions of government that are difficult to evaluate in the American context A. Many of the Founders were profoundly uncomfortable with the notion of parties 1. they wanted some type of government by consensus where parties would play little in any role 2. summarized by George Washington in his 1796 farewell address: "Let me warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally." B. That general distaste for parties has echoed through American history 1. many Americans equate parties with back room deals, smoke filled rooms, corruption, etc. 2. it is common to hear both Democrats and Republicans wail against partisanship and to equate following the "party line" with voting against the best interest of the people 3. Tocqueville concurred: “Parties are an evil inherent in free governments”

3 Parties in Perspective: PoliSci C. Contrast that with the attitude of most political scientists, who believe that political parties are essential to democracy 1. E. E. Schattschneider: "political parties created democracy" 2. His argument  parties form a critical link between the public and the institutions of government 3. Parties serve to educate, mobilize, crystallize, and organize public opinion, and 4. to discipline the officials who serve in government 5. Without parties, politics becomes chaos and democratic politics becomes impossible

4 Parties Defined A political party  is an organization that seeks to attain political power within a government, usually by participating in electoral campaigns. Political parties  organizations that seek to elect candidates to public office by supplying them with a label by which they are known to the public Political parties  mechanism through which voter preferences can be translated into coherent public policy Notice: 1. different from interest groups 2. parties supply the labels; they contest the elections; they structure the public debate — they aggregate

5 Characteristics of Political Parties: 1 Let's place American parties in perspective by considering SIX characteristics that distinguish them. First, there are only two major parties 1.Primarily a function of moderate, unimodal electorate and single member district electoral structure (also electoral college) 2.Structure provides incentive for parties to be large, inclusive, and for composite groups to make deals under the party umbrella, before an election contrast with PR systems, where deals are made between parties after an election results in coalition governments 3.One of the results is that "3rd parties" are small and relatively unimportant in U.S.

6 Types of Third Parties Types of 3rd Parties: Ideological Socialists, Libertarians (last longest) Single Issue Prohibition (fade with their single issue) Economic Protest Populists (fade as economy improves) Factional Bull Moose, Dixiecrats (usually single election phenomena) Generally, minor parties are subsumed by the two major parties, who adopt their ideas

7 Characteristics of Political Parties: 2 Second, parties are decentralized organizations 1.For most purposes, parties are organized at the state level 2.National party HQ provides little coordination 3.Principal purpose of national party is to nominate presidential and VP candidates — only every four years 4.Generally speaking GOP is more centrally organized than the Democrats

8 Characteristics of Political Parties: 3 & 4 Third, leadership is diffused 1.power is split between organizational leaders and public office holders 2.incumbent president names national party leaders Fourth, American parties are less ideological than parties in most other developed countries 1.Parties are more pragmatic than ideological — seek to win elections first and foremost 2.a function of our system — both parties seek to appeal to moderate voters in the middle 3.Less true of party out of power Smaller parties tend to be more homogenous and hence more ideological parties

9 Prominent Theories of Party Competition One of the most important theories of party competition is the Median Voter Theorem (MVT). The theorem was first articulated in Duncan Black's 1948 article, "On the Rationale of Group Decision- making" and popularized by Anthony Downs's 1957 book, An Economic Theory of Democracy. Simply put, the MVT suggests that parties will gravitate towards the center of a unimodal electorate, because victory can only be found in the middle (where the median voter is located). Parties that locate elsewhere (say, at the extremes) will lose, as voters choose the party closest to them.

10 Parties Gravitate to the Center One possible model; here, if parties A and B want to catch the median voters, they should move to the centre. The red and blue areas represent the voters that A and B expect they have already caught.

11 Characteristics of Political Parties: 5 Fifth, American parties are less responsible than parties in most western democracies Responsible parties are parties whose elected officials are disciplined, vote a straight party line, and can collectively be held responsible by the public.

12 Characteristics of Political Parties: 6 Sixth, Americans are not committed to party politics 1. Generally, politics is not as passionate as in other places (see Tocqueville: Americans would rather make money) 2. Specifically, not as committed to parties a. social mobility undermines b. we value independence c. parties require nothing in exchange for membership

13 What Parties Do What do parties do? Generally speaking, primary purpose is to facilitate government 1. party in power — staffs government, controls policy 2. party out of power — loyal opposition, offers an alternative Fulfill this purpose at three levels 1. party in the electorate 2. party as organization 3. party in government

14 Party in the Electorate Party in the electorate performs three functions: 1. provide an identification 2. socializes the population a. educates voters about issues and candidates b. motivates and mobilizes participants to turn out and vote 3. channels the political energies of the population a. parties help guide and focus a messy, multi-faceted political process b. parties help people make sense of politics by -serving as an economizing device — vote on the basis of party ID, less need to collect other information (people are “cognitive misers”) -serving as a perceptual screen — they screen out some information, lower cognitive dissonance, makes action easier In sum, help the people articulate their core interests

15 Party as Organization Party as organization helps with the nomination and election of candidates 1. recruit potential candidates 2. serve as a cue giver to the public A label to rally around A signal-giver on important issues of the day 3. provide resources

16 Party in Government Party in government performs two basic functions 1. Organize governmental machinery when in the majority a. staff the leadership of Congress b. fill posts in the executive branch c. fill vacancies in the judicial branch 2. Serves as loyal opposition when in the minority a. watches the majority to keep it honest b. provides the public with an alternative ready to take power

17 Parties in American History The history of political progress in the U.S. is largely the history of partisan change A.The "mainsprings" of political development are realignments B.Loosely defined as events that result in the emergence of a new majority party, or in the reshuffling of coalitions with-in parties to change the nature of the majority party C.There have been five in American history D.Each has been associated with major changes in policy

18 Realignments: What & Why Party realignments 1. Definition: sharp, lasting shift in the popular coalition supporting one or both parties 2. Occurrences: change in issues that distinguish the parties, so supporting voters change Often characterized by a “critical election” where majority party looses a substantial number of seats and control of government There have been 5 major “party systems”…each precipitated by a realignment (though not necessarily a critical election). Types: 1. Major party disappears and new party emerges (1800,1860) 2. Voters shift from one party to another (1896, 1932)

19 First Party System: Realignment of 1800 A.Thomas Jefferson elected president B.Jeffersonian Democrats replace Federalists C.Policy change from preference for a strong national government, centralized power, and government policies designed to benefit business to... D.Policies predicated on a rural country, small farmers, less government, more equality E.Federalists retreated to Supreme Court Ceased being a viable electoral party altogether F.This "party system" ends in early 1820s with virtual one party rule -- - the "era of good feelings"

20 Second Party System: Realignment of 1828 A.this major realignment of parties coalesces around Andrew Jackson --- general, war hero, populist B.followers of Jackson become Democrats; majority party C.his opponents = Whigs (heirs of the old Federalists) - minority D.Jackson draws the majority of his support from the South and West 1. populist in spirit -- mass participation 2. believes in limited government, led by president 3. battles Congress and Court E.Whigs believe in more active government centered around Congress 1. leaders included Henry Clay and Daniel Webster F.This party system breaks down over slavery issue 1. issue is a valence issue = cuts across party lines 2. northern and southern branches of both parties develop over extension of slavery into the territories

21 Third Party System: Realingment of 1860 A.A new party emerges out of the slavery issue = Republicans B.GOP becomes the dominant party for 60 years; Democrats are the minority C.GOP is the party of the Union and of abolition 1. they are also the party of business, national expansion 2. draw most support from northeast/midwest (tariff) and west (land policies); some support in South from freed slaves D.Democrats are the minority party 1. base of power in South 2. northern Democrats were more progressive -opposed to high tariffs -favored womens suffrage, income tax, free silver 3. only presidential victories between 1860 and 1932 = -Grover Cleveland ( , ), and -Woodrow Wilson ( ) -occured during splits in GOP E. From 1860 until 1896, Democrats and GOP roughly even

22 Fourth Party System: Realignment of 1896 A.Solidified Republican majority, but also contributed to splits within the party B.Democrats move to the left, following the populist policies of William Jennings Bryant, a charismatic, fundamentalist, populist C.Alienates many Democrats in the north and east D.GOP becomes much larger, but also less homogenous 1. regulars (Old Guard) vs. mugwumps (Progressives) 2. split in party in 1912 gives election to Wilson E.Experience of 1912 loss, resolidifies party (TR passes from the scene) and during 1920s, GOP becomes strongly associated with conservative, pro-business policies

23 Fifth Party System: Realignment of 1932 A. Brought on by the Great Depression B. GOP President Herbert Hoover very unpopular 1. conservative 2. considered aloof 3. believes in riding out the storm C. Democrats rally around FDR 1. promises at first to do something -- compassionate 2. later adopts a liberal, activist agenda D. Democrats sweep into power nationally in 1932 elections, filters down to state elections over next several decades

24 Fifth Party System Continued E. Powerful majority coalition consisting of 1. labor 2. southern whites 3. northern blacks 4. ethnic groups (Catholic, Jews) F. Led to development of social welfare state in U.S. 1. Social Security, welfare, unemployment 2. federal government becomes responsible for economy in Employment Act of 1946

25 Coalition Crackup Question --- is New Deal realignment still operative A.Coalition undermined by defection of Solid South over racial matters beginning in 1948, white southerners began to vote for Republicans (or Independents) at presidential level B.Labor and many northern poor have defected to GOP on occasion over economic and crime issues -RMN, Reagan Democrats C.Some Catholics have defected over abortion D.Obviously, coalition is not as strong as it once was

26 Realignment w/o Critical Election? Initially Republicans were unable to capitalize on the New Deal crackup GOP victories largely personal -- RMN, RR Democrats were the institutional party in Congress (except for Senate ; House post-1994) Democrats controlled majority of state legislatures (30 both houses, 14 one house) and governors' mansions (28) as of However, the Republicans have since gained control of both Houses as well as a majority of state governors & legislatures (although still fairly evenly split). This occurred over a long period:

27 Sixth Party System & the Death of Realignments Was there a realigning “critical” election in 1980? 1994? 2008? Was there a Republican-dominated 6 th party system? Reps hold presidency Reps hold Congress from 1994 – 2006 Why not at the same time?

28 Dude, where’s my realignment?

29 End of Realignment? Have realignments ended? Are we now in an era of dealignment --- less commitment to parties, less discipline, more split ticket voting Fates of different offices have been decoupled Note, if so: makes responsible party government harder weakens the "mainspring" of policy change is it possible to have major changes without realignment?

30 Hunter: Culture War The Culture War is characterized by an increasingly polarized public on social and cultural issues. First identified by James Davison Hunter in his classic book ”Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America.” While Hunter did not invent the idea of a “culture war” in America, he is responsible for the first serious scholarly treatment of the subject in its current form and coining the term. Hunter argued that cultural issues such as abortion, gay rights, funding for the arts, women’s rights, etc. are the canaries in the coal mine of an emerging schism in the populace that could lead to real political violence akin to that seen in such starkly divided publics as the Republic of Ireland, It is a dangerous schism echoed in Wilcox’s studies of the Christian Right in American politics.

31 Hunter Hunter suggests that the “new lines of conflict” in America are reflected in an electorate polarized between the “orthodox” and the “progressive.” Hunter feared this polarization could lead to social & political violence. In Hunter’s vision of the near-future, the traditionalists square off on one side with the secular humanists on the other. This ensures a political landscape marked by intransigent and wholly incompatible viewpoints

32 Bipolar Politics

33 Hunter But why is this conflict more intractable than previous incarnations of polarized politics? Hunter posits that the issue positions of traditionalists differ by being deeply rooted in their moral sense. Cultural conflict is - “political and social hostility rooted in different systems of moral understanding…They are not merely attitudes that can change on a whim, but basic commitments and beliefs that provide a source of identity, purpose, and togetherness for people who live by them” (Hunter 1991)

34 The Big Sort

35 In 1976, 26.8 percent of voters lived in a landslide county. (Democratic landslide counties are in black; Republican landslides are gray.) In close elections, the percentage of voters living in landslide counties rose steadily. By 2004, 48.3 percent of voters lived in a county where the contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry wasn't close at all. About six of every 10 counties were won by landslide margins in '04.

36 Partiasn Polarization

37 Partisan Polarization

38 The Parties in the House and Senate have become more ideologically consistent The parties have separated in the ideological dimension Fewer liberal Republicans and fewer conservative Democrats today.

39 Partisan Polarization Average Partisan House & Senate 1 st Dimension DW-Nominate Scores

40 Partisan Polarization on Abortion

41 Political Polarization While the MVT suggests that parties converge in the center, polarization theory suggests that parties diverge to the polls. Growing ‘polarization’ on the issue and ideological dimensions pulls the parties apart.


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