2 Political Parties & the Founders Political parties are complicated, important informal institutions of government that are difficult to evaluate in the American contextA. Many of the Founders were profoundly uncomfortable with the notion of parties1. they wanted some type of government by consensus where parties would play little in any role2. 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 history1. 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 people3. 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 democracy1. E. E. Schattschneider: "political parties created democracy"2. His argument parties form a critical link between the public and the institutions of government3. Parties serve to educate, mobilize, crystallize, and organize public opinion, and4. to discipline the officials who serve in government5. Without parties, politics becomes chaos and democratic politics becomes impossible
4 Parties DefinedA 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 publicPolitical parties mechanism through which voter preferences can be translated into coherent public policyNotice:1. different from interest groups2. 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 partiesPrimarily a function of moderate, unimodal electorate and single member district electoral structure (also electoral college)Structure provides incentive for parties to be large, inclusive, and for composite groups to make deals under the party umbrella, before an electioncontrast with PR systems, where deals are made between parties after an electionresults in coalition governmentsOne 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 Single Issue Socialists, Libertarians (last longest)Single IssueProhibition (fade with their single issue)Economic ProtestPopulists (fade as economy improves)FactionalBull 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 organizationsFor most purposes, parties are organized at the state levelNational party HQ provides little coordinationPrincipal purpose of national party is to nominate presidential and VP candidates — only every four yearsGenerally speaking GOP is more centrally organized than the Democrats
8 Characteristics of Political Parties: 3 & 4 Third, leadership is diffusedpower is split between organizational leaders and public office holdersincumbent president names national party leadersFourth, American parties are less ideological than parties in most other developed countriesParties are more pragmatic than ideological — seek to win elections first and foremosta function of our system — both parties seek to appeal to moderate voters in the middleLess true of party out of powerSmaller 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 democraciesResponsible 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 politics1. Generally, politics is not as passionate as in other places (see Tocqueville: Americans would rather make money)2. Specifically, not as committed to partiesa. social mobility underminesb. we value independencec. parties require nothing in exchange for membership
13 What Parties Do What do parties do? Generally speaking, primary purpose is to facilitate government1. party in power — staffs government, controls policy2. party out of power — loyal opposition, offers an alternativeFulfill this purpose at three levels1. party in the electorate2. party as organization3. party in government
14 Party in the Electorate Party in the electorate performs three functions:1. provide an identification2. socializes the populationa. educates voters about issues and candidatesb. motivates and mobilizes participants to turn out and vote3. channels the political energies of the populationa. parties help guide and focus a messy, multi-faceted political processb. 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 easierIn sum, help the people articulate their core interests
15 Party as OrganizationParty as organization helps with the nomination and election of candidates1. recruit potential candidates2. serve as a cue giver to the publicA label to rally aroundA signal-giver on important issues of the day3. provide resources
16 Party in Government Party in government performs two basic functions 1. Organize governmental machinery when in the majoritya. staff the leadership of Congressb. fill posts in the executive branchc. fill vacancies in the judicial branch2. Serves as loyal opposition when in the minoritya. watches the majority to keep it honestb. 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 changeThe "mainsprings" of political development are realignmentsLoosely 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 partyThere have been five in American historyEach has been associated with major changes in policy
18 Realignments: What & Why Party realignments1. Definition: sharp, lasting shift in the popular coalition supporting one or both parties2. Occurrences: change in issues that distinguish the parties, so supporting voters changeOften characterized by a “critical election” where majority party looses a substantial number of seats and control of governmentThere 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 Thomas Jefferson elected presidentJeffersonian Democrats replace FederalistsPolicy change from preference for a strong national government, centralized power, and government policies designed to benefit business to ...Policies predicated on a rural country, small farmers, less government, more equalityFederalists retreated to Supreme CourtCeased being a viable electoral party altogetherThis "party system" ends in early 1820s with virtual one party rule --- the "era of good feelings"
20 Second Party System: Realignment of 1828 this major realignment of parties coalesces around Andrew Jackson --- general, war hero, populistfollowers of Jackson become Democrats; majority partyhis opponents = Whigs (heirs of the old Federalists) - minorityJackson draws the majority of his support from the South and West1. populist in spirit -- mass participation2. believes in limited government, led by president3. battles Congress and CourtWhigs believe in more active government centered around Congress1. leaders included Henry Clay and Daniel WebsterThis party system breaks down over slavery issue1. issue is a valence issue = cuts across party lines2. northern and southern branches of both parties develop over extension of slavery into the territories
21 Third Party System: Realingment of 1860 A new party emerges out of the slavery issue = RepublicansGOP becomes the dominant party for 60 years; Democrats are the minorityGOP is the party of the Union and of abolition1. they are also the party of business, national expansion2. draw most support from northeast/midwest (tariff) and west (land policies); some support in South from freed slavesDemocrats are the minority party1. base of power in South2. northern Democrats were more progressive-opposed to high tariffs-favored womens suffrage, income tax, free silver3. only presidential victories between 1860 and 1932 =-Grover Cleveland ( , ), and-Woodrow Wilson ( )-occured during splits in GOPE. From 1860 until 1896, Democrats and GOP roughly even
22 Fourth Party System: Realignment of 1896 Solidified Republican majority, but also contributed to splits within the partyDemocrats move to the left, following the populist policies of William Jennings Bryant, a charismatic, fundamentalist, populistAlienates many Democrats in the north and eastGOP becomes much larger, but also less homogenous1. regulars (Old Guard) vs. mugwumps (Progressives)2. split in party in 1912 gives election to WilsonExperience 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 Brought on by the Great DepressionGOP President Herbert Hoover very unpopular1. conservative2. considered aloof3. believes in riding out the stormDemocrats rally around FDR1. promises at first to do something -- compassionate2. later adopts a liberal, activist agendaDemocrats 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 of1. labor2. southern whites3. northern blacks4. ethnic groups (Catholic, Jews)F. Led to development of social welfare state in U.S.1. Social Security, welfare, unemployment2. federal government becomes responsible for economy in Employment Act of 1946
25 Coalition Crackup Question --- is New Deal realignment still operative Coalition undermined by defection of Solid South over racial mattersbeginning in 1948, white southerners began to vote for Republicans (or Independents) at presidential levelLabor and many northern poor have defected to GOP on occasion over economic and crime issues-RMN, Reagan DemocratsSome Catholics have defected over abortionObviously, 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 crackupGOP victories largely personal -- RMN, RRDemocrats 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 1988.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 6th party system?Reps hold presidencyReps hold Congress from 1994 – 2006Why not at the same time?
29 End of Realignment? Have realignments ended? Note, if so: Are we now in an era of dealignment --- less commitment to parties, less discipline, more split ticket votingFates of different offices have been decoupledNote, if so:makes responsible party government harderweakens the "mainspring" of policy change is it possible to have major changes without realignment?
30 Hunter: Culture WarThe 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 HunterHunter 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
33 HunterBut 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)
35 The Big SortIn 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.
38 Partisan Polarization The Parties in the House and Senate have become more ideologically consistentThe parties have separated in the ideological dimensionFewer liberal Republicans and fewer conservative Democrats today.
39 Partisan Polarization Average Partisan House & Senate 1st Dimension DW-Nominate Scores
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.