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Political Parties Frequently Asked Questions. What is a political party? A political party is a group of political activists who: Organize to win elections.

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Presentation on theme: "Political Parties Frequently Asked Questions. What is a political party? A political party is a group of political activists who: Organize to win elections."— Presentation transcript:

1 Political Parties Frequently Asked Questions

2 What is a political party? A political party is a group of political activists who: Organize to win elections Operate the government Determine public policy

3 What are the functions of political parties? To recruit candidates for office To organize voters for elections Present different policies to electorate Function within the government (e.g. caucuses, congressional leaders) Serve as an opposition to the Party in power.

4 Do you have to join a political party to vote? No, in the General Election in November people are free to vote for a candidate from any party, without being a member of a political party However, in some states you must be in a political party to choose among the candidates of a party in a primary election. These are called closed primaries. In open primary states you may vote for any candidate regardless of your party affiliation.

5 Is California a closed or open primary state? California recently adopted a modified- closed primary, which means a political party may choose whether it wants to allow voters, who are not part of their party, to vote in their primary election race This June the Republican primary will closed, but the Democratic Party will allow non-party members to vote in their June primary.

6 Can a Democrat vote for a Republican in the General? Yes, being a member of a party does not bind you to vote for a candidate of your party membership in the General Election in November Some voters have a lot of party loyalty, but others vote more for the individual candidate and regularly cross party lines.

7 Can you change party affiliation? Yes, individuals can change party affiliation. When large groups change the party they belong to. This is called realignment. For example, many African Americans switched from the Republican Party to become Democrats when FDR ran for President.

8 What is an independent? An independent is a person who chooses to not belong to a political party. In recent years, more voters are becoming dealigned, which means that they are leaving a political party to become an independent. Estimates are that about one third of all US voters are independent.

9 Are the two parties that different? It depends on your political point of view. Some observers say that compared with Europe, where ideological differences are much broader and more parties compete, the Democrats and Republicans are actually very similar. Others point out that there are fundamental differences in policy between Democrats and Republicans.

10 What are the differences on economics? Republicans favor a more laissez faire policy. They want smaller government and lower taxes. They favor less government regulation of business. Democrats favor more government regulation of business, and a larger role for government in funding social programs. They often want higher taxes for wealthy income earners.

11 What are the differences on social issues? The majority of Republicans: oppose abortion, same sex marriage, gun control, and affirmative action programs. The majority of Democrats: support a women’s right to choose, same sex marriage, gun control and affirmative action.

12 What is the origin of the donkey as a symbol? The donkey for the Democrats first emerged during the Andrew Jackson’s administration. He was called a “jackass”but he decided to use the image of a strong willed animal in his campaign. The donkey was made popular by Thomas Nast, in his political cartoons in the 1870’s.


14 What is the origin of the elephant as a symbol? Thomas Nast was a staunch Republican, and he deliberately chose the elephant as a symbol for his own Party because of the animal great size, intelligence, strength, and dignity. It first appeared in his November 7, 1874 cartoon in Harper’s Weekly.


16 Why have two parties dominated? Our two party system goes back to the beginning of our nation, with the conflict between federalist and anti-federalists We have a “winner take all system” when we elect representatives and the President. The losing political party does not receive partial representation. It is difficult for third parties to compete equally with the two major established parties in terms of money, support and influence.

17 Where do the parties get their positions Each political party holds a convention. Members of the party propose and vote on different ideas that become part of the Party platform.

18 What is the structure of a party? Each party has a leadership group, the Republican National and Democratic National Committees Each party has state party organizations and local party chapters. Our political parties are loose-knit.

19 Which party is stronger? In different periods of our history different parties have been stronger. 1800-1860 Democrats dominated 1860-1932 Republicans dominated 1932-1968 Democrats dominated Since 1968 we have had divided government, going back and forth between the two parties.

20 Have there been important third parties? Yes, although third parties don’t win elections often, they raise important issues and determine outcomes of elections. The Greenback and Populist parties made the issues of workers and farmers important. The Green Party promoted the issue of the environment. The Bull-Moose Party split Republican vote, allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected.

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