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Political Parties

Political Party- A group that seeks to elect candidates to public office by supplying them a label ("party identification") (Wilson and Dilulio). Parties are "labels" to voters, an "organization" that "recruits and campaigns for candidates" and "leaders" whose intent is to try to control the government (Wilson and Dilulio).

Political parties are often divided into three broad classifications:[1]
  1. Electorate's identification with the party,
  2. Government officials' identification with the party
  3. The organization of the party itself (those political professionals who are not elected nor are voting specialists).

These three classifications work together to "pursue common goals, although regional and ideological differences sometimes subvert their efforts".[2]

  • The definition for a political party is vague in order to include familiar and unfamiliar parties.
  • Three political arenas for each party:
    • A label in the minds of the voters.
    • An organization that recruits and campaigns for candidates.
    • A set of leaders who try to organize and control the legislative and executive branches of government.
      • American parties have become weaker in these areas. Since labels have become more independent, organizations are not as strong as they once were, and the organization of Congress is not as under control as it used to be.
      • The weight and influence of individual leaders has also diminished. This is due in part to the sole strength of the executive branch and the gradual weakening of parties.
  • The label by which a candidate is known may or may not actually be printed on the ballot opposite the candidate's name: in the United States, it does appear on the ballot in all national elections but in only a minority of municipal ones: Australia, Israel, and in Great Britain (before 1969) it never appears on the ballot at all (Wilson Dilulio).
  • A party exists as a label in the minds of the voters, as an organization that recruits and campaigns for candidates, and as a set of leaders who try to organize and control the legislative and executive branches of government.
  • Political parties in the U.S. are closely regulated by federal and state law, which has substantially weakened their power.
    • Today, candidates are chosen to run for office in primary elections, whereas before the party leader would select who runs for office.
  • In European governments, a candidate cannot announce that he or she is running for an office; the party selects which individuals will be nominated. The candidate cannot manage campaigns or campaign funds, either: these are also controlled by the party. The principal criterion by which voters choose candidates has usually been by their label, but this has changed some, since European and American parties have not been able to trust as heavily on party loyalty with voters (Wilson).
    • There are usually many more political parties in parliamentary regimes than in the U.S. (Wilson)
    • In the United States, political parties don't have much of a role other than voting while in European countries political parties hold a variety of events for their members.
    • The entire party also holds a significant amount of standing and influence, rather than just a single, known candidate.
    • With more Americans proclaiming themselves independents political parties now play more of a segmental rather that comprehensive role (Wilson 201).
  • The issue of political parties is not addressed in the Constitution.
  • When Washington left office after his 2 terms as President, he advised against and condemned the formation of political parties in his farewell address.
    • This was motivated in part by watching arguments between Hamilton and Jefferson in his cabinet. (Wilson)
  • They believed political parties would be similar to factions, motivated by ambition and self interest.
  • In Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued that factions were to be guarded against. with their interests contrary to those of the whole community. He argued that having a larger republic (a national one, as opposed to ones the states ran under the Articles of Confederation) would guard against factions because it would be more difficult for one group, especially a radical group, to gain influence in the national government if they did not have the support of the people. The Founding Fathers did not want to give all the power to the people, because they believed the passions of the general public would not allow for the federal government to run smoothly. They wanted the government to represent the people as most were not informed well enough to be able to make the right decisions.
  • However, Madison believed that factions were an inevitable entity in society.
    • Hamilton's followers called themselves Federalists to give their opponents the stigmatism of the label "antifederalists", or enemies of the constitution (Wilson).
    • The followers of Jefferson began calling themselves Republicans in the 1790s, in a way of implying that federalists were secret monarchists.
    • These political parties were in part created with a lack of homogeneity in economic interests among Americans.
    • New England was strongly Federalist and much of the south was Republican.
    • Jefferson and his ally James Madison believed that their Republican party was just a temporary arrangement designed to defeat John Adams.
    • The weakness of the "first party system" was due to the fact that it was the first. People did not have loyalty to political parties passed down to them from older generations. Nobody had been born Federalist or Republican. The parties had just began to organize. All of these contributed to their weakness, leading them to eventually give way to the "second party system."
    • However, even in those early days, the separate parties had highly contrasting views on economic policy, which were namely and later on, Keynesianism and Supply-Side theorists.
What political parties do
  • Find individuals who might be interested in running for public office; this most often happens when no incumbent is running
  • Help candidates get nominated to office and create support for candidates
  • Educate the voters about the candidates and encourage participation in the election
  • The 1832 election was part of the emergence of truly mass political participation. (Wilson)
  • Political parties are organized to raise money, present positions on policy, and get their candidates elected. (Melltzer and Levy)

Difference be​tween Foreign and American Parties

  • For the U.S. to have a two-party system (an electoral system with two dominant parties that compete in national elections) is somewhat of a rarity. About 15 nations in the world have a two-party system (Wilson 217).
  • Europe
    • Most European democracies (France, Italy and Israel for instance) have multi-party systems: a political system in which a number of political parties compete for political offices (Wilson 217).
    • In Europe, a candidate is usually selected by party leaders
    • European parties run the campaigns, while state and federal government run campaigns in America.
    • Many European parties offer perks such as educational programs, youth groups, and even chess clubs.
    • Europeans usually vote for candidates primarily based on party label.
    • In Europe, when a party gains a majority in Parliament, it can choose the prime minister from any member among the winning party.
    • European parties are "disciplined gatekeepers" and have very loyal voters though that has been declining in recent years
  • The parties have become weaker as a label, set of leaders (although they have not become significantly weaker), and as organizations.
  • China, North Korea, and Iran have one-party systems, which are political systems in which one party exercises total control over the government (Krieger 58).
  • In Europe, once a candidate gets into office, they are expected to vote and act together with the members of their party(Parliament of Britain). But because American party leaders do not select people to run for office, once a candidate is elected, they do not not "owe" party leaders anything and therefore can have more individuality.
    • This is more common within the American Democratic party, where party discipline is lower compared to that of the Republican party.
    • Only half as many people vote in primaries as in general elections.
    • Political parties are decentralized as a result, weakening national party organizations and dispersing power.
  • Local party leaders in the U.S. often exercise more power than national party leaders
  • In the U.S., members of Congress must resign their position as senator or representative if they are to become Cabinet members
  • The federal system of government in the U.S. decentralizes political authority and thus decentralizes political part organizations.

Party Organization
  • National Convention: A meeting of party delegates held every four years to nominate a presidential candidate.
    • Superdelegates: Party members that become delegates without even running for a primary or a caucus
    • National party conventions no longer make important decisions, but they generate enthusiasm. (Wilson)
    • Before 1968, Republicans generally represented white collar workers while the Democrats represented blue collar workers (Wilson). White collar workers are those that work in offices or jobs that do not require much physical labor. Blue collar workers essentially do the opposite.
  • National Committee: In between national conventions, a national committee stands to manage party affairs, which is made up of delegates from each state and territory (Wilson).
  • Congressional campaign committee: A party committee who in Congress that provides funds to members and would-be members (Wilson).
  • National Chairman:Day-to-day party manager elected by the national committee (Wilson).
    • The National chairman is paid full-time to manage the party.
    • At first the Chairman would help decide who among the party faithful would get federal jobs. This was, if their party was in the White House
  • Caucus:meeting of party members to decide upon delegates to support a party candidate
    • Only the most dedicated partisans attend caucuses
    • Caucuses tend to be more important because they are fairly dependable indicators of who is the more devoted of the candidates and who will likely eventually be in the running for the presidency.
    • certain states like Alaska, Nevada, and Colorado use caucuses to nominate candidates
    • compared to primary elections, caucuses are a lot more open in terms of who is voting for which candidate and may vote in a small room by just raising hands
    • primary elections are more formal and much like a national election, have a secret ballot statewide where primary voters can vote for candidates
    • One of the most widely known caucuses is the Congressional Black Caucus, formally known as the "Democratic Select Committee" from 1969 to 1971.

Political Culture
American attitudes and traditions have the effect of weakening political parties.
  • Political parties in America do not have a role in the day-to-day life of most citizens.
  • Citizens do not "join" political parties in America other than by voting for candidates of that party or registering as a member of that party.
    • In contrast, citizens of many European nations join political parties, pay dues, and attend regular meetings.
    • In America, citizens keep political parties separate from other aspects of our lives; we may express our political loyalties during campaign seasons, but otherwise, most citizens prefer their business and social lives to be nonpartisan.
  • In terms of technological advancements' impact on political knowledge, the internet is the most common means through which people are becoming politically informed and active. It has also become an important way to raise money for candidates and parties.
The role of political parties in American life is getting even weaker as more Americans declare themselves "independents."

Rise and Decline of Political Parties
  • Founders disliked parties, viewing them as "factions" motivated by ambition and self-interest.
    • Hostility for parties stemmed from the uncertainty of their newly created federal government & the bounds of its legitimacy (Wilson 201).
    • George Washington, in his Farewell Address of 1796 which he gave as he left the presidential office, warned America against the harms of political parties.
  • First organized political party in American history in the 1790s, the Republicans (followers of Jefferson, not to be confused with today's Republican party) and their opponents were the Federalists (followers of Hamilton).
  • During Andrew Jackson's administration, the party system was changed so that presidential electors were chosen by popular vote, giving people more power. The Democratic party was established, and the Whig Party emerged as their opponents (Another party formed around this time mainly in opposition to Andrew Jackson, the Anti-Masonic party)."By 1832, presidential electors were selected by popular vote in most states, giving the common man a greater impact" (Benson and Waples).
  • During the Jacksonian era political participation became a mass phenomenon.
  • The Whig Party was not very powerful, and though it elected a few presidents, none were very successful or memorable (W.H. Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Fillmore).
  • Today's Republican party began as a result of the tensions over sectionalism and slavery and became a major party after the Civil War in the 1850s.
  • From the Civil War up until the 1930's most states were dominated by one party.
  • After the Civil War the Democrats were known as the people who had supported the Confederates and the Republicans were people who had supported the Union (Wilson 203).
  • From 1896 to the 1930s most northern states were solidly Republican and most southern states were solidly Democratic. This meant that most states were now one-party states so competition for office at the state level had to go on within a single dominant party. This led to the emergence of two factions within each party.
  • Mugwumps or progressives ("reformers"): Republican party faction of the 1890's to the 1910's, composed of reformers who opposed patronage and disliked party machinery (Wilson 203).
    • Stalwarts- Republican party faction. They were concerned with building up the party machinery, developing party loyalty, and acquiring jobs and other favors for themselves and their followers. They were skilled in compromise and organization.
    • In Figure 9.1, we observe that throughout 1952 to 2002, party identification has both risen and declined, with it declining for the most part. Looking at Democrats (strong and weak), the final result is that party identification has slightly declined. However, for Republicans (strong and weak), the end result is that party identification has had a very minimal increase. Individuals identifying themselves as independent has substantially increased from 1952 (~21%) to 2002 (~36%).
  • In California progressives were able to institute the direct primary and to adopt procedures called the initiative and referendum so that citizens could vote directly on proposed legislation, thereby passing the state legislature.
  • Election of 1860 made the Republicans a major party
  • Lincoln's successive wielding of massive power following the Civil War and then leading into Reconstruction period further cemented not only the power of the presidency, but the notoriety and influence of the Republican party.
  • Election of 1932 began the New Deal era, in which the people placed their trust and support in the Democratic party, headed by Roosevelt, a symbolic figure of comfort.

The Results of Reform
  • Progressives advocated several measures to reduce the power and corruption of political parties:
    • Australian or Secret Ballots
    • Direct primaries: A primary in which members of a party nominate its candidates by direct vote
    • Direct election of senators (17th Amendment)
    • In some states, adoption of direct democracy procedures such as the Initiative, Recall, and Referendum.
  • As a consequence, parties became less able to hold office holders accountable or to coordinate across the branches of government.
  • There has been a significant decrease in party discipline.
  • There is an increase of people voting a split ticket.
  • As a result of Progressive efforts party lines grew fainter in Congress, as did congressional leadership (Wilson).

  • Party Realignments:
    • Critical or Realigning Periods: Periods when a major, lasting shift occurs in the popular coalition supporting one or both parties (Wilson and Dilulio).
      • One example of a realigning period was the Progressive movement.
    • One kind of realignment is when a major party is defeated so badly that it disappears and a new party emerges to take its place (happened to the Federalists in 1800 and the Whigs in 1856-1860) (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • Another kind of realignment occurs when voters shift their support from one existing party to the other. This can occur due to social and economic issues, as well, eg. slavery and economic depressions.
    • Examples of this: case about slavery in 1860, the economic problems in 1896, and the depression that hit in 1932.
    • Just because we have had periods of one-party dominance in the past does not mean that we will have them in the future. Some scholars are beginning to question the theory of critical elections, or at least the theory that they occur with some regularity.

  • Split Ticket: voting for candidates of different parties for various offices in the same election
    • Split ticket voting was unheard of in the 19th century.
    • Split tickets represents a decline party ideology.
    • The progressives liked this type of ballot because it allowed people to vote for who they wanted and not just for one party
    • In some elections, especially primary, some states prohibit split ticket voting.
    • This prohibition of split ticket voting can cause a decrease in voter efficacy.
    • Ticket splitting is a direct cause of divided government (Benson and Waples)
  • Straight Ticket: voting for candidates who are all in the same party.
  • This happened most commonly in early elections.
  • Party-column ballot: A ballot listing all candidates of a given party together under the name of that party. Also known as the " Indiana ballot".
    • Ballots set up like this often lead to straight ticket turnouts
    • Resisted by they progressives
  • Office-bloc ballot:Also know as a Massachusetts ballot; A ballot listing all candidates of given office under the name of that office.
    • Ballots set up like this have results that vary and account for everyone's personal opinions/,
    • States using the office-bloc ballot are more likely to use ticket splitting as well.
  • Straight ticket and Party-column ballot can lead to unfair voting since voters are swayed by the political party itself rather than the individuals.

State and Local Parties
  • political machine: party organization recruiting members with concrete incentives (Tamany Hall)
    • Characterized by strong leadership over member activity
  • Incentives may include money, political jobs, opportunities to get favors from the government
    • For many being a party worker was a full-time paid occupation (Wilson 213)
    • the goal is TO WIN
    • Stricter laws started to prohibit the number of patronage jobs that were given. The Hatch act in 1939 made it illegal for federal civil service employees to take an active part in political management or political campaigns. (Wilson and Dilulio 214)
    • An example of a corrupt political machine is the Tammany Hall scandal led by William Tweed in which Tweed gave patrons numerous perks so he could have their vote
  • ideological parties: A party that values principled stands on issues, above all else. This is the opposite extreme of political machines. Independent "third parties" are the most ideological parties.
  • An example of an ideological party are the communist who (in theory) believe in the benefit of the entire group, rather than the individual.
  • solidary groups: parties which members join for a sense of fellowship or social reward. Some of these groups started out as political machines; once the machine lost power, many of the members still continued to serve in the organization as a way to stay involved and socialize (PTA).The members of solidary groups like to join for fun and they like to be "in the know" An advantage of these groups is that they are not corrupt nor inflexible, but they get little work done (Wilson)
  • sponsored party:local/state party sponsored by another organization in the community
    • We can see an example of a sponsored party with the Democratic Party that exists in and around the city of Detroit, it has, for the most part, been developed, led, and to a degree financed by the political-action branch of the United Auto Workers union. The use of a sponsored party could help the union pass legislation that will benefit them.
  • personal following: This is the tool that many candidates use. It is the loyal following of a candidate in which many people aid the candidate in a time of election and are usually there for the candidate in another time of election. in order to achieve something like this one must have a lot of friends, an appealing, or a big bank account.
  • Purposive incentives: A benefit that comes from serving a cause or principle. An example of this would be non-profit organizations that attempt to aid a specific cause, such as the Wounded Warrior's Project.
Minor Parties
  • Minor parties are not to be mixed up with the term "third parties."
  • Because the United States government has traditionally been a two party system it has made it nearly impossible for a minor party to ever come close to winning a presidential election but they can and have taken votes from the major parties which makes it harder for the major parties to win a majority of the vote.
  • Some potential sources of minor parties never formed such parties because(besides the low chance of success) the direct primary and the national convention have made it possible for dissident elements of a major party, to remain in the party and influence the choice of candidates and policies.
  • Minor parties have failed to claim presidential office because their lack of a nationwide base of support and lack of ability to gather funds. They simply do not have the foundations that the two major parties in the United States have built over the past two and a half centuries.
    • This gives some minor parties less of an incentive to form since there is very little chance of winning an election.
    • The electoral college is an example winner-take-all principle (plurality). The candidate that receives the most votes wins all the state's electoral votes (this occurs in all states except for Nebraska and Maine).
  • For many years state laws made it nearly impossible for a third party candidate to even get on a ballot.
  • Minority parties that have endured have been the ideological ones, but no ideological party has ever carried a state in a presidential election
    • They are usually not interested in immediate electoral success and thus persist despite their poor showing at the polls
    • Members feel like outsiders of the mainstream American political life
  • While minor parties have never been successful in electing a presidential candidate to office, they are still important because:
    • They develop ideas that are later adopted by the major parties.
    • Factional parties take away votes from the party they split from which has a large impact on some elections
  • The following are the four main different types of minor parties, and examples.
    • Ideological Party:These parties choose a comprehensive view of society and the government that is radically different from established parties. Exact opposite of a machine. The ideological does not value winning above all else. Rather it desires its members to stay to their principles.
      • Third parties: Socialist, Libertarian, Green.
      • Focused on social movements in the 1960s-1970s
      • In the 1950s and 1960s these ideological groups were "reform clubs" within local Democratic and Republican parties.
      • Democratic club leaders were more liberal than rank-and-file democrats, and Republican club leaders were more conservative than rank-and-file republicans.
    • One-issue Party: Just as the name suggests. They are often minority parties that focus on a single issue. An example of this type of party would be the Prohibition party that wanted to ban alcohol and the Women's party of early 20th century that sought to get women's suffrage, and the free soil and know-nothing parties. (pg. 126 Fast Track to a 5)
      • Examples: Free Soil and Know-Nothing
    • Factional Party:Factional parties are created when there are break ups in major parties. These break ups usually come about "over the identity and philosophy of the major party's presidential candidate." (Waples and Benson) An example would be the "Bull Moose" Progressive party that was formed from a split in the Republican party. The candidate for the party was Theodore Roosevelt. (Waples and Benson)
      • Examples: American Independent Party (1968) and Henry Wallace.
    • Economic-protest Party:According to Wilson and Dilulio, these are parties, usually based in a particular region, especially involving farmers, that protest against depressed economic conditions. They tend to disappear as conditions start to improve.
      • Examples: Greenback party (1876-1884) and Populist party (1892-1908)
      • 1992 Reform Party, led by Ross Perot, was a reaction to both the Republican and Democratic parties at the time, but fell apart due to internal disagreements and infighting.

The Two-Party System
  • Not common among nations today
  • By one estimate only about fifteen nations have one.
  • Two-party system: An electoral system with two dominant parties that compete in national elections. (Wilson)
  • A reason for the persistence of a two-party system in the United States is the single-member district electoral system, in which only one candidate is elected to each office on the ballot. This limits the number of parties that emerge.
    • The single-member district system deters the emergence of minor parties by making them run extremely costly campaigns with a small chance of winning.
  • The two-party system in the U.S. uses the plurality system of counting votes which when the winner of an election is the person who gets the most votes even when they do not have a majority.
    • We are so accustomed to having elections run the way they are that we forget there are other ways to organize elections.
    • Ex: One could require that the winner gets a majority of the votes, thus producing runoff elections if nobody got a majority on the first try.
  • The U.S's system of Winner-Takes-All (whomever gets majority of votes win the election) is one of the main reasons for occurrence of the two-party system since with multiple parties votes would be split causing another party that singularly represents a certain platform to win.
  • A two party system is ideal as America’s politics focus on gathering as much appeal as possible. A third party would just divert votes from one party when it would be simpler having two serious parties (Wilson, 219).
  • There had been many laws state held that prevented a third party on getting on the ballot. However after several individuals had made it clear to the Supreme that such laws were unconstitutional, third party candidates were allowed to get on the ballot (Wilson, 220).

Third Parties
  • Splinter/Bolter Parties: form to represent constituencies that feel disenfranchised from both major parties (Meltzer)
  • Doctrinal Parties: form to represent an ideology considered too radical by mainstream parties (Meltzer)
  • Single Issue Parties- form to promote one principle (Meltzer)
  • Economic Protest Parties- based in a religion, especially farmers that are protesting against depressed economic conditions that affect agriculture (Populists (1892-1908) and greenbacks (1876-1884)) (Wilson)
  • Third parties are at a disadvantage in a two-party system. This is mainly because they have relatively little support when compared to the two bigger parties they are competing against. The "Winner Take All" system used in elections also deters a third party to gain influence. Not having enough money to pay registration fees in an election because of their relatively small size, third parties are one again at a disadvantage. Even though third parties know they won't win an election, they still run in order to garner support for a specific issue they support. Third parties can thus influence an election by stressing certain topics.
  • The historic tradition of the two-party system in America further deters third parties from being made because there are evidently inherent laws and traditions that arise from this.

Nominating Presidents-
  • Political parties face two contradicting forces:
    • The need to appeal to a majority to win the presidency and get over 50% of the Electoral Votes
    • The drive to make sure that the core fundamentals of their ideologies don't change to rapidly or in an extreme way to prevent the formation of a third party.
    • As the power of party leaders have been diminished, policy objectives have become more important, as electoral objectives have become less important (Wilson).
  • In many cases, the leaders of a party tend to have more extreme views that the voters themselves, causing delegate opinion to be unrepresentative of voter attitudes (Wilson).
  • Who votes in primaries?
    • It was party leaders who tended to choose the delegates prior to 1972, and these delegates were often not representative of the party as a whole (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • After 1972 most delegates were chosen through primaries and caucuses.
    • Only half as many people vote in primaries compared to general elections.
    • Open primaries: voting is open to the general public.
    • Closed primaries: voting is restricted to registered members of a party.
  • When primaries feature a close battle between multiple close candidates, they draw out more voters (For example George W. Bush and John McCain during the Presidential Primaries in 2000).

  1. ^ The Princeton Review, p.66
  2. ^ The Princeton Review, p.66