Chapter seven: political parties



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Chapter 7

CHAPTER SEVEN: POLITICAL PARTIES


PEDAGOGICAL FEATURES
p. 232 Table 7.1: Party Identification in the United States, 1952-2000

p. 236 Issues of the Times: Is This Any Way to Run a Political Party?

p. 239 Table 7.2: Party Platforms, 2000

p. 244 Figure 7.1: Party Coalitions Today

p. 246 Figure 7.2: Partisan Control of State Governments: 2003

p. 249 In Focus: Multiparty Systems in Other Countries

p. 250 How You Can Make A Difference: Minor Political Parties

p. 253 Real People on the Job: Rob Tully

p. 254 Get Connected

p. 254 Internet Resources



p. 254 For Further Reading


LEARNING OBJECTIVES

After studying this chapter, students should be able to:


  • Understand the roles of the party-in-the-electorate, the party as an organization, and the party-in-government.




  • Examine how political parties in a democracy serve as key linkage institutions to translate inputs from the public into outputs from the policymakers.




  • Determine how political parties function as important “cue-givers” to voters.




  • Describe Anthony Downs’ rational-choice theory as a working model of the relationship among citizens, parties, and policy.




  • Trace the historical development of the American two-party system.




  • Describe what is meant by party eras, critical elections, and party realignment.




  • Examine the significance of divided government and explain how the recent pattern of divided government may explain party dealignment.




  • Differentiate between the ideology or party philosophy of the Democratic and Republican parties.




  • Explain why it is rational in the American two-party system for both Democrats and Republicans to stay near the center of public opinion.




  • Explain how electoral rules such as the “winner-take-all” plurality system have helped to maintain a two-party system in the United States.




  • Evaluate the impact of third parties on American politics and the American party system.




  • Determine the consequences of the American two-party system as contrasted with a multi-party system.




  • Understand the significance of the weak and decentralized character of the American party system.




  • Evaluate proposals that call for a “more responsible two-party system.”


CHAPTER OVERVIEW

INTRODUCTION
Although political parties may not be highly regarded by all, many observers of politics agree that political parties are central to representative government because they provide meaning to citizens’ choices between competing candidates in elections. Historically, changes in party control of government have been associated with substantial changes in the nature and scope of government. Party competition is the battle between Democrats and Republicans for the control of public offices. Without this competition there would be no choice, and without choice there would be no democracy. The recent trend toward divided government—where Congress is controlled by one party and the President represents the other—seems to have blocked any major changes in the scope of government.
THE MEANING OF PARTY
Almost all definitions of political parties have one thing in common: Parties try to win elections. This is their core function and the key to their definition. Anthony Downs defined a political party as a “team of men [and women] seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election.” In a large democracy, linkage institutions translate inputs from the public into outputs from the policymakers. The four main linkage institutions in the United States are parties, elections, interest groups, and the media.
As linkage institutions, political parties nominate candidates for office, coordinate campaigns, provide cues for voters, articulate policies, and coordinate policy. It is not always easy to distinguish between the parties since each rationally chooses to stay near the center of public opinion.
Political scientists often view parties as “three-headed political giants — the party-in-the-electorate, the party as an organization, and the party-in-government. The party in the electorate are voters who identify with a political party. Unlike many European political parties, American parties do not require dues or membership cards to distinguish members from nonmembers. One needs only to claim to be a member to be a member of a party in the United States. The party as an organization has a national office, a full-time staff, rules and bylaws, and budgets. These are the people who keep the party running between elections and make its rules. The party in government consists of elected officials who call themselves members of the party, such as the president and Congress. These leaders are the main spokespersons of the party.
Economist Anthony Downs has provided a working model of the relationship among citizens, parties, and policy, employing a rational-choice perspective. Rational choice theory assumes that parties and political actors have pragmatic goals (such as winning elections) that are more important to the party than ideology. A party that wants to win office will pursue policies that have broad public appeal.
THE PARTY IN THE ELECTORATE
The party in the electorate consists largely of symbolic images. There is no formal “membership” in American parties, and the party is a psychological label for most people. Party images help shape people’s party identification—the self-proclaimed preference for one of the parties. The clearest trend in party identification over the last four decades has been the decline of both parties and the resultant upsurge of Independents (mostly at the expense of the Democrats). Party identification still remains strongly linked to the voter’s choice, but ticket-splitting is near an all-time high, with many people voting with one party for one office and another for other offices. Divided government has often been the result (frequently with Republican control of the White House and Democratic control of Congress).
THE PARTY ORGANIZATIONS: FROM THE GRASSROOTS TO WASHINGTON
American political parties are decentralized and fragmented. Unlike many European parties, formal party organizations in America have little power to enforce their decisions by offering rewards to officeholders who follow the party line and punishing those who do not. American national parties are a loose aggregation of state parties, which in turn are a fluid association of individuals, groups, and local organizations. There are 50 state party systems, no two exactly alike.
At one time, the urban political party was the basis of political party organization in America; but urban party organizations are no longer very active. From the late nineteenth century through the New Deal of the 1930s, scores of cities were dominated by party machines (a party organization that depends on material inducements such as patronage, in which jobs were awarded for political reasons rather than for merit or competence). A number of reforms were later enacted—many of which had the effect of permanently weakening the parties. The civil service system was created in the 1880s, which established merit criteria for most government jobs. This reform deprived the parties of the appointment power they had used to reward their friends and financial backers. Ballot reform weakened the hold of the parties on the electorate. The change to a secret ballot made it more difficult for party leaders to pay voters for their vote (and thereby control the results). To remove political control from corrupt party bosses, the power of the nomination was taken away. Progressive reformers opened the way for primary elections, in which citizens would have the power to choose nominees for office—making American party organizations the first (and still the only) in the world to have the nominating function removed from them.
Parties are primarily regulated by the states—not by the federal government—and they are more closely regulated in the United States than in other Western democracies. However, state legislation regarding the parties has sometimes conflicted with national policy. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1940 that a state could not turn its primary elections over to a political party (as a “private organization”) in order to prevent African-Americans from voting (United States v. Classic). More recently, the Supreme Court held that the national party convention’s rules took precedence over state law governing how delegates to the convention were to be selected. Perhaps the most important state regulation of political parties is the choice of which type of primary election—blanket, open, or closed—is used to select party candidates for general elections.
The national convention of each party meets every four years to write the party’s platform and nominate its candidates for president and vice president. The national committee, composed of representatives from the states and territories, keeps the party operating between conventions. Day-to-day activities of the national party are the responsibility of the national chairperson, who hires the staff, raises the money, pays the bills, and attends to the daily duties of the party.
THE PARTY IN GOVERNMENT: PROMISES AND POLICY
Party control does matter because each party and the elected officials who represent it generally try to turn campaign promises into action. Voters and coalitions of voters are attracted to different parties largely (though not entirely) by their performance and policies. The parties have done a fairly good job over the years of translating their platform promises into public policy; the impression that politicians and parties never produce policy out of promises is largely erroneous.
PARTY ERAS IN AMERICAN HISTORY
America has always had two parties, in contrast to most democratic nations. Throughout American history, one party has been the dominant majority party for long periods of time (referred to as party eras). Party eras were punctuated by critical elections—in which new issues appeared that divided the electorate—and party coalitions underwent realignment. A party realignment (a rare event) is typically associated with a major crisis or trauma in the nation’s history, such as the Civil War and the Great Depression, both of which led to realignments. A new coalition is formed for each party, and the coalition endures for many years.
Alexander Hamilton was probably the person most instrumental in establishing the first party system. The foundation of the Federalist party developed from his politicking and coalition building while he tried to get congressional support for policies he favored (particularly a national bank). The Democratic-Republicans (also known as Jeffersonians), which replaced the Federalists, were based on a coalition derived from agrarian interests. This made the party popular in the rural South, but the coalition was torn apart by factionalism.
General Andrew Jackson founded the modern American political party when he forged a new coalition in 1828. Jackson was originally a Democratic-Republican, but soon after his election his party became known simply as the Democratic party (which continues to this day). Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, was a realist who argued that a governing party needed a loyal opposition to represent other parts of society. This opposition was provided by the Whigs, but the Whig party was only able to win the presidency when it nominated popular military heroes such as William Henry Harrison (1840) and Zachary Taylor (1848).
The Republican party rose in the late 1850s as the antislavery party. The Republicans forged a coalition out of the remnants of several minor parties and elected Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. The Civil War brought a party realignment, and the Republican party was in ascendancy for more than 60 years (though the Democrats controlled the South). The election of 1896 was a watershed event during this era—a period when party coalitions shifted and the Republicans were entrenched for another generation.
The Republicans continued as the nation’s majority party until the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. President Herbert Hoover’s handling of the Great Depression was disastrous for the Republican party. Franklin D. Roosevelt promised a New Deal and easily defeated Hoover in 1932. Congress passed scores of Roosevelt’s anti-Depression measures during his first hundred days in office. Party realignment began in earnest after the Roosevelt administration got the country moving again, and Roosevelt forged the New Deal coalition from such diverse groups as union members, southerners, intellectuals, liberals, the poor, and African-Americans.
Although the Democrats have been the majority party since Roosevelt’s time, the coalition has steadily weakened since the mid-1960s. An unprecedented period of divided government (when the executive and legislative branches are controlled by different parties) has existed since that time.
Many political scientists believe that the recent pattern of divided government means that the party system has dealigned, with people gradually moving away from both political parties. Many scholars fear that the parties are becoming useless and ineffective through the pattern of divided government and dealignment. However, there are also some signs of party renewal, such as the increase in the regular Washington staff of the national party organizations.

THIRD PARTIES: THEIR IMPACT ON AMERICAN POLITICS

Election rules in the United States tend to favor a two-party system. For example, the winner-take-all system has meant that the party that receives a plurality is declared the winner and the other parties get nothing. By contrast, in a system that uses proportional representation (used in most European countries), legislative seats are allocated according to each party’s percentage of the nationwide vote. A small party may use its seats to combine with one of the larger parties to form a coalition government.


Although the United States has a two-party system, third parties have controlled enough votes in one-third of the last 36 presidential elections to have decisively tipped the electoral college vote. Third parties (offshoots of a major party) have brought new groups into the electorate, have served as “safety valves” for popular discontent, and have brought new issues to the political agenda.
The most obvious consequence of two-party governance is the moderation of political conflict. With just two parties, both will cling to a centrist position to maximize their appeal to voters. The result is often political ambiguity—parties will not want to risk taking a strong stand on a controversial policy if doing so will only antagonize many voters.
UNDERSTANDING POLITICAL PARTIES
Political parties are essential components of democratic government. Ideally, candidates in a democracy should say what they mean to do if elected and be able to carry out what they promised once they are elected. Critics of the American party system complain that this is all too often not the case, and have called for a more responsible party system. The responsible party model calls for each party to present distinct, comprehensive programs; carry out its program if elected; implement its programs if it is the majority party or state what it would do if it were in power; and accept responsibility for the performance of the government. American parties do not meet the criteria of the responsible party model. They are too decentralized to take a single national position and then enforce it; parties do not have control over those who run under their labels; and there is no mechanism for a party to discipline officeholders and ensure cohesion in policy making.
There are also supporters of America’s two-party system who criticize the responsible party model. They argue that the complexity and diversity of American society needs a different form of representation and that local differences need an outlet for expression. Advocates of America’s decentralized parties consider them appropriate for the type of limited government the founders sought to create and most Americans wish to maintain.
Because no single party in the United States can ever be said to have firm control over the government, the hard choices necessary to limit the growth of government are rarely addressed. Divided government has meant that neither party is really in charge, and each tries to blame the other for failures and limitations of government.
Parties are no longer the main source of political information. More and more political communication is through the mass media rather than face-to-face. However, there are indications that the parties are beginning to adapt to the high-tech age. State and national party organizations have become more visible and active. Although more people than ever before call themselves Independents and split their tickets, the majority still identify with a party (and this percentage seems to have stabilized).

CHAPTER OUTLINE
I. INTRODUCTION

A. Party competition is the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of public office.

B. Without this competition there would be no choice, and without choice there would be no democracy.
II. THE MEANING OF PARTY

A. Almost all definitions of political parties have one thing in common: Parties try to win elections. This is their core function and the key to their definition.

B. Party leaders often disagree about policy, and between elections the parties are nearly invisible.

C. Political scientists often view parties as “three-headed political giants”: The party in the electorate, the party as an organization, and the party in government.

1. The party in the electorate are individuals who perceive themselves as party members; many voters have a party identification that guides and influences their votes. Unlike many European political parties, American parties do not require dues or membership cards to distinguish members from nonmembers. To be a member of a party, one needs only to claim to be a member.

2. The party as an organization has a national office, a full-time staff, rules and bylaws, and budgets. Party activists keep the party running between elections and make its rules. Although American parties are loosely organized at the national, state, and local levels, the party organization pursues electoral victory.

3. The party in government consists of elected officials who call themselves members of the party (such as President and Congress). These leaders do not always agree on policy, but they are the main spokespersons of the party.

D. Tasks of the parties.

1. In a large democracy, linkage institutions translate inputs from the public into outputs from the policymakers.

2. Tasks performed by parties as linkage institutions.

a. Parties pick policymakers: A nomination is the party’s endorsement of a candidate.

b. Parties run campaigns: Although parties coordinate the campaigns, recent technology has made it easier for candidates to campaign on their own.

c. Parties give cues to voters: Even though party ties have weakened, most voters have a party image of each party, and many voters still rely on a party to give them cues for voting.

d. Parties articulate policies: Within the electorate and in the government, each political party advocates specific policy alternatives.

e. Parties coordinate policymaking: Each office holder is also a member of a party, and the first place they look for support is to their fellow partisans.

E. Parties, voters, and policy: The Downs Model.

1. Anthony Downs has provided a working model of the relationship among citizens, parties, and policy, employing a rational-choice perspective.

2. Rational-choice theory assumes that parties and political actors have goals (such as winning elections) that are more important to the party than ideology.

a. If both parties and voters are rational, both will try to select the best way to achieve their goals.

b. In order to win an office, the wise party pursues policies that have broad public appeal.

c. The majority of the American electorate are in the middle, and successful parties in the U.S. rarely stray far from the midpoint of public opinion.

d. Although we frequently hear criticism that there is not much difference between the Democrats and Republicans, the two parties have little choice (given the nature of the American political market).

e. From a rational-choice perspective, one should expect the parties to differentiate themselves to some extent. The two parties have to forge different identities in order to build voter loyalty.
III. THE PARTY IN THE ELECTORATE

A. The party in the electorate consists largely of symbolic images.

1. There is no formal “membership” in American parties.

2. For most people, the party is a psychological label.

B. Party images help shape people’s party identification: The self-proclaimed preference for one of the parties.

1. The clearest trend in party identification over the last four decades has been the decline of both parties and the resultant upsurge of Independents (mostly at the expense of the Democrats).

2. Virtually every major social group (except African-American voters) has moved toward a position of increased independence.

3. By contrast, African-Americans have moved even more solidly into the Democratic party (currently only five percent of African-Americans identify themselves as Republicans).

C. Party identification remains strongly linked to the voter’s choice, but ticket-splitting (voting with one party for one office and another for other offices) is near an all-time high.

1. Not only are there more Independents now, but those who still identify with a party are no longer as loyal in the voting booth as they once were.

2. Divided government has frequently been the result (often with Republican control of the White House and Democratic control of Congress).
IV. THE PARTY ORGANIZATIONS: FROM THE GRASS ROOTS TO WASHINGTON

A. American political parties are decentralized and fragmented.

1. Unlike many European parties, formal party organizations in America have little power to enforce their decisions by offering rewards (like campaign funds and appointments) to officeholders who follow the party line and punishing those who do not.

2. Candidates in the United States can get elected on their own, and the party organization is relegated to a relatively limited role.

B. Local parties: The dying urban machines.

1. Urban party organizations are no longer very active.

2. At one time, the urban political party was the basis of political party organization in America.

a. From the late nineteenth century through the New Deal of the 1930s, scores of cities were dominated by party machines (a party organization that depends on material inducements such as patronage, in which jobs were awarded for political reasons rather than for merit or competence).

C. The 50 state party systems.

1. American national parties are a loose aggregation of state parties, which in turn are a fluid association of individuals, groups, and local organizations.

2. There are 50 state party systems, no two exactly alike. Parties in some states (such as Pennsylvania) are well organized, have sizable staffs, and spend a lot of money, while parties in other states (such as California) are very weak.

D. State parties as legal organizations.

1. Parties are regulated primarily by the states—not by the federal government–and they are more closely regulated in the United States than in other western democracies.


  1. States determine whether party candidates for general elections are

chosen in blanket, closed or open primaries.

E. The national party organizations.

1. The national convention of each party meets every four years to write the party’s platform and nominate its candidates for president and vice president.

2. The national committee, composed of representatives from the states and territories, keeps the party operating between conventions.

3. Day-to-day activities of the national party are the responsibility of the national chairperson.
V. THE PARTY IN GOVERNMENT: PROMISES AND POLICY

A. Party control does matter because each party and the elected officials who represent it generally try to turn campaign promises into action.

B. Since candidates are now much less dependent upon parties to get nominated and elected, party control has weakened. In addition, presidents are now less likely to play the role of party leader, and members of Congress are less amenable to being led.

C. Voters and coalitions of voters are attracted to different parties largely (though not entirely) by their performance and policies.

D. The parties have done a fairly good job over the years of translating their platform promises into public policy: the impression that politicians and parties never produce policy out of promises is largely erroneous.

E. It is easy to forget how often parties and presidents do exactly what they say they will do—for every broken promise, many more are kept.


VI. PARTY ERAS IN AMERICAN HISTORY

A. In contrast to the United States, most democratic nations have more than two parties represented in their national legislature.

B. Throughout American history, one party has been the dominant majority party for long periods of time (referred to as party eras).

1. Party eras were punctuated by critical elections, in which new issues appeared that divided the electorate and party coalitions underwent realignment.

2. A party realignment (a rare event) is typically associated with a major crisis or trauma in the nation’s history (such as the Civil War and the great Depression, both of which led to realignments).

3. A new coalition (a set of individuals or groups supporting the party) is formed for each party, and the coalition endures for many years.

4. A critical election period may require more than one election before change is apparent, but the party system will be transformed in such a period.

C. 1796-1824: The first party system.

1. Alexander Hamilton was probably the person most instrumental in establishing the first party system.

2. Hamilton needed congressional support for policies he favored (particularly a national bank), and the foundation of the Federalist party came from his politicking and coalition building.

3. The Federalists were America’s shortest-lived major party. They were poorly organized; they faded after John Adams was defeated in his reelection bid of 1800; and they no longer even had a candidate for president after 1820.

4. The Democratic-Republicans (also known as Jeffersonians) replaced the Federalists. The Democratic-Republican coalition was derived from agrarian interests—which made the party popular in the rural South—but the coalition was torn apart by factionalism.

D. 1828-1856: Jackson and the Democrats versus the Whigs.

1. General Andrew Jackson founded the modern American political party when he forged a new coalition in 1828.

2. Jackson was originally a Democratic-Republican, but soon after his election his party became known simply as the Democratic party (which continues to this day).

3. Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, was a realist who argued that a governing party needed a loyal opposition to represent other parts of society. This opposition was provided by the Whigs, but the Whig party was only able to win the presidency when it nominated popular military heroes such as William Henry Harrison (1840) and Zachary Taylor (1848).

4. The Whigs had two distinct wings—northern industrialists and southern planters—who were brought together more by the Democratic policies they opposed than by issues on which they agreed.

E. 1860-1928: The Republican Era.

1. The issue of slavery dominated American politics and split both the Whigs and the Democrats in the 1850s.

2. The Republican party rose in the late 1850s as the antislavery party.

3. The Republicans forged a coalition out of the remnants of several minor parties and elected Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860.

4. The Civil War brought a party realignment, and the Republican party was in ascendancy for more than 60 years (though the Democrats controlled the South).

5. The election of 1896 was a watershed during this era—a period when party coalitions shifted and the Republicans were entrenched for another generation.

6. The Republicans continued as the nation’s majority party until the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression.

F. 1932-1964: The New Deal coalition.

1. President Herbert Hoover’s handling of the Great Depression was disastrous for the Republicans. He took the position that “economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action.”

2. Franklin D. Roosevelt promised a New Deal and easily defeated Hoover in 1932.

3. Congress passed scores of Roosevelt’s anti-Depression measures during his first hundred days in office.

4. Party realignment began in earnest after the Roosevelt administration got the country moving again, and Roosevelt forged the New Deal coalition from such diverse groups as union members, southerners, intellectuals, liberals, the poor, and African-Americans.

G. 1968-present: The era of divided government.

1. Although the Democrats have been the majority party ever since Roosevelt’s time, the coalition has steadily weakened since the mid-1960s.

2. An unprecedented period of divided government (when the executive and legislative branches are controlled by different parties) has existed since 1968.

3. It is likely that divided party government will be a regular phenomenon at both the federal and state levels.

H. Party dealignment means that people are gradually moving away from both political parties.

1. Many political scientists believe that the recent pattern of divided government means that the party system has dealigned rather than realigned.

2. Many scholars fear that the parties are becoming useless and ineffective through the pattern of divided government and dealignment.

3. Conversely, there are also some signs of party renewal, such as the increase in the regular Washington staff of the national party organizations.
VII. THIRD PARTIES: THEIR IMPACT ON AMERICAN POLITICS

A. There are three basic varieties of third parties.

1. Parties that promote certain causes—either a controversial single issue such as prohibition of alcoholic beverages or an extreme ideological position such as socialism or libertarianism

2. Splinter parties that are offshoots of a major party—such as Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressives (1912), Strom Thurmond’s States’ Righters (1948), and George Wallace’s American Independents (1968)

3. Parties that are an extension of a popular individual with presidential aspirations—including John Anderson (1980) and Ross Perot (1992 and 1996)

B. Importance of third parties.

1. They have brought new groups into the electorate and have served as “safety valves” for popular discontent.

2. They have brought new issues to the political agenda.

C. Consequences of the two-party system.

1. The most obvious consequence of two-party governance is the moderation of political conflict.

a. With just two parties, both will cling to a centrist position to maximize their appeal to voters.

b. The result is often political ambiguity—parties will not want to risk taking a strong stand on a controversial policy if doing so will only antagonize many voters (as with Goldwater in 1964 and McGovern in 1972).


VIII. UNDERSTANDING POLITICAL PARTIES

A. Political parties are considered essential elements of democratic government.

B. Democracy and responsible party government.

1. Ideally, in a democracy candidates should say what they mean to do if elected and be able to do what they promised once they are elected.

2. Critics of the American party system complain that this is all too often not the case, and have called for a more disciplined, responsible party system.

a. The responsible party model calls for each party to present distinct, comprehensive programs; carry out its program if elected; implement its programs if it is the majority party or state what it would do if it were in power; and accept responsibility for the performance of the government.

b. Under this model, a party’s officeholders would have firm control of the government, and they would be collectively (rather than individually) responsible for their actions.

3. American parties do not meet the criteria of the responsible party

model.

a. They are too decentralized to take a single national position and then enforce it.



b. Because virtually anyone can vote in party primaries, parties do not have control over those who run under their labels.

c. In America’s loosely organized party system, there is no mechanism for a party to discipline officeholders and ensure cohesion in policymaking.

4. There are supporters of America’s two-party system who criticize the responsible party model.

a. They argue that the complexity and diversity of American society needs a different form of representation; local differences need an outlet for expression.

b. America’s decentralized parties are appropriate for the type of limited government the founders sought to create and most Americans wish to maintain.

C. Individualism and gridlock.

1. The Founding Fathers wanted to preserve individual freedom of action by elected officials.

a. With America’s weak party system, this is certainly the case.

2. Weak parties make it easier for politicians to avoid tough decisions; this creates gridlock.

D. American political parties and the scope of government.

1. Weak parties limit the scope of government in America because the president cannot command party discipline to pass important legislation, such as health care.

2. Because no single party can ever be said to have firm control over government, the hard choices necessary to cut back on existing government spending are rarely addressed.

3. Divided government has meant that neither party is really in charge, and each points the finger at the other.

E. Is the party over?

1. Parties are no longer the main source of political information.

a. More and more political communication is not face-to-face but rather through the mass media.

b. The technology of campaigning—television, polls, computers, political consultants, media specialists, and the like—can be bought by candidates for themselves, and they therefore do not need to be dependent on the party.

c. With the advent of television, voters no longer need the party to find out what the candidates are like and what they stand for.

d. The power of interest groups has grown enormously in recent years; they pioneered much of the technology of modern politics, including mass mailings and sophisticated fundraising.

2. There are indications that the parties are beginning to adapt to the high-tech age.

a. State and national party organizations have become more visible and active.

b. Although more people than ever before call themselves Independents and split their tickets, the majority still identify with a party (and this percentage seems to have stabilized).



KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS

Blanket primaries: nomination contest where voters are presented with a list of the candidates from all the parties and allowed them to pick candidates from all parties.

Closed primaries: nomination contest where only people who have registered in advance with the party can vote.

Coalition: a set of individuals and groups supporting a political party.

Critical election: an election where each party’s coalition of support begins to break up and a new coalition of forces is formed for each party.

Linkage institutions: institutions such as parties, elections, interest groups, and the media translate inputs from the public into outputs from policymakers.

National chairperson: the person responsible for taking care of the day-to-day activities and daily duties of the party.

National committee: a coalition of representatives from the states and territories charged with maintaining the party between elections.

National convention: the supreme power within each party which meets every four years, writes the party platform, and nominates candidates for president and vice-president.

New Deal coalition: the new coalition of forces (urban, unions, Catholics, Jews, the poor, Southerners, African-Americans, and intellectuals) in the Democratic party, which was forged as a result of national economic crisis associated with the Great Depression.

Open primaries: nomination contest where voters can decide on election day whether they want to participate in the Democratic or Republican contest.

Party competition: the battle between the two dominant parties in the American system.

Party dealignment: the event where voters move away from both parties.

Party eras: occasions where there has been a dominant majority party for long periods of time.

Party identification: the self-proclaimed preference for one or the other party.

Party image: what voters know or think they know about what each party stands for.

Party machines: a particular kind of party organization which depends on inducements that are both specific and material for rewarding loyal party members.

Party realignment: process whereby the major political parties form new support coalitions that endure for a long period.

Patronage: one of the key inducements used by machines whereby jobs are given for political reasons rather than for merit or competence alone.

Political party: a team of men and women seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election.

Rational-choice theory: a theory which seeks to explain political processes and outcomes as consequences of purposive behavior, where political actors are assumed to have goals and who pursue those goals rationally.

Responsible party model: an ideal model of party organization recommending that parties provide distinct programs, encourage candidates to be committed to the party platform, intend to implement their programs, and accept responsibility for the performance of government.

Third parties: minor parties which either promote narrow ideological issues or are splinter groups from the major parties.

Ticket-splitting: voting with one party for one office and another for other offices.
TEACHING IDEAS: CLASS DISCUSSION AND STUDENT PROJECTS


  • We frequently hear criticism that there is not much difference between the Democrats and Republicans. Have your class summarize the contents of the front section of the newspaper for one or two weeks. Students should pay particular attention to whether there are differences between Republicans and Democrats on issues that make the front page. At the end of the week, compare the number of issues on which there appears to be party differences compared to those on which there is little difference. Have students then reassess their beliefs about differences between Republicans and Democrats.




  • As a library project, ask students to read editorials for a period of several days following Ronald Reagan's 1980 and 1984 elections. They should have no difficulty in finding a number of articles that speculated on whether this was a realigning election. Ask them to write "follow-up" essays reflecting on Bill Clinton’s victories in 1992 and 1996 and on Bush’s election in 2000. Were the journalists correct in describing the early 1980s as a realigning period? Why or why not?




  • For an interesting class discussion, first ask students if they believe there is any difference between Republicans and Democrats. Then repeat the question, focusing on specific political issues (e.g., abortion, obscenity, environment, tax policy) and which social groups identify with each party.




  • To reinforce the lecture material, have students debate the reasons why parties have declined in popularity. In particular, have them draw comparisons between the benefits of membership in an interest group versus the benefits of membership in a political party.




  • For a reading and writing connection, give students a research assignment where they compare and contrast the role of the parties and their platforms in the 2000 and 2002 elections and in the 1948 election of Harry Truman. In particular, ask students to pay special attention to how media, especially television, was used to promote party goals. Because television was still very new in 1948 and was used strategically in 1996 and 1998, the comparisons should result in starkly different images of parties. In addition, students should see the difference between party-centered and candidate-centered campaigns.

Invite representatives from the two mainstream parties (as well as any others organized on campus) to present brief talks to your class regarding their parties, and why identifying with their party, or getting involved with it, is a good thing. After the representatives leave, have your students discuss whether they were persuaded in any way (that parties are good, or involvement is good, for example) and why: what incentives became apparent in the lectures and subsequent discussion?


Assign students to research the party platforms and organizational characteristics of state-level parties, with each student taking a different party in a different state. How much diversity is there across the states? How do the state parties compare with the national parties?

BACKGROUND READING
Aldrich, John H. Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Burnham, Walter Dean. Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics. New York: W. W. Norton, 1970.

Maisel, L. Sandy, ed. The Parties Respond. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.

Rosenstone, Steven J., Roy L. Behr, and Edward H. Lazarus. Third Parties in America, 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Sabato, Larry. The Party's Just Begun: Shaping Political Parties for America's Future. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman/Little Brown, 1988.

Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System, Rev. ed. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1983.


MEDIA SUGGESTIONS


A Third Choice. This program examines third parties in the U.S., including interviews with academic experts, campaign memorabilia, and rare archival footage. Films for the Humanities & Sciences.

The Candidate. A 1972 Warner Brothers film about packaging a political candidate. In an exposé style, this movie provides a dramatic portrayal of high-tech political campaigning and public manipulation. In particular, it shows how a party-centered campaign can easily turn into a candidate-centered campaign with the help of professional campaign consultants.

Third Parties in American Politics. 1996. This film examines the impact of third parties on presidential elections. Films for the Humanities and Sciences.





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