Political Parties Outline I. Introduction



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Political Parties Outline

I. INTRODUCTION
A. What is a Party?

1. In the United States, apolitical party is a group of persons organized primarily for the purpose of controlling government through winning elections and holding public office. Winning elections is the name of the game.

2. Most political parties are products of informal evolution. They are made up of people who are committed to a common set of public policies and programs. Although committed to a common cause, it is composed of very diverse groups that often disagree with each other on key issues, but with a common ideological goal.

3. The Democratic and Republican are the major parties, i.e., the dominant political parties in the United States. The Reform Party is a minor party. None of the parties are either principle — or issue — oriented. They are, instead, election-oriented.

4. Coalitions are unions of many persons of diverse interests. They too are election — rather than issue-oriented. A major political party is a broadly based coalition of diverse groups that attempts to gain control of the government by winning elections, in order to exercise power and reward its members. The diverse groups frequently disagree with one another on significant issues.

5. Four elements to a political party

a. Voters, a majority of whom consider themselves Democrats or Republicans

b. Party leaders, outside of government, who handle the party apparatus and can use it as a power base.

c. Party activists, who perform the day-to-day, grass-roots work.

d. Party leaders, in government, who include the president, leaders in Congress, and state and local leaders.

B. Without this competition there would be no choice, and without choice there would be no democracy.
II. THE MEANING OF PARTY
A. Political parties endorse candidates for public office and try to win elections.
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. The concept of party identification in the United States refers to the long-term psychological attachment of the individual for a particular political party. 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. What Do Political Parties Do?

a. The Nominating Function

1) parties recruit and choose candidates.

2) parties provide nominees with a solid base of support. There are various party groups or units that become involved in the nomination of candidates, i.e., national and state central committees, national and state party conventions; state and local party caucuses; and, the voters themselves in primary elections.

3) A political party's endorsement to officially run for office as the candidate of that party is called a nomination. It is that function that most clearly sets political parties apart from other political groups operating in the United States. Not to be confused with political action committees (the campaign and election organizations created in recent years by many special interest groups to support their political views).

4) Presidential campaigns now are organized and conducted largely by the candidates own personal political organization, rather than the national party organization.

b. The Informer-Stimulator Function

1) parties take stands on issues and criticize the stands taken by their opponents.

2) the function of informing the public and stimulating political debate is performed by the news media, interest groups, and the parties themselves.

c. The "Seal of Approval" Function

1) Parties try to ensure that the people they nominate are qualified and of good character.

2) Parties work to ensure that elected officials perform their duties well.

d. The Governmental Function

1) most federal appointments to executive offices are made on a partisan basis. Likewise for State appointments.

2) under the system of separation of powers, political parties are usually the agents that prompt cooperation between the legislative and executive branches.

3) broadly based parties like those in the United States tend to reduce and moderate political conflict by forcing conflicting groups to agree to compromise solutions.

e. The Watchdog Function — the "loyal opposition"

1) function of the "loyal opposition" is to criticize the policies of the party in power. Sometimes referred to as the "out party."

2) Their watchfulness forces public officials to be more responsive to popular concerns.

3) In the big picture, not a very important function of the party that is IN power. Important for the party out of power.

2. In a large democracy, linkage institutions translate inputs from the public into outputs from the policymakers. Linkage institutions serve as the "bridge" between the public and government. Linkage institutions are NOT government components.

a. Linkage institutions help ensure that public preferences are placed on the government's agenda.

b. There are four main linkage institutions in the United States: parties, elections, interest groups, and the media.

3. 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. African American voters tend to have the weakest party ties.

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. Reasons for the Two-Party System

1. The Historical Basis

a. A minor party is one of the less widely supported parties in the political system. The two major parties make up the basis for the two-party system.

b. The Framers of the Constitution were opposed to political parties. The Constitution has no provision for the function of political parties in our electoral process.

c. In the debate over ratification of the Constitution, Federalists and Anti-Federalists became the country's first two parties. Thus, the two-party system in American goes back to the ratification of the Constitution.

d. Reasons for the two-party system:

1) Tradition

2) Single-member districts

3) Elections by plurality

4) Lack of strong ideological beliefs 2. The Force of Tradition

a. Most Americans support the two-party system because it has always existed.

b. Minor parties have therefore made little headway. The history of such parties would suggest that they have been short-lived because they are generally formed around a specific issue or set of issues.

3. Factors that contribute to the formation and continuation of the two-party electoral system

a. Single-member districts are the institution that promotes continuation of the two-party system.

b. Laws governing the establishment and activities of political parties are primarily state, not federal. State election laws are deliberately written to discourage minor parties. They tend to discourage minor parties because people prefer not to "waste" their vote.

c. Elections by plurality, i.e. "winner-take-all." A plurality is the largest number of votes cast for an office.

d. The lack of an American ideological consensus

1) Although the United States is a pluralistic society, Americans tend to agree on fundamental issues. A consensus is a general agreement. Nonetheless, it is the absence of strong ideological beliefs among the electorate that generally contributes to the formation and continuation of a two-party system.

2) America's major political parties tend to take moderate stands in order to attract the largest possible number of voters. Most American voters are moderate.

3) A pluralistic society is a culture composed of many distinct subgroups.

4) Ideologically homogeneous Americans are those that share basic political beliefs and principles.

F. Multiparty System

1. In a multiparty system, parties represent a wide variety of class, religious, sectional, and political interests, often tend to produce political instability.

2. In America, institutional and ideological factors make a multiparty system unlikely.

G. One-Party Systems

1. Nearly all dictatorships have one-party systems.

2. Traditionally, many areas of the United States were dominated by a single party. Members of the Jewish faith, union members, Hispanics, and African Americans have tended to support the Democratic Party in recent decades. The wealthy business class tends to support the Republican Party.

3. In recent years, two-party competition has spread.


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 past 25 years has been the decline of both parties and the increasing percentage 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 5 percent of African Americans identify themselves as Republicans).

4. Traditionally, much of the Republican support has been the wealthy business class.

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. An increase in party identification usually results in greater interests in elections, higher voter turnout, and more straight-ticket voting.

3. Divided government has frequently been the result (often with Republican control of the White House and Democratic control of Congress).



IV. THE PARTY ORGANIZATIONS
A. In terms of organizational structure, American political parties are decentralized and fragmented among local, state, and national party organizations.

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. Moreover, unlike party systems in Western Europe, it has become increasingly difficult to determine differences between parties in the United States.

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

a. From the late nineteenth century through the New Deal of the 1930s, scores of cities were dominated by political, or party machines (a party organization that uses specific and material inducements to win party loyalty and power, such as patronage, in which jobs and financial rewards were given by party machines for political reasons rather than for merit or competence).

b. At one time, many urban machines depended heavily on ethnic group support.

c. Richard J. Daley of Chicago was the last of the urban machine bosses, and there are remnants of the Chicago machine even today.

3. In the spirit of cleaning up government, a number of reforms were instituted — many of which had the effect of permanently weakening the parties.

a. The civil service system, created in the 1880s, established a merit system for hiring most government workers. This reform deprived the parties of the appointment power they had used to reward their friends and financial backers.

b. 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).

c. 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.

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 rewarded for political reasons rather than for merit or competence).

b. At one time, many urban machines depended heavily on ethnic group support.

3. In the spirit of cleaning up government, a number of reforms were instituted, many of which had the effect of permanently weakening the parties.

a. The civil service system was created in the 1880s, which established a 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.

b. 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 votes (and thereby control the results).

c. To remove political control from corrupt party bosses, i.e., to diminish the ability of parties to reward party loyalists with nominations for office, 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.
C. The fifty 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 fifty 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.

2. State legislation regarding the parties has sometimes conflicted with national policy.

a. In 1940, the U. S. Supreme Court held that a state could not turn its primary elections over to a party (as a "private organization") in order to prevent African Americans from voting (United States v. Classic).

b. More recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the national party convention's rules took precedence over state law governing how delegates to the convention were to be selected.

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's official national operations going between national conventions.

3. Day-to-day activities of the national party are the responsibility of the national chairperson.

a. The national party chairperson hires the staff, raises the money, pays the bills, and attends to the daily duties of the party.

b. The chairperson of the party that controls the White House is selected by the president. The party out of office may engage in intense internal rivalry over the position.


V. THE PARTY IN GOVERNMENT
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, begins, or is made more certain by critical elections, i.e., a realigning election, in which the results set off a long-term shift in the partisan makeup of the electorate, and in which new issues appeared that divided the electorate and party coalitions undergo general realignment. Critical elections involve and accelerate party realignment.

2. A party realignment are rare events in the United States, usually associated with a major national crisis or trauma, in which one party's majority domination is replaced with another's. It 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). Party realignment describes the process whereby a significant proportion of the electorate changes its party affiliation.

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 Americans 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 modem 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 anti-slavery party. It was a new party and not just a new version of the Whigs.

3. 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

4. The Civil War brought a party realignment, and the Republican Party was in ascendancy for more than sixty 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. The Great Depression of the 1930s gave rise to the New Deal coalition. 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 brought together the original New Deal coalition and easily defeated Hoover in 1932. The New Deal coalition was responsible for electing and re-electing Democrats.

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.

5. During the New Deal, Blacks largely changed its allegiance from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.

G. 1968-present: The era of divided government

1. Since 1968, American politics has been characterized by divided government. The weakening and party dealignment has been as a result of diverse views on social programs. While Republicans have generally believed that the states should dictate the type and level of funding for social programs, the Democrats have been generally more willing than Republicans to appropriate federal funds for social programs.

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.


VII. THE PARTIES TODAY: DEALIGNMENT AND RENEWAL
A. Party dealignment means that people are gradually moving away from both political parties, marked by decreasing influence of both parties on voters and government.

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.

B. Four major changes have occurred in the party system with the emergence of the split-level party. Split-level party refers to the recent phenomenon in which parties have strong, vigorous organizations but with only mass weak followings in the mass level. The obvious result is a general weakening of political parties in the United States:

1. Party loyalty has declined, i.e., political independence — the recent dealignment has been characterized by a growing party neutrality; many voters are aware of the candidates but lack any party anchoring (and are often referred as "the floating voters").

2. Those who do identify with a party are more likely to belong to the party that matches their ideology — the parties have become ideologically differentiated, and the wealthy business class or people who call themselves conservatives are more likely to be in the Republican party while liberals are concentrated in the Democratic party.

3. The advent of "split-ticket" voting. "Split-ticket" voting is the practice of voting for candidates of more than one party in the same election. For example, a split-ticket voter may vote for a Republican candidate for president and a Democrat for governor.

4. Candidate-based campaign organizations have taken hold, even though party loyalty has lagged. Party organizations have become more energetic and effective — the parties learned the secrets of high-tech fund-raising; the parties' national, congressional, and senatorial campaign committees are now wealthier, more stable, better organized, and better staffed. Moreover, the role of the media in election has contributed toward the weakening of political parties in the United States.

5. Candidate-based campaign organizations. As mentioned earlier, in recent years, presidential campaigns have been organized and conducted largely by a candidate's own personal campaign organization.

C. The Democrats: ensuring representation

1. The most recent restructuring of the Democratic Party began in 1968. Riots at the Democratic National Convention that year led to the creation of the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which established open procedures and quota requirements for delegate selection.

a. The commission tried to make conventions more representative; all delegate selection procedures were required to be open, giving party leaders no more power than any other person who wanted to participate.

b. The rules were in effect by 1972, but the party has since replaced most of its quota requirements with affirmation action guidelines. Delegations to the National Democratic Convention must be half male and half female.

c. The party also tried to restore state slots for party leaders and setting aside a portion of delegate slots for party leaders and elected officials (known as super-delegates).

d. The Democratic Party is marked by the philosophy that they are generally more willing than Republicans to appropriate federal funds for social programs.

e. One goal however, was to minimize the influence of party leaders in the presidential selection of candidates.

2. Many believe that the divisiveness of the Democrats' open procedures has hurt their ability to unite for the fall campaign.


D. The Republicans: putting technology to use

1. The Republicans have not been immersed with the intra party reforms that so absorbed the Democrats.

a. There were few minorities and feminists in the Republican party to demand affirmative action and a fair share of the delegates.

b. The Republicans were more concerned with winning elections than being balanced by race, sex, age, and ethnicity.

2. In 1974, the Republicans faced a political catastrophe when President Nixon resigned the presidency during the Watergate scandal.

a. After the embarrassment of Watergate, the Republicans selected former Tennessee Senator Brock as chairperson of the Republican National Committee.

b. Brock pushed for more effective fund-raising through the use of computer technology and more polling technology. He made the Republican organization more effective and efficient, and the advantage over the Republicans still retain an organizational advantage over the Democrats.

E. Third parties: their impact on American politics

1. In general, many believe that minor parties (third-parties) have played a major role in influencing the outcome of elections and the political platforms of the major parties. As a general rule, third party candidates almost never win office in the United States. They have however brought new groups into the electorate as well as new issues to the political agenda.

2. Four Types of Minor Parties in the United States

a. The ideological parties are those based on a particular set of beliefs, a comprehensive view of social, economic, and political matters. The Communist and Libertarian parties are examples of ideological parties. Although they have not won many elections, they have been long-lived.

b. Single-issue oriented parties are those concentrating on a single public policy matter. Other parties, like the "Know-Nothings" of the 1850s and the Right-to-Life party today, focus on single issues.

c. The economic protest or economically motivated parties were those parties rooted in periods of economic discontent, for example, the Greenback and Populist parties of the late 1800s.

d. The splinter or personality driven parties were those that broke off from one of the two major parties. For example, the "Bull Moose" party of 1912, the Dixiecrats" of 1948, and George Wallace's American Independents (1968). Amazing as it may seem, most of the important minor parties in the nation's history have been splinter parties.

3. Importance of third parties:

a. Third parties have controlled enough votes in one-third of the last thirty-six presidential elections to have decisively tipped the Electoral College. This is true largely because the percentage of voter turnout is highest in presidential elections.

b. They have brought new groups into the electorate and have served as "safety valves" for popular discontent.

c. The modern minor party impact has revolved around a political leader who could not get the nomination from his party, i.e., Theodore Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party, George Wallace's American Independent party.

d. Third parties have introduced useful innovations in American politics. Unlike major parties, minor parties tend to take clear-cut stands on controversial issues. Third parties, or minor parties, generally are formed around a specific issue or a particular set of issues.

e. A strong third-party candidacy can play a "spoiler role" in an election where the two major parties are evenly matched. Minor parties take enough votes away from one of the two major parties to cost its candidate the election.

f. Minor parties have played important roles as critics and reformers in American political life.

g. When innovations proposed by minor parties gain popular support, they are usually adopted by one or both of the major parties.

4. 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.

5. Third parties (minor parties) are short lived for numerous reasons, including:

a. Minor parties often have difficulty in qualifying for the ballot in some states. That problem in itself limits their growth.

b. They have difficulty setting up national and state organization. For example, the Reform Party, with the departure of Ross Perot, could not agree on a site for their national convention.

c. Single-member districts and winner-take-all elections automatically favor the major parties.

d. Issues advanced by minor parties are often absorbed by one of the major parties, especially if the American public seems to adhere to that issue.

6. 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.

F. 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 vote (as with Goldwater in 1964 and McGovern in 1972).

2. One of the major reasons the United States has only two parties represented in government is structural — American has a winner-take-all system.

a. In a winner-take-all system, the party that receives a plurality (more votes than anyone else, even though it may be less than a majority) is declared the winner. Unless a party wins, there is no reward for the votes it gets.

b. This system discourages small parties.

3. 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. A party must achieve a certain percentage of votes to be awarded seats in the legislature.

b. A small party may use its seat parties to form a coalition government. With just two parties, both will cling to a centrist position to maximize


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

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 Independent and split their tickets, the majority still identify with a party (and this percentage seems to have stabilized).

3. Political polarization is said to take place and effect the structure of parties. Polarization of the public is best described as an increase in the number of people holding extreme political views.


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