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Parties in the United States. Origins and Development. I. Why Parties? The Origin of American Parties. The debate over the Constitution Federalists Those who favored the Constitution and strong federal (central) government.

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Parties in the united states l.jpg

Parties in the United States

Origins and Development


I why parties the origin of american parties l.jpg
I. Why Parties? The Origin of American Parties

  • The debate over the Constitution

    • Federalists

      • Those who favored the Constitution and strong federal (central) government.

      • Most well-known elites agreed on ratification, even when they disagreed about meaning of Constitution (Hamilton and Jefferson both support ratification)

    • Anti-Federalists – Those who opposed ratification and favored states’ rights and a weak central government (Confederation)

    • Ratification and Bill of Rights largely ends dispute – but divisions among “Federalists” soon emerge


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B. Factionalism: Hamilton vs. Jefferson

  • Alexander Hamilton proposes creating national bank  calls his vision of strong central government “Federalist”

  • Thomas Jefferson opposes plans for large central government, says that if Constitution doesn’t mention it then the central government cannot do it.

  • Jefferson often called “Anti-Federalist” even though he supported ratification and rejected the term. He does ally with some “real” Anti-Federalists, however…



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C. From Personalism to Parties

  • Formation of Federalist Party

    • 1792-1793: Hamilton mobilizes Northeastern elites for his policies, forms Federalist Party

    • Nature of Party = Collection of notables, rather than mass organization

    • Federalists initially retain power based on connections to Washington (election of Adams)


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2. Formation of Democratic-Republicans

  • Opposition to (First) Bank of the United States and financial centralization

  • Opposition to pro-British tilt in US foreign policy  Democratic-Republican Societies formed

  • Congressional faction led by Madison allies with Jefferson – begins to campaign on common issues using the Societies (Democratic-Republican Party)


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D. Early Party Competition

  • Democratic-Republicans focus on popular mobilization, esp. in South and “West”

    • Build network of newspapers to reach public, subsidized by Jefferson

    • Use rural-urban cleavage to campaign against Federalists

  • Federalists attempt to use government to perpetuate power (belief that opposition parties promote division)

    • Patronage (new military commissions)

    • Censorship (Alien & Sedition Acts)


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II. Why Two Parties?

  • Duverger’s Law – SMSP leads to Two-Party Systems

    • SMSP? Single-Member Simple Plurality districts (“First Past the Post”)

    • In SMSP, voter faced with possibility that minority party may win if opposition divides  incentive to vote for “lesser of two evils” instead of “throwing your vote away”


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B. US-Specific Factors

  • Ballot access laws – Generally admit two parties; others must “qualify”

  • Focus on “up-ticket” races hurts “down-ticket” candidates – makes it difficult to build a regional or local political party (exception to Duverger’s Law that doesn’t apply to US)


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3. Anti-fusion laws

Most states require separate slates of electors for each party, prohibit candidates from appearing twice on the ballot

SC Ballot 2006


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III. Party Systems

  • The First Party System: Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans

    • Origins: Factionalism

    • Focus: Foreign Policy

    • Termination

      • Democratic-Republicans moderate domestic views after gaining national power

      • Federalists become irrelevant once foreign policy issues lose salience (end of Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812)

    • Aftermath: Resistance by some Democratic-Republicans (“quids”) to moderation in domestic policy  populism within party


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B. Second Party System: Democrats vs. Whigs

  • Origins: “Era of Good Feelings” produces single-party dominance  factionalism within Democratic-Republicans

    • Election of 1824: Four candidates without parties vie for Presidency. Jackson mobilizes agrarian supporters against urban elites

    • “Corrupt Bargain” – Adams-Clay alliance gains Presidency in House of Representatives  Triggers Jacksonian coalition of “Old Republicans”

    • 1828: Jackson gains control of Party and Presidency


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d. Jackson kills the Second Bank of the United States

  • Jackson initially divides opposition, but second term (1832-1836) unites opponents

  • Jackson casts the first “political” veto – prior vetoes had been based on Constitutionality of laws, not desirability

  • Jackson then kills the Bank by removing deposits without express authority (prevents centralized monetary policy, allowing states more fiscal independence)

  • Bankers, businesses, commercial farmers mobilize against Jackson  Choose the label “Whigs” in 1832-1833 (leaders = Clay and Adams)


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2. Focus: Presidential Power and Commerce

  • Whigs favor Congress over Presidency (viewed as closer to popular will)

  • Whigs favor economic modernization and industrialization: central banking, tariffs, “public improvements”

  • Democrats favor free trade and horizontal expansion (Manifest Destiny) instead of economic development (land over capital)


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3. Termination: Expansion of Slavery

  • Whigs weaken over time: factionalism, grudges over opposition to expansion

  • Economic divide decreases as Democrats adopt “Whiggish” ideas about business

  • Free Soil Party begins to win Northern support (splits Democrat vote in 1848 over slavery issue)  initially helps Whigs


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3. Termination: Expansion of Slavery

  • Whigs weaken over time: factionalism, grudges over opposition to expansion

  • Economic divide decreases as Democrats adopt “Whiggish” ideas about business

  • Free Soil Party begins to win Northern support (splits Democrat vote in 1848 over slavery issue)  initially helps Whigs

  • Compromise of 1850 splits party – incumbent Fillmore rejected in 1852



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d. 1854: The Final Split

  • Kansas-Nebraska Act divides Whigs along North-South lines

  • Northern Whigs leave Party, form Republican Party to fight against both Southern Whigs and the Democrats (which begin to lose Northern support)

  • 1856: “Whig” candidate wins most traditional Whigs in South, but fails to win previous Whigs in North



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4. Aftermath: The Regional Divide

  • Republicans become Northern party (adding freed slaves in the South after the Civil War)

  • Democrats limited to Southern whites after Civil War  “the Party of treason”


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C. The Third Party System: Republicans and Democrats

  • Origins: North-South divide becomes more salient than other issues

  • Focus: North (industry, tariffs) against South (agriculture, free trade).


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3. Termination: Culture Wars

  • Regional power bases solidify with end of Reconstruction  competition over new states (West) and voters (immigrants)

  • Civil Service reform makes enforcing party loyalty more difficult  internal struggles and third party defections

  • 1892: Populist Party takes much of West over issue of “free silver”  rejected by both Democrats and Republicans (threat of region-based third party)



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c. 1896: Realignment of the Democratic Party

  • Pro-Populist Democrats gain control of Party, repudiate own President!

  • William Jennings Bryan tries to unite South and West over opposition to Northeast bankers and federal anti-inflation policies (the “Cross of Gold”)



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d. Aftermath

  • Democrats now opposed by many Northern workers in addition to business (anti-industry policies)

  • Republicans lose the West, but make it up by dominating large cities

  • Why did both parties endure this realignment? Internal change, esp. in Democratic Party


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D. The Fourth Party System: The Urban-Rural divide

  • Origins: Populist-Democratic coalition unifies urban dwellers behind Republicans (exception: some new immigrant groups)

  • Focus: Business vs Agriculture. Democrats essentially trade national power for concessions to state power. Progressive movement challenges both parties on cultural issues (accounts for only Democratic victory – Wilson)


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3. Termination: The Great Depression

  • Depression splits the business-labor alliance in cities

  • Democrats add the solid South to Northern cities  overwhelming support for FDR


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4. Aftermath: Persistent Regional Blocs

  • West/South vs. North/Great Lakes division persists to this day: 1896 vs. 2004


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E. The Fifth Party System: The New Deal Coalition

  • Origins: FDR unites urban workers in North and the “Solid South”

  • Focus: Labor/Agriculture vs Business


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3. Termination: The Battle for the Democratic Party

  • Problem for Democrats: Northern labor unions oppose discrimination but Southern whites support it

  • Northerners win control of Democratic Party

  • Southerners revolt: 1948 “Dixiecrats” run on segregation, 1960 anti-Kennedy electors, 1968 American Independent Party



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d. The “Southern Strategy” Realigns the Parties

  • Nixon in 1968 takes slightly more conservative positions on race than Democrats, allows Wallace to attack integration (see Hillygus and Shields for more details)

  • Southerners support Republican Party of Nixon and Reagan


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4. Aftermath

  • Racially-charged issues of welfare, affirmative action, and crime convince Southerners to switch to Republican Party  Republicans now control South-West coalition of Bryan and Democrats have the urban North!


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F. The Sixth Party System

  • Origins: Southern whites switch to Republican Party

  • Focus: Liberal-Conservative divide


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3. Developments in the Sixth Party System

  • Racially-charged triad has lost effectiveness: welfare reform, limited affirmative action, lower crime  “third way” Democrats. But has race lost salience? Must examine Obama campaign in more detail…

  • Liberal-Conservative divide now provides basis for regional coalitions, but there are important differences within these labels (see Assignment 1 for other ideologies)

  • Great Lakes and Rocky Mountain states contain seeds of discontent within major parties


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G. Conclusions

  • Overall pattern of realignment

    • New issue emerges that divides existing parties  grassroots third parties emerge

    • Elites within a party bolt to take advantage of new cleavage OR political insurgents take over existing party for the same purpose

    • Elite-founded parties or altered major parties absorb grassroots challengers


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2. Realignment has become less frequent

  • Parties much more stable – Democrats and Republicans for almost 150 years…

  • Internal democracy allows gradual policy change without full-scale realignment (primaries)


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IV. Third Parties

  • Presidential Aspirations –

    • All Fail: No “third” party has ever won the Presidency. Even the Republicans spent an election losing (as the Whigs disintegrated) before winning in 1860.


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2. Close Calls: Third Parties That Won Electoral Votes

  • Excludes party factions (different nominees by different state branches)

  • Excludes “faithless electors”












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3. Major Third Party Efforts (Popular Vote) Southern Democrats form third party

  • 1912: Roosevelt (Progressive) gets 27.4%

  • 1992: Perot (Independent) gets 18.7%*

  • 1924: Lafollette (Progressive) gets 16.6%

  • 1968: Wallace (American Independent) gets 13.5%

  • 1848: Van Buren (Free Soil) gets 10.1%*

    * Candidate received ZERO electoral votes


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4. Why do third parties run in Presidential elections? Southern Democrats form third party

  • The regional approach: Win electors and alter the balance of power (useful for bargaining)

  • The national approach: All-or-nothing effort to alter election outcome (useful for forcing existing parties to tackle issues)

  • Not all success is measured by electoral victory! 1992 and deficits, 1896 and free silver, 1952 and concessions to the South


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5. State and local efforts by third parties Southern Democrats form third party

  • Third parties often viable for long periods on state/local level

    • Single party dominance means no “wasted” votes (i.e. Independents for governor in Texas)

    • Regional issue cleavages can outweigh national issues (Populists in Great Plains, Progressives in Wisconsin, Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota, etc.)

    • Close national elections tend to lead to mergers or fusion efforts (co-option)


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6. Current Third-Party Efforts Southern Democrats form third party

  • Major third parties today. Four are larger than others:

    • Constitution (3rd in registered voters): Conservative breakaway in 1992 as Taxpayers’ Party

    • Green (4th): Focus on environment. 305,000 registered voters.

    • Libertarian (5th): Clear ideology matches name

    • Reform (distant 6th): Decline since 1996


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b. Serious Third-Party and Independent Candidates, 2006 (September Polls vs November Voting)

  • Texas Governor:

    • Rick Perry (R) 35%39%

    • Chris Bell (D) 18%30%

    • Carole Keeton Strayhorn (I) 18%18%

    • Kinky Friedman (I) 18%12%

  • Connecticut Senate:

    • Joseph Lieberman (I) 45%50%

    • Ned Lamont (D) 43%40%

    • Alan Schlesinger (R) 6%10%

  • Vermont Senate

    • Bernie Sanders (I) 70%65%

    • Greg Parke (R) 23%32%


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c. No Serious Third-Party and Independent Candidates for 2008 (August polls)

  • President:

    • Barack Obama (D) 45%

    • John McCain (R) 40%

    • Bob Barr (Libertarian) 5%

    • Ralph Nader (Green) 4%


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