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Political Parties. What is a political party?. A team of people seeking to control the governing apparatus by winning elected office. Three incarnations of party?. Party as Organization Office seekers Benefit seekers Party in the Electorate Party in Government.

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What is a political party l.jpg
What is a political party?

  • A team of people seeking to control the governing apparatus by winning elected office.


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Three incarnations of party?

  • Party as Organization

    • Office seekers

    • Benefit seekers

  • Party in the Electorate

  • Party in Government


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Washington’s Farewell Address

  • The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

  • It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.


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The framers thought that parties were bad for America. Were they right? What are parties’ negative effects on the political system? What are their positive effects? What would politics be like without them?



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Problems that political parties solve solve?

  • Make legislating easier

  • Mobilize voters/Simplify voter decision-making

  • Regulate politicians’ ambition

  • Enforce collective responsibility


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Problems that political parties create solve?

  • Can magnify and harden conflicts

  • Can oversimplify issues

  • Can seem to relieve citizens of hard work of self-education


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Electoral rules affect party strength solve?

  • The golden age of parties 1828-1912

  • Declining party strength 1912-1972

  • Era of weak parties 1972-1994

  • Stronger parties? 1994-???


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The golden age of parties solve?1828-1912

  • Spoils system

  • No secret ballot

  • Politics as entertainment

  • Grass roots parties

  • High voter turnout


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Declining party strength: solve?1912-1972

  • Australian ballot, secret ballot

  • Civil service reforms

  • Primary elections

  • Direct election of senators

  • Nonpartisan local elections

  • New Deal welfare state

  • More candidate-centered campaigns


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Era of weak parties solve?1972-1994

  • TV

  • Campaign finance

  • Deep ideological divisions within parties

    • (Particularly the Democratic party!)

  • Weak party discipline in Congress

  • Candidate centered elections

  • Rise in number of “independents”

  • Split ticket voting


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Stronger parties? solve?1994-???

  • Strong party discipline in Congress

  • Highly partisan, competitive presidential elections

  • Increased turnout

  • New restrictions on party-building?


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Which side are you on? solve?

Democrats to the LEFT

Republicans to the RIGHT


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