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Political Parties. AP Government. What is a Political Party?. An organization that seeks to influence public policy by putting its members into positions of governmental authority

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Political parties

Political Parties

AP Government

What is a political party
What is a Political Party?

  • An organization that seeks to influence public policy by putting its members into positions of governmental authority

  • Allows parties to pursue their common interests by exercising power through the political process in their positions of authority

Who s in charge
Who’s In Charge?

  • Majority Party – political party in control of the government at any given time.

    • Can be DIVIDED GOV’T with different parties in control of House, Senate and Presidency

  • Opposition Party – political party not in control of government, serves as a watchdog to the majority party

Whose idea was it
Whose idea was it?

  • Political Parties are Extra-Constitutional (can’t find them in the Constitution)

  • Federalist 10 warned that parties (factions) could be dangerous if there were not systems in place to check their power

Electoral functions of parties
Electoral Functions of Parties

  • Pull together like minded groups of voters

  • Simplifies the choices for voters

  • Recruit and train political leaders

  • Provide information

  • Encourage participation

Government functions of parties
Government Functions of Parties

  • Set agenda and make policy preferences

  • Make the government responsible to the people

  • Link people to government

Party systems
Party Systems

  • One party - authoritarian governments or when one party consistently wins

  • Multi party - several parties in power

  • Two party - two dominant parties; others may exist but rarely get elected to high profile seats (U.S. has strongest one)

Minor parties aka 3 rd parties
Minor Parties (aka 3rd Parties)

Usually are formed to:

  • Promote certain causes/ideology/issues

  • Splinter an existing party

  • Support popular individuals with presidential aspirations

The system v minor parties
The System v. Minor Parties

  • Proportional representation

    • A voting system that apportions legislative seats according to the percentage of the vote won by a particular political party

  • Single-Member, Plurality aka Winner-take-all system

    • An electoral system in which the party receives at least one more vote than any other party wins the election

Minor parties in a two party system
Minor Parties in a Two Party System

  • Serve as a threat to the electoral vote b/c it increases potential of election being decided by Congress

  • Difficult to get on the ballot-states set requirements

    • petitions with voter signatures

    • PLUS a share of the votes in last election most common requirements

  • Federal Funding if they secure 5% of the vote-must follow guidelines

  • Rarely win – instead they bring new voters and issues

Types of minor parties
Types of Minor Parties

  • Ideological parties

    • comprehensive, radical views; most enduring minor parties

    • Socialist, Communist, Libertarian

  • Single-Issue parties

    • address one concern, avoid others

    • Free Soil, Know-Nothing, Prohibition

  • Economic Protest parties

    • Tend to be regional, protest economic conditions

    • Greenback, Populist

  • Factional parties

    • split from a major party

    • Bull Moose, American Independents

Party structure in the u s

National Committee Leadership

one committeeman and one committeewoman from each state and territory

Meets every four years

choose presidential candidate

writes the platform

designates the national committee

sets place and times of conventions

sets the number of delegates that can attend convention

National Convention

Held in presidential election year

Nominate Pres & VP ticket

Adopt platform

Major Goals:

serve as a link to people

choose policymakers

run campaigns

cue voters

tell policy

coordinate policymaking

Party Structure in the U.S.

Shared responsibilites

National Responsibility

manage party between nominating conventions

raise money

direct mail campaigns

recruit candidates

State Responsibility

hold caucuses

select convention delegates

maintain party

promote image

support campaigns

Shared Responsibilites

Political parties in congress
Political Parties in Congress

  • Majority Party selects party leaders and make committee appointments

  • Majority Party organizes and operates Congress

    • Web of deputy and assistant whips

    • Majority party generally holds more power

    • Party discipline

      • Hurt by individualistic nature of U.S. politics

      • But party voting has increased since the 1970s

Party realignment
Party Realignment

  • A shifting of party coalition groupings in the electorate that remains in place for several elections

    • Critical Election

      • An election that signals a party realignment through voter polarization around new issues

    • Secular Realignment

      • The gradual rearrangement of party coalitions, based more on demographic shifts than on shocks to the political system

Political parties in state gov t
Political Parties in State Gov’t

  • The major national parties are the dominant political forces in all 50 states.

    • Third parties have emerged but all have faded.

  • Parties and Governors

    • Governors usually have more influence on party organizations and legislators

    • More patronage positions assigned by governor than president

    • Line-item veto

  • Parties and State Legislators

    • Nearly split evenly between the two parties

    • Parties have greater legislative influence at the state level than at the national level.

    • Party leaders have more authority and power.

    • State legislators depend on state and local parties for election assistance more than members of Congress.

Party identification
Party Identification

  • A citizen’s personal affinity for a political party

    • Usually expressed by his or her tendency to vote for the candidates of that party

    • Sources

      • Parents

      • Marriage and other aspects of adult life can change one’s party loyalty

      • Charismatic political personalities, cataclysmic events, and maybe intense social issues

      • Social class remains a powerful indicator of likely partisan choice.

Group affiliations

Geographic Region

South still has Democratic Party affinity at local election level.


Gender gap

Race and Ethnicity

African Americans, Hispanics and other minority groups are predominantly Democratic


Very young and very old more Democratic

Social and Economic Factors

Republicans have higher SES (occupation, income, and education) supporters.


Protestants favor Republicans; Catholics and Jews are predominantly Democratic.

Marital Status

Married people lean more towards Republicans.


Few surprises

Group Affiliations

Changing power of political parties
Changing Power of Political Parties

  • Use of Primary Elections

  • Rise of PACs

  • Rise of the media makes role of party less important

  • Split ticket voting - causes divided government

  • Lack of structure, efficiency, priorities, strategies and responsibility

Interest groups

Interest Groups

AP Government

What is an interest group
What is an Interest Group?

An association of people who hold common views and who work together to influence what the government does

What do interest groups need
What do Interest Groups need?

  • Social capital

    • The large number of relationships that individuals enjoy that facilitate the resolution of community problems through collective action

  • Civic virtue

    • The tendency to form small-scale associations for the public good

Interest groups in america
Interest Groups in America

  • America is considered pluralistic

    • many different groups seeking to secure its members interests

  • Work outside of the political system, (separate and independent from the actual government structure)

  • Serve as policy specialists not generalists

Characteristics of interest groups
CHARACTERISTICS of Interest Groups

  • Forms and features of the group

    • Geographic distribution, cohesion, intensity, prestige

  • Membership

    • Direct payment of dues, no personal criteria

  • Organization

    • Access to funds and officials

    • Board of Directors

      • Appointment by members, speak for group, legally responsible for group

    • Staff Members

      • Lobbying, Fundraising, Research, Member Recruitment

Interest groups in politics
Interest Groups in Politics

  • The closer the ties to political issues, personalities and organizations, the more effective the group

  • Contributions of Interest Groups

    • provide link to gov't

    • provide info

    • encourage participation

    • stabilize other groups

Goal influence politics
Goal: Influence Politics

  • Assist in election campaigns

  • Influence judicial appointments

  • Form PACs

  • File amicus curiae briefs and lawsuits

  • Grassroots work (advertise opinion, letter writing, social protests)

    • A form of pressure-group activity that attempts to involve individuals who contact their representatives directly in an effort to influence policy

    • Persuading ordinary voters to act as the group’s advocates

Goal form political action committees pacs
Goal: Form Political Action Committees (PACs)

  • Organizations, formally independent of candidates themselves

    • channel money from interest groups to political candidates sympathetic to their groups' policy preferences

  • Electioneering experts who aid candidates financially with member support

  • Blossomed as a result of FECA of 1974

  • Buckley v. Valeo created the “PAC man”

  • Most money goes to incumbents

Goal lobbying
Goal: Lobbying

  • An attempt to influence the shape of legislation coming out of Congress and other rule making bodies

    • The activities of a group or organization that seeks to influence legislation and persuade political leaders to support the group’s position

Goal lobbying1
Goal: Lobbying

  • Employs more than 80,000 in Washington DC alone

  • Named from days when Congress didn't live in Washington and stayed in boarding homes or hotels where lobbies were only place to catch and attempt to sway to your side

  • 23 ways for lobbyists and organizations to lobby on the state and national level

    • Most often they: testify at legislative hearings, contact government officials directly, help draft legislation

Lobbying congress
Lobbying Congress

  • Members of Congress are targets of lobbyists

  • Many lobbyists are former members

  • Lobbyists work closely with those members who share their interests

  • The effectiveness of a lobbyist depends on their reputation for fair play and accurate information

Reform attempts
Reform Attempts

  • Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, 1946

  • Lobbying Disclosure Act, 1995

    • Employs a strict definition of lobbyist

    • Requires lobbyists to:

      • Register with the clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate

      • Report their clients and issues and the agency or house they lobbied

      • Estimate the amount they are paid by each client

    • Makes it easier for watchdog groups to track the lobbying activity

Lobbying the executive branch
Lobbying the Executive Branch

  • Has expanded As the scope of federal government has expanded

    • Many potential access points

    • Lobbyists seek influence at policy formation and implementation stages.

    • An especially strong link exists between interest groups and regulatory agencies

    • Groups often monitor the implementation of the laws or policies they advocated.

Lobbying the judicial branch
Lobbying the Judicial Branch

  • Can take two forms:

    • Direct sponsorship

    • Filing amicus curiae briefs

      • Brief that informs the court of the group’s policy preferences, generally in guise of legal arguments

  • Interest groups also attempt to influence who is nominated and placed on the bench.

Types of interest groups


establish standards, better working conditions

Determined by the way people earn a living

Business & professional, labor, agricultural

NAM (National Association of Manufacturers)

American Bankers Association


General Motors

AMA (American Medical Association)

ABA (American Bar Association)

National Grange

NEA (National Education Association)

Types of Interest Groups

Types of interest groups1

Social Action

Membership is determined by birth

Gender, Race, Ethnicity


National Organization of Women


National Association for Advancement of Colored Persons

National Council of Senior Citizens

Types of Interest Groups

Types of interest groups2


support or oppose laws morally

U.S. Catholic Conference

700 Club

Christian Coalition


Have a specific political agenda

Have become the center of PAC activities

Heritage Foundation

Brookings Institute

People for the American Way

Types of Interest Groups

Types of interest groups3

Single Issue

Focus on one policy area

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)

NRA (National Rifle Association)

Public Interest

Environment, Voter Registration, Consumer Protection, Historic preservation

League of Women Voters

Sierra Club

Common Cause

Types of Interest Groups

Problems with interest groups
Problems with Interest Groups

  • Overrepresentation of views of privileged class

  • Utilization of free-rider concept of representation

    • Benefits go to all in an industry, not just group members

  • Benefits that go to members only (better health care, etc.)

  • Reliability of funding sources and sponsorship

  • Could be double influence (corporations, foundations, etc.)

Business role in interest groups
Business Role in Interest Groups

  • Most large corporations

    • Have their own governmental affairs department

    • Employ D.C.-based lobbyists to keep them apprised of legislation

    • Have given substantial soft money in the past

    • Still use PACS & 527s which means they still contribute a great deal of money