Political Parties: What do they do?. Promote a political agenda to influence government policy and action Select candidates for election Educate voters Finance election campaigns Fill government positions. 2 “Big Tent” Parties.
Both Republicans and Democrats are considered “Big Tent” parties because there are many different groups that support unrelated issues who associate with the same party. For example, African Americans, environmentalists, pro-choice Americans and gay Americans all are special interest groups whose members typically vote for the Democrat party.
Often in American politics third parties limit their interests to a single issue. For example, the Green Party is a political party that puts environmentalism at the center of its agenda.
Which role of a political party do you think most influences the political process?
The first two presidents of the US, George Washington and John Adams were Federalists. They believed in a strong central government. Both were wealthy men who owned property and were very concerned with improving commerce and ensuring property rights.
The Anti-Federalists evolved into the Democrat-Republican party. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States was the first Democrat-Republican to be elected President. They were mostly supported by working class small farmers from the South who valued their liberties, resented big business and possessed a general suspicion of government.
Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, the 3rd and 5th Presidents of the United States signed the Constitution in support of a strong federal government, but came to distrust an all powerful central government. They called themselves Democratic-Republicans and openly sympathized with the Anti-Federalists.To learn more about each click on:Thomas JeffersonJames Monroe
Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the US was an war hero who as a general defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. He was the first presidential candidate to run as a Democrat. History knows him as the first President to frequently veto laws passed in Congress. Jackson was responsible for enfranchising all white males (giving them the right to vote), large Indian removal projects and the distribution of land to white southern farmers. Jackson’s Democrats were also considered the party in favor of slavery and as a result typically won elections in southern states.
Democrats evolved into the party that represented mainly the working classes of cities in the North and predominantly white agricultural workers in the South until 1932. Famous Democrats of this time period included James Polk, Andrew Johnson, and Woodrow Wilson.
FDR captured the White House in 1932 and led the United States out the Great Depression by expanding government services like welfare, social security, jobs programs and to a lesser extent supporting civil rights laws. John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson continued the tradition set by FDR in pushing forward civil rights laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and expanding the welfare state (a type of government designed to take care of its citizens, rather than ask them to take care of themselves) government’s role in society with the creation of Medicare, Medicaid and the expansion of welfare.
Today the Democrats are commonly perceived as the party of big government, civil rights, women’s rights, environmentalism, the poor and pacifism (slow to go to war).
Currently three major candidates are running in the Democrat primary in search of their party’s nomination for the 2008 election:
The Republicans were born in 1854 with support of abolitionists (people against slavery) and those who supported a strong federal government. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican to be elected President. The Radical Republicans were responsible for pushing for Reconstruction efforts after the Civil War in the South. Later, in the late 1880s Republicans became known as the party of big business.
In the 1920s Republicans such as Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were known for laissez faire economics (free market) and isolationism (the US should mind its own business and stay out of world affairs). They favored small government, were against taxes and thought that the economy could take care of itself if left to its own devises.
The modern Republican Party was born out of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy in which Nixon appealed to southern white voters by proclaiming his support of states rights and promised to make the US safer. Today the Republican party stands for many of the issue Richard Nixon supported such as lower taxes, small government, the rights to carry arms, pro-life policies, a strong military and a smaller welfare state.
The Republican party today tends to support public policies that limit the size of government and cut taxes. Typically, they also support the War on Terror, are generally opposed to the legalization of abortion (pro-life) and vote against programs to increase the size of the welfare state.
The map below shows the states that were won by the Democrat Presidential nominee Al Gore and the Republican Presidential nominee George Bush in 2000.
Are generally in favor of large government and a progressive tax system in which the wealthy pay a larger share than the poor
Tend to be against international free trade agreements because they claim that such trade agreements hurt American workers and in particular unions
Tend to believe in a balanced budget and are willing to raise taxes if needed
Tend to make laws to protect American businesses from international competition
Are generally in favor of a smaller government
Generally for free market agreements with other countries, like NAFTA- North American Free Trade Agreement.
Vehemently against raising taxes even if it means a budget deficit
Tend to believe in global trade and don’t tend to protect US businesses from international competitionThe Economy and Taxes
Tend to cut the military budget
Generally want to avoid American military intervention unless supported by the United Nations
Tend to believe in diplomacy and are slow to go to war
Believe in a strong military and are willing to pay for it with government money
Believe in confronting American enemies with or without UN support
Believe in using military intervention when American interests or security is threatened more quickly than DemocratsNational Defense and Security
Generally think that the government should provide a broad safety net (health care, education, welfare, food stamps) for the poor and others.
They generally think these policies help the common good and are compassionate
Generally think the government should limit or reduce the safety net for the poor.
They believe that private businesses and non-profit charities can provide the same servicesEntitlements- Welfare, Medicaid, Social Security, Health Care
Tend to focus on rehabilitation programs over long prison sentences for convicted criminals
Usually against the death penalty
Focus on rights of the accused
Tend to focus on prison sentences as a deterrent to crime
Usually for the death penalty
Usually for stiffer penalties for convicted criminalsCrime and Punishment
Favor stricter regulations on businesses to protect the environment
Believe global warming is a real threat
Favor fewer restrictions on businesses in the hopes that wealthier companies will be able to be more environmental
Many do not believe global warming is a real threatEnvironmental Protection
Tend to be pro-choice- believe that a woman should always have the right to choose to have an abortion
Tend to favor stem-cell research
Tend to be pro-life- do not believe that women have a right to have an abortion and instead call abortion a form of murder
Tend to be against stem-cell researchAbortion and Stem Cell Research
RepublicansCheck Out How Each Party Feels About Issues That Are Important to You?Which Candidate Do You Agree With?