Section 1Parties and What They Do • The BIG Idea: • Political parties, essential to democratic government, shape the way government works and perform important functions
What is a Party? • A political party is a group of persons who seek to control government through the winning of elections and the holding of public office. Also defined as a group of persons, joined together on the basis of common principles, who seek to control government in order to affect certain public policies and programs. • Our two major parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are not principle or issue-oriented, they are instead election oriented.
What Do Parties Do? • 5 Major Functions that Political Parties Perform: • 1. Nominating Candidates-select candidates and then present them to the voters. Then work to help their candidates win elections. • 2. Informing and Activating Supporters- inform, inspire, and activate interest and participation in public affairs. They do this by campaigning for their candidates, taking stands on the issues, and criticizing the candidates of their opponents. • 3. The Bonding Agent Function- parties act as a bonding agent, to ensure the good performance of its candidates and officeholders. Must make sure its candidates are of good character and are qualified for job.
4. Governing- In the U.S., government is by party. Congress and State Legislatures are organized on party lines and they conduct business on the basis of partisanship—the strong support of their party and its policy stands. • 5. Acting as Watchdog– parties overlook their own business and the business of the other party. The party out of power wants to keep an eye on the party in power to see if they can take advantage of mistakes.
Function Nominate Candidates Inform and inspire voters Help govern Explanation Select and gain support for candidates inform people about and stimulate interest in public affairs Operate on partisan lines in Congress and State legislatures Functions of Political Parties
Ensure candidate quality Act as watchdogs Try to ensure that candidates and officeholders are qualified and of good character Observe and criticize the operation of government, especially officials of the other party
Section 2:The Two-Party System • The BIG Idea: • The United States’ two party system is a result of history; several factors have helped maintain it over time
In American politics, two major parties dominate: The Democrats and the Republicans. The U.S. has a two party system. In a typical election, only the Republican or the Democratic Party’s candidates have a reasonable chance of winning the public office.
Why a Two-Party System? • 1. The Historical Basis- The Framers were opposed to political parties, but they soon arose with the ratification of the Constitution. America’s first two parties: the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton and the Anti-Federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson. • 2. The Force of Tradition- The very fact that the nation began with a two-party system has been a leading reason for the retention of a two party system. Over time, it has become an increasingly important reason.
Why a Two Party System? • 3. The Electoral System- nearly all elections held in this country are single member district elections. They are contests in which only one candidate is elected to each office on the ballot. They are winner take all elections. This helps to discourage minor parties. • 4. The American Ideological Consensus- Americans are an ideologically homogeneous people. That is, we have shared many of the same ideals and the same patterns of belief. That is not to say that Americans are all alike. The U.S. is a pluralistic society, one consisting of several distinct cultures and groups.
American Two-Party System • History—Two parties arose during the ratification of the Constitution • Tradition—That’s the way it’s always been • Consensus—Americans generally agree on key matters • Elections—Single member districts and election law discourage minor parties
Multiparty Systems • Some critics argue that the American two-party system should be scrapped. They would replace it with a multiparty arrangement, a system in which several major and many lesser parties exist and compete for public offices. Most European Democracies follow this system. Most are based on a particular interest such as economic class, religious belief, or political ideology. • Multiparty systems tend to lead to instability in the government. One party is often unable to win the support of a majority of the voters. As a result, the power to govern must be shared by a number of parities in a coalition. A coalition is a temporary alliance of several groups who come together to form a working majority and so to control a government.
One-Party Systems • In nearly all dictatorships today, only one political party is allowed. That party is the party of the ruling clique. For all practical purposes, a one-party system is really a no-party system. • Party Membership Patterns: • Membership in a party is purely voluntary. • The two major parties like to stay broadly based, as to attract as much support as possible. • Family is almost certainly the most important reason why people join one party or another.
Section 3: The Two Party System in American History • The BIG Idea: • The United States’ two major political parties have a history of alternating control over government
The Nation’s First Parties • The beginnings of the American two-party system can be traced to the battle over the ratification of the Constitution. • The Federalist Party was the first to appear. It was formed by Alexander Hamilton. They were the party of the “rich and the well-born”. Wanted to create a strong national government. • The Anti-Federalist Party was led by Thomas Jefferson. Their followers were more sympathetic to the “common man”. They favored a very limited role in the for the government by the Constitution. By 1828, this party became the Democratic Party.
Section 4:The Minor Parties • The BIG Idea: • Many minor parties have been active in American politics, and at times they have had important effects on elections and issues
1. Ideological Party Based on certain social, economic, or political ideas. Marxist thoughts Not powerful but long lasting Socialist or Socialist Labor 2. Single Issue Party Focus on one public policy matter Fade away once issue is resolved Free Soil Party The Four Types of Minor Parties
3. Economic Protest Party Appear during tough financial times Criticize the economic actions and plans of major parties The Greenbacks 4. Splinter Party Break away from a major party Usually have a strong leader who lost a major party’s nomination Bull Moose Party of Theodore Roosevelt The Four Types of Minor Parties
Why Are Minor Parties Important? • Start a new tradition? In 1831, the Anti-Masons were the first party to nominate a presidential candidate with a convention. We now use them all the time. • Third Parties can play the “spoiler role”. Even if they do not win, a minor party can pull votes away from a party and influence the outcome of the election. • Serve as a critic and innovator. Minor parties have the ability to take critical, and often controversial, stands on issues that the two major parties do not want to take.
Section 5:Party Organization • The BIG Idea: • The structure of the major parties is decentralized; their different parts work together mostly during national elections
Decentralized Nature of the Parties • The two major parties are thought of as highly organized, close-knit, well-disciplined groups. Neither party is even close to that. Neither party has a chain of command running from national government through the state and local levels. • The Presidents Party is usually more solidly united and more cohesively organized than the opposing party. The President is automatically the party leader. The Party Not in Power has no one who is close to the Presidents power. Who is the party leader when not in power?
National Party Machinery • The National Convention—meets in the summer of every presidential year to pick the party’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates. • The National Committee—meets between conventions to handle the party’s affairs and get ready to set the stage for the next convention. • The National Chairperson—the leader of the national committee. Directs the work of the party’s headquarters • The Congressional Campaign Committees—Each party has this committee in each house of Congress. Work to get its party members re-elected and make sure retiring seats are won by their party.
State and Local Party Machinery • State Organization—At the State level, party machinery is built around a State central committee, headed by a State chairperson. They work to further the party’s interests in the State. • Local Organization—Vary greatly on almost every local level. Can consist of: congressional and legislative districts, counties, cities and towns, wards, and precincts. A ward is a unit into which cities are often divided for the election of city council members. A precinct is the smallest unit of election administration.
The Three Components of the Party • 1. The Party Organization—party leaders, its activists, and its ‘hangers on’. • 2. The Party in the Electorate—the party’s loyalists who regularly vote the straight party ticket, and those voters who call themselves party members. • 3. The Party in Government—the party’s officeholders, those who hold elective and appointive offices in the government.
National Party Machinery National convention National committee National chairperson Congressional campaign committees Basic Components of the Party Party organization Party in the electorate Party in government Party Organization