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Political Parties - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Political Parties. A political party is a broad coalition of individuals who organize to win elections in order to enact a commonly supported set of public policies.

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political parties
Political Parties

A political party is a broad coalition of individuals who organize to win elections in order to enact a commonly supported set of public policies.

  • Political parties fill an essential need by shaping the choices that voters face in elections, which serve as the key mechanism by which voters hold their government accountable.
party platforms
Party Platforms

The ideological stances and policy preferences of political parties can be found in their Party Platforms.

  • Document that lays out a party’s core beliefs and policy proposals for each presidential election.

- Party platforms define the positions of the presidential and vice presidential candidates and serve as a general guide to the policy positions of all the candidates running under the party label.

party organization
Party Organization

Party in the Electorate

  • Citizen voters who identify with and support a political party come election time. Also known as Party Identification.
    • Why do people develop party identification?
      • Policy preferences
      • Family
      • Social status
    • Individuals can more formally associate with parties by declaring party preference when registering to vote or by joining a party at the town, county, state, and federal level.
party organization continued
Party Organization continued

Party in Government

  • Members of government who share the same party affiliation and work together to accomplish the party’s electoral and policy goals.
    • Party members are organized into caucuses that vote consistently for issues on the party platform.
    • The president is also increasingly expected to engage in political support for party candidates, from campaign appearances to party fundraisers.
party organization continued2
Party Organization continued

Party as an Organization

  • The modern political party structure is multilevel organization with units at the federal, state, and local levels.
    • National Committee is the top level of national political parties, coordinates national presidential campaigns.
    • State Central Committee is the top level of state political parties, that helps recruit and raise money for statewide candidates and drafts state party policies.
    • Local Party Organization is the first level of political parties, that recruits candidates for lower-level elected office, registers voters and ensures they get to the polls on election day.
the party nominating process
The Party Nominating Process
  • Primary Elections are elections in which voters select the candidates who will run on the party label in the general election
    • Open Primaries are where voters do not have to affiliate with a party before voting.
    • Semi-Closed Primaries are where party affiliated voters cast votes and nonaffiliated voters can choose which party’s primary to vote in.
    • Closed Primaries are where voters must affiliate with a party before casting a vote.
    • Blanket Primaries are where voters are allowed to cast votes for any party’s candidates as long as they only cast one ballot per elected office.
the presidential nomination
The Presidential Nomination

In a presidential primary, voters cast a vote for a particular candidate, but what they are really doing is choosing delegateswho will support that nominee at the party’s national nominating convention.

  • A delegate is an individual selected by party voters in a primary or caucus election who is committed to supporting a particular presidential nominee at the party’s national nominating convention.
the presidential nomination continued
The Presidential Nomination continued

In a presidential party caucus, which serves the same nominating purpose, the process is less formal and more personal in that party members meet together in town halls, schools, and even private homes to choose a nominee.

  • A presidential party caucus is a meeting of party members in town halls, schools, and even private homes to choose a presidential party nominee.
democratic reform
Democratic Reform

Each state is awarded a number of delegates to the convention by the national party organization based largely on the number of Electoral College votes the state has but also on the size of party support in that state.

  • The Democratic Party and Republican Party allocate their delegates within the primaries and caucuses differently.
    • In the 1960s members of underrepresented groups objected to the use of the unit rule, or winner-take-all system.
    • The Democrats formed the McGovern-Fraser Commission, which recommended proportional representation.
democratic reform continued
Democratic Reform continued

Democrats also required that a certain percentage of each state’s delegates would be women, African Americans, and other underrepresented groups, based on their proportion in each state’s population.

  • States that don’t comply might not have their delegates seated at the National Convention.

Democrats also created superdelegates.

  • Democratic Party delegates who have a vote at the national nominating convention on the basis of party status or position in government and are free to support the presidential nominee of their choice.
republican nomination
Republican Nomination

Republicans use the unit rule to award their delegates, with only some states award delegates by vote totals in congressional district rather than by the entire state.

  • Little proportional representation
  • No guaranteed representation for women and minorities
  • No superdelegates
  • Process is quicker and a clear winner emerges before the National Convention.
the timing of primaries
The Timing of Primaries

The timing of primaries has become an integral part of the presidential nomination strategy.

  • Candidates who win in the early primaries can solicit more campaign money and garner more endorsements from key constituent groups than those who lose.
  • Frontloading is the process of holding many simultaneous primaries early on. This results in more money being spent in states with early primaries and a disproportionate influence in generating publicity and momentum for the winners.
    • Iowa Caucuses
    • New Hampshire Primaries
the history of political parties in america
The History of Political Parties in America


  • Initially, those who supported the Constitution during the ratification period; later, the name of the political party established by supporters of Alexander Hamilton.


  • Those who opposed the new proposed Constitution during the ratification period.


  • Political party formed by Thomas Jefferson to oppose the strong central government policies of the Federalists.
jacksonian reforms
Jacksonian Reforms

The Democratic-Republican Party saw huge successes and faced little opposition. However, there were internal divisions that would split the party apart.

  • By 1828, the nomination process had been taken over by party members in state legislatures who voted on their preferred nominee either in the legislature or at state party conventions rather than in Congress.
  • Jackson wanted states to open up the voting process to as many people as possible by eliminating barriers to voting such as property ownership requirements.
jacksonian reforms1
Jacksonian Reforms

Andrew Jackson (1767–1845) originated the modern political party by encouraging grass-roots participation by voters and party organizations in his

election campaigns and by building the Democratic Party while he served as president from 1829 to 1837.

the democratic party
The Democratic Party

Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren changed the name of the party to Democrat to signal that they were building a new kind of political party organization.

  • The Jackson-led Democrats emerged as a large grassroots majority political party, and President Jackson used all the powers of the presidency to strengthen his political party around the country.
anti jacksonian parties
Anti-Jacksonian Parties

The anti-Jackson wing of the old Democratic-Republicans had taken the name of the National Republicans.

      • Nominated Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1832

- He encouraged members of the National Republicans to join forces with others who opposed Jackson and to form the Whig Party.

  • From 1832 to 1856, these two parties, the Democrats and the Whigs, dominated American politics and presidential elections.
the republican party
The Republican Party

The abolitionist movement, although not a political party per se, pressured the Democrats and Whigs to take a formal position on slavery.

  • Both the Northern and Southern Democrats and Whigs became divided over the issue of slavery.
  • Third parties arose, especially those focusing on slavery.
    • Liberty Party
    • Free Soilers
      • Meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854, these groups were also joined by some antislavery northern Democrats, and the modern Republican Party was born.
party loyalty and patronage
Party Loyalty and Patronage

Just as Jackson worked to expand the electorate, he sought to expand the size of the federal government in order to increase the number of federally funded jobs his party could control.

  • Patronage is a political system in which government programs and benefits are awarded based on political loyalty to a party or politician.
  • As the government expanded, so did the party organization. At each level—federal, state, and local—there were parallel party committees.
    • At each level, party bosses controlled the distribution of public funds by rewarding supporters and withholding them from opponents.
party machines
Party Machines

Machine politics described party organizations dominated by a “boss” who controlled the distribution of public jobs and commanded groups of voters to support his preferred candidates.

  • Boss Tweed
party reform
Party Reform

Three developments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led by progressives eroded party organizations’ control over government jobs and elections.

  • Progressives were reformers who sought to end corruption in government; also a third party in the early twentieth century.
    • The creation of a merit-based system of government employment.
    • The introduction of ballot reforms.
    • A change in the way nominees for elected office were selected.
party reform continued
Party Reform continued
  • The 1883 Pendleton Act created the civil service, which was a system of employment in the federal bureaucracy under which employees are chosen and promoted based on merit.
  • Voting procedures were also reformed between 1888 and 1911 as states adopted the so-called Australian ballot system in which state governments run elections and provide voters the option of choosing candidates from multiple parties; also called the secret ballot.
  • Progressives launched grassroots campaigns for direct primaries, run by the state, as a means of nominating party candidates.
moderates in a two party system
Moderates in a Two-Party System

The median voter theorem says that if voters select candidates on the basis of ideology and everyone participates equally, then in a two-party race, the party closer to the middle will win.

  • In this way moderates do have political influence in a two party system.
limits of a two party system
Limits of a Two-Party System
  • The American electoral system is a single-member plurality system, in which one legislative seat (on a city council, in a state assembly, in the House of Representatives) represents citizens who live in a geographically defined district.
  • The two-party system in turn encourages political debates that ask Americans to take a “for” or “against” position on an issue.
the role of third parties
The Role of Third Parties

Third parties can mount challenges so significant that the major parties are compelled to act, often by incorporating the third party’s policy proposal into their platforms.

  • Populist Party
  • Progressive Party (aka Bull Moose Party)
  • Green Party
  • Reform Party
obstacles to third parties and independents
Obstacles to Third Parties and Independents

The Democrats and Republicans have controlled state legislatures and Congress for so long that they have successfully structured electoral laws to favor a two-party.

  • State laws typically require thousands of signatures to get that independent or third party candidate on the ballot.
  • Harder time getting financial backing.
  • Less get-out-the-vote organization.
  • Less media coverage.
  • Even if elected, they must caucus with one of the two major parties in order to gain influential committee assignments.
party alignment
Party Alignment

Party alignment is when voters identify with a party in repeated elections.

  • From 1896 to 1932, the basic geographic pattern of party alignment stayed the same
    • During the election of 1932, voters were exposed to a new political ideology, or set of consistent political views, about the way that the federal government could work.
the new deal
The New Deal

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1932,

Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced an innovative campaign platform.

“I pledge you,” he said, “I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”

the new deal1
The New Deal

Franklin Roosevelt championed a vast array of new government programs, commonly referred to as the New Deal.

  • These programs were designed to help individuals who were jobless, homeless, or otherwise in financial need.
  • Roosevelt built a coalition of white southerners, working-class ethnic northerners, liberal advocates for socialist policies, and northern African Americans who had previously been Republicans.
parties after 1932
Parties after 1932

In the aftermath of 1932, the two parties transformed; in fact, it was almost as if they had switched places.

  • The Democrats changed from a party that believed in state’s rights, low taxes, and little government intervention in individuals’ lives to the party that created a large social safety net that relied on the federal government to ensure personal economic stability.
  • The Republicans changed from a party that believed in a strong central federal government and in intervention in the economy when necessary to the party of a strictly limited federal government and fiscal responsibility.

Voters responded to these partisan and ideological changes by changing their own party allegiances over time, essentially producing a realignment of the electorate.

  • Realignment refers to a long-term shift in voter allegiance from one party to another.
civil rights
Civil Rights

The Democratic and Republican parties remained divided mainly along this economic dimension until the early 1960s, when the Democratic Party established itself as the party of civil rights for African Americans.

  • Lyndon Johnson’s administration was responsible for:
    • the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • the Voting Rights Act of 1965
    • the Department of Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965
    • the Fair Housing Act of 1966
african americans and the democratic party
African Americans and the Democratic Party

By putting the stamp of the Democratic Party on the pledge to preserve civil rights, Johnson began the process of stripping the party of the last vestiges of its reputation for racism and segregation.

  • In 2008, 95 percent of African Americans voted for the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, who was elected as the nation’s first African American president.
the great society
The Great Society

The Johnson administration also expanded federal programs that granted aid to individuals and state and local governments in the areas of health care, education, housing, job training, and welfare to families with children.

the reagan revolution
The Reagan Revolution

In 1980, Ronald Reagan (1981–89), former Republican governor of California, defeated the incumbent President Jimmy Carter (1977–81), a Democrat by focusing on:

  • Opposition to Roe v. Wade
  • Opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment
  • Limiting the size of the federal government
  • Allowing religious prayer in public schools
  • Strong anti-Communist stance
reagan democrats
Reagan Democrats

The combination of these issues brought Reagan the support of many working-class, ethnic, northern voters, and southern white voters. These voters were subsequently referred to as Reagan Democrats.

  • Led to split-ticket voting.
    • Practice of voting for candidates from different parties for different elected offices in a single election.
the modern partisan landscape
The Modern Partisan Landscape

As Reagan had, Clinton changed his party’s direction with a campaign platform that advocated dropping opposition to the death penalty, being open to a more free-trade stance, and promising a middle-class tax cut.

  • Clinton lost popularity by supporting:
    • abortion rights
    • gays in the military
    • the creation of a major federal health care program for the uninsured.
the contract with america
The Contract With America

In the 1994 midterm congressional elections, Republicans took control of both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1954.

  • Led by Newt Gingrich, the Republicans put forth a party platform called the Contract with America.
    • Ten promises including:
      • A balanced federal budget
      • Less federal regulation
the 2008 election
The 2008 Election

The results of the 2008 elections may be a sign that the party landscape is once again shifting.

  • Clearly the election of an African American president is a significant turning point in race relations.
    • Barack Obama received 43 percent of the white vote in 2008, 2 percentage points higher than white candidate John Kerry received in 2004.
    • Obama won five states that had been considered solid Republican states in previous presidential elections.
political parties and public policy

The Environment

    • In the 2008 presidential election, the platforms of both parties addressed environmental protection and energy conservation.
  • One of President Obama’s first environmental initiatives was to ask Congress to pass a bill to reduce carbon emissions.
    • Known as the “cap and trade bill,” it establishes a system whereby the government establishes a maximum amount of carbon emissions for the entire country, with a goal of reducing these emissions 17 percent by 2020
political parties and public policy continued

The Environment continued

    • In the 2008 presidential election, the platforms of both parties addressed environmental protection and energy conservation.
  • One of President Obama’s first environmental initiatives was to ask Congress to pass a bill to reduce carbon emissions.
    • Known as the “cap and trade bill,” it establishes a system whereby the government establishes a maximum amount of carbon emissions for the entire country, with a goal of reducing these emissions 17 percent by 2020
political parties and public policy continued1

The Environment continued

  • The vote on the climate change bill in the House of Representatives was not a straight  party-line vote; members of both parties crossed the political aisle to vote against their party’s official position.
focus questions
Focus Questions
  • How do political parties shape the choices voters face in local, state, and federal elections?
  • In what ways do political parties allow voters to hold their elected officials accountable for the policies they produce?
  • How do political parties respond to changes in public opinion on key issues?
  • Do political parties enable all citizens to participate equally in self-government, or do they help give more power to some people, and less to others? Explain.
  • Are political parties a gate, or a gateway, to democracy?