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.
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.
The ideological stances and policy preferences of political parties can be found in their Party Platforms.
- 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 in the Electorate
Party in Government
Party as an Organization
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.
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.
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.
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.
Democrats also created superdelegates.
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.
The timing of primaries has become an integral part of the presidential nomination strategy.
The Democratic-Republican Party saw huge successes and faced little opposition. However, there were internal divisions that would split the party apart.
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.
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 anti-Jackson wing of the old Democratic-Republicans had taken the name of the National Republicans.
- He encouraged members of the National Republicans to join forces with others who opposed Jackson and to form the Whig Party.
The abolitionist movement, although not a political party per se, pressured the Democrats and Whigs to take a formal position on slavery.
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.
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.
Three developments in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led by progressives eroded party organizations’ control over government jobs and elections.
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.
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.
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.
Party alignment is when voters identify with a party in repeated elections.
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.”
Franklin Roosevelt championed a vast array of new government programs, commonly referred to as the New Deal.
In the aftermath of 1932, the two parties transformed; in fact, it was almost as if they had switched places.
Voters responded to these partisan and ideological changes by changing their own party allegiances over time, essentially producing a realignment of the electorate.
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.
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.
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.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan (1981–89), former Republican governor of California, defeated the incumbent President Jimmy Carter (1977–81), a Democrat by focusing on:
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.
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.
In the 1994 midterm congressional elections, Republicans took control of both the House and the Senate for the first time since 1954.
The results of the 2008 elections may be a sign that the party landscape is once again shifting.
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