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The American Political Process
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  1. The American Political Process Government – Libertyville HS

  2. What is Politics? • Formal definition: “The conduct of public affairs” • Realistically, it’s all about the pursuit and exercise of power • What is political power? • Influencing others’ (political) behavior • Acquiring and exercising power to make rules, laws & policies that everyone is required to follow

  3. Politics Politics is not evil or “dirty” – it is the core of any government

  4. Political Parties • What is a political party? • A group of people … • … with similar interests & beliefs … • … seeking power (through elections) … • …to control policymaking … • … which is organized along federal lines (national + 50 states)

  5. Political Parties • In a democratic government, political parties represent the way people participate in the political process • Many ways to participate • Join a political party • Volunteer to help on a political campaign • Take part in demonstrations • Vote in election • Run for public office

  6. Functions of Political Parties • Parties are the link between people & government • Essential to operation of a democratic government • Read and review the five functions of political parties in your textbook (pp 123-24)

  7. Party Membership • Purely voluntary • No dues paid • BUT people can contribute $ • No duties in exchange for membership • BUT you can volunteer to work for a campaign • Broad based & multi-class (economic, social) in nature

  8. Party Membership: Democrats • Farmers • Union workers • African Americans • Ethnic minorities • Environmentalists • Political liberals (“progressives”) • Catholics, Jews • Entertainment industry • Big business • Graduate degree holders (MA, PHD)

  9. Party Membership: Republicans • Fiscal conservatives • Small business • Evangelical Christians • Military • Eastern European immigrants • Slightly more males than females • Married couples • Higher income voters • College graduates • Elderly

  10. American Political System • So why does America have a two party system? • Historical reasons • American Ideological consensus • Conduct of elections

  11. Historical Reasons: Republican Party Evolution

  12. Historical Reasons: Democratic Party Evolution

  13. “American Ideological Consensus” France: Population? Italy: Population? 65 million 58 million [] Europeans are dispersed across political spectrum

  14. “American Ideological Consensus” Americans are concentrated towards center of ideological spectrum [ ] Why?!?!

  15. “American Ideological Consensus” • US has two oceans • to E, W • US has friendly • neighbors to N, S • Americans less • polarized b/c they • are safe! Nice Water Water Nice

  16. Europe, by contrast… YIKES!!!

  17. SMD vs. PR Single Member Districts Example Proportional Representation Example Who wins? Who wins?

  18. SMD v. PR • Single Member District characteristics • Winner takes all • No incentive to come in anything but first place • No incentives for third parties • No incentive to build coalition / compromise • Proportional Representation characteristics • No losers, only degrees of winners • Greater representation of ideas and issues • More extreme ideas represented in process • Coalition building required

  19. Third Party Types • Economic Protest • Expresses their discontent with the major parties and current economy • Examples? • Ideological • Based on comprehensive view of social, political, or economic matters • No compromise of beliefs for victory • Examples?

  20. Types of 3rd Parties • Single Issue Party • Motivated and focused on one overriding public policy issue • Example? • Splinter Party • Splits off from one of the major parties • Electoral “Kiss of Death” for major party – why? • Splits support of 1 party between 2 candidates • Example?

  21. Contributions of 3rd Parties • Political conventions • 1830s – 1st one held by 3rd party • Every 4 years, 1 for each party • Nomination of President, VP • Today, primaries, caucuses precede convention • Also develop Party Platform • Still relevant? • Show differences between parties • 1 week of being ‘on message”

  22. Contributions of 3rd Parties • Address issues major parties don’t want to discuss • Example: Ross Perot & NAFTA • Ralph Nader and big money in politics • Disappoint in Ds, Rs = support for 3rd party

  23. Contributions of 3rd Parties: Spoiler • Election of 1912 • TR = Bull Moose / progressive (Split Rs) • Taft = R • Wilson = D • Lesson? Big % to 3rd party can cost a major party the election Popular vote Wilson: 6,296,284 Roosevelt: 4,122,721 Taft: 3,486,242

  24. Contribution of 3rd Parties: Spoiler • Election of 1992 • Clinton = 43% • Bush = 38% • Perot = 19% • Lesson: major parties have to protect their flanks! Result Clinton: 370 ECV / 44,909,806 popular vote GHW Bush: 168 ECV / 39,104,550 popular vote Perot: 0 ECV / 19,743,821 popular vote

  25. Contributions of 3rd Parties • 2000 election • Need 270 ECV to win • Gore = 267 EC (+500k PV) • GW Bush = 246 ECV • FL = 25 ECV w/o Nader, voters would have either stayed home or vote for Gore

  26. Contributions of 3rd Parties • FL vote • Bush = 2,912,790 • Gore = 2,912,253 • Nader = 97,488 • Bush: +537 votes • Who says your vote doesn’t count? • What would Nader say about criticism by Ds? • Those were votes for him and against Gore / Ds Results Bush: 271 ECV / 50.4 million Gore: 266 ECV / 50.9 million Nader: 0 ECV / 2.8 million