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LECTURE #8: Elections and Campaigns. Derrick J. Johnson, MPA, JD Advanced Placement United States Government & Politics, School for Advanced Studies. Functions of Political Parties.

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lecture 8 elections and campaigns

LECTURE #8: Elections and Campaigns

Derrick J. Johnson, MPA, JD

Advanced Placement United States Government & Politics,

School for Advanced Studies

functions of political parties
Functions of Political Parties
  • In most democracies political parties are important institutions that link citizens to their government. The founders of the Constitution, witnessing the effect of parties on British politics, hoped to avoid the “mischief” of political factions when they envisioned creating our government.
  • James Madison reflected this sentiment in Federalist Paper #10 when he called political factions as “necessary evils” to be controlled by the separation of powers.
functions of political parties1
Functions of Political Parties
  • Ironically, almost as soon as the new government was created, American political parties began to emerge.
  • Political Parties serve several functions:
    • Connect citizens to their government
    • Run candidates for political office
    • Inform the public about policies
    • Organizing the government
one party system
One-Party System
  • There are three types of party systems: one party, two-party and multi-party.
  • A one-party system exists when only one party dominates or has a chance of winning elections.
  • Generally membership is not voluntary and those who are party members represent a small portion of the population.
  • Party leaders must approve candidates for political office and the voters don’t have a real choice.
two party system
Two-Party System
  • A two-party system exists when there may be several minor parties, but only two have a real chance of winning elections and dominating in power.
  • With the exception of the Era of Good Feeling in the early 19th Century, there has always been two parties competing against each other in the United States.
  • There are four important reasons for the American two-party system:
Consensus of values
    • Both major parties believe in individualism, equality, and liberty.
    • In other countries, their party systems may give rise to a variety of beliefs and values.
  • Historical influence
    • The nation began with two-political factions, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. This has led to a tradition of two major parties.
  • The winner-take-all system
    • The winner in American elections is the one who receives the largest number of votes in each district. The winner does not need 50% to win, but only more votes than his closest competitor.
This system contrasts proportional representation where the percentage of votes for a party’s candidate is directly applied as the percentage of representatives in the legislature.
  • Election Laws
    • State and local laws favor placing major party candidates on the ballot. This strengthens the two major party and gives third parties little to no chance of getting candidates into office.
organization of the two party system
Organization of the Two-Party System
  • Parties have strong “grass roots,” or state and/or local control over important decisions. To be sure, each national committee organizes a convention every four years to nominate a president.
  • Each party has a chairperson who serves as spokesperson, and it least nominally coordinates the election campaign for president.
  • Local party organizations provide the foot soldiers that hand out party literature, call citizens to register and turnout on election day.
multi party system
Multi-Party System
  • Exists when there are several major parties and a number of minor parties compete in elections, and any of the parties stands a good chance of winning.
  • This type of system can be composed of from 4 to 20 different parties, based on ideology, region, or class position, and is often found in European nations.
  • This system is usually the result of a proportional representation voting, rather than single member districts.
  • The idea behind a multi-party system is to give voters meaningful choices. However, multi-party systems can also promote instability. For example, if no party has a clear majority, a coalition government must be formed.
historical development of the american two party system
Historical Development of the American Two-Party System
  • Historically, the two-party system has been characterized by long periods of dominance by one party followed by long period of dominance by the other.
  • The eras begin and end with shifts in the voting population called realignments that occur because issues change, and new schisms form between groups.
the early years 1789 1824
The Early Years (1789-1824)
  • The first two political parties to emerge during Washington’s term of office were the Federalists and Anti-Federalists.
  • The major issue in the beginning was the ratification of the Constitution, with the Federalists supporting it and the Anti-Federalists wanting guarantees of individual freedoms and rights not included in the original document. The issue was resolved with the addition of the Bill of Rights, but the parties did not disappear with the issue.
The Federalists were led by Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of Treasury, and they came to represent urban, business-oriented men who favored elitism and a strong central government.
  • The Anti-Federalists evolved into the Democratic Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson. They favored strong state governments, rural interests, and a weaker central government. They opposed the bank as an enemy of sate governmental control and rural interests.
Hamilton died in a duel with Aaron Burr and with his death, the Federalist lacked a popular leader to carry the party banner at the turn of the 19th Century. As a result, Jefferson became the dominant American leader in the 1800s.
  • As president, Jefferson became more accepting of a strong central government, and the two parties point of view seemed to merge most notably in the “Era of good Feeling” presided over by James Monroe (one of Jefferson’s protégés).
  • The Democratic-Republicans dominated American elections from 1800 to 1824, when the party split into factions. One of those factions would become the Democratic Party.
the first democratic era 1824 1861
The First Democratic Era (1824-1861)
  • The two party system reemerged with the appearance of Andrew Jackson, who represented to many the expanding country, in which newer states found much in common with the rural southern states but little with the established northeast.
  • Jackson’s election in 1828 was accomplished with a coalition between South and West, forming the Democratic Party.
  • With the Jacksonian Era’s universal manhood suffrage, virtually all men could vote, so rural, anti-bank, small farmers from the South and West formed the backbone of the Democratic Party.
During this era, the Democrats established the tradition of holding a national convention to nominate a presidential candidate.
  • A new party emerged, the Whigs, who represented many interests of the old Federalist Party.
  • The Whigs were left with not only old Federalist Party interests, but other groups, such as wealthy rural southerners, who had little in common with other Whigs.
  • The party was not ideologically coherent, but found some success in nominating and electing war heroes like William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor.
As economic tensions between North and South developed in the 1840s and 1850s which caused a schism in the Whig Party. As a result of this schism, the Republican Party was born.
  • In 1860, Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, was elected, due largely to the fact that the Democratic Party was divided between northern and southern factions. Voter realignment centered on regional differences and the issue of expansion of slavery.
  • The advent of the American Civil War led to the end of the first Democratic Era.
the republican era 1861 1933
The Republican Era (1861-1933)
  • With the exception of Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, all presidents from Abraham Lincoln (1861-1895) through Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) were Republicans.
  • During most of that time, Republicans dominated the legislature as well.
  • By 1876 all of the southern states had been restored to the Union, but their power, as well as that of the Democratic Party, was much diminished.
Republicans came to champion the new era of Industrial Revolution, a time when prominent businessmen, such as John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, dominated politics as well as business.
  • The Republican Party came to represent laissez-faire, a policy that advocated free market and few government regulations on business.
the second democratic era 1933 1969
The Second Democratic Era (1933-1969)
  • The prosperous, business-orientated era survived several earlier recessions but the Great Depression gripped the country after the stock market crash of 1929.
  • The economic down turn caused major realignments of voters that swung the balance of power to the Democrats.
  • The Republican president, Herbert Hoover, was rejected in the election of 1932 in favor of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Roosevelt’s victory was accomplished through forging the “Roosevelt Coalition” of voters, a combination of many different groups (eastern workers, southern and western farmers, African Americans, and liberals) that wished to see Hoover defeated.
  • A shift in ideology occurred. Former states rights Democrats gave way to advocating a strong central government that promoted the interests of ordinary people.
  • The Democrats dominated the executive and the legislative branches during this era. FDR was elected to an unprecedented four terms and was followed by another Democrat, Harry S. Truman.
Despite the fact that Eisenhower was elected in 1952 and re-elected in 1956, the Congress remained in the hands of the Democrats. The Democrats regained their control over the White House in 1960 with the election of President John F. Kennedy and it continued to maintain control throughout the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency.
  • The advent of the presidency of Richard M. Nixon would mark the end of the Second Democratic Era.
the era of divided government 1969 present
The Era of Divided Government (1969-Present)
  • Richard Nixon’s election in 1968 did not usher in a new Republican era of government dominance. Instead, a new balance of power between Democrats and Republicans emerged.
  • With few exceptions, control of the legislative branch and the presidency has been divided between the two major parties.
  • When one holds the presidency, the other holds at least one house of Congress. This often results in “gridlock,” or the tendency to paralyze decision making, with one branch advocating one policy and the other another, contradictory policy.
From 1969 to 1993, the Republicans held the Presidency (with exception of President Jimmy Carter’s term – 1977 to 1981). At the same time, the Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress.
  • Reasons for the Republican hold on the presidency may be attributed to the fact that Republicans began to pay more attention to electronic media and they utilized political consultants. Whereas, Democrats began to focus more on grassroots. The Democrats were suffering from the break-up of the Roosevelt Coalition and the perception of disunity that plagued them since the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
minor parties
Minor Parties
  • Whereas two parties have always dominated the American system, minor or third parties have also played a role. Minor Parties are divided into two categories:
    • Those dominated by an individual personality.
      • Usually disappears when the charismatic personality does.
      • EX: Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party (Progressive Party) and George Wallace’s American Independent Party
    • Those organized around a long-lasting goal or ideology.
      • EX: The Abolitionists, the Prohibitionists, and the Socialists.
Probably the most influential third party in the American history was the Populist Party. The Populists’ best known leader was William Jennings Bryan, who was enticed to accept the Democratic nomination in 1896.
  • The fate of the Populist Party was the same as for most other third parties: their goals were adopted by a major party, deferring to the “winner-take-all,” or pluralist system, that supports a two party system.
In 1992, H. Ross Perot, a wealthy Texas businessman, tried to defy the two party system by running for president as an independent. He hired professional campaign and media advisers, created a high profile on national television interviews, bought a massive number of television ads, and built a nationwide network of paid and volunteer campaign workers.
  • In the end, Perot gained “19%” of the vote but did not capture a single electoral vote. Perot ran again in 1996, but he was less successful.
  • In 2000, Ralph Nader ran for the Green Party, but he won only about 3% of the vote. He ran again in 2004 as an independent and the Green Party fielded their own candidate for office, but neither managed to make an impact.
party powers dealignment
Party Powers: Dealignment
  • In the modern era voter alignments do not appear to be as clear cut as they once were, partly because of the phenomenon of dealignment.
  • Over the past fifty years party identification has been weakening among American voters, with more preferring to call themselves independents.
  • Not only have ties to the major parties weakened in recent years, but voters are less willing to vote in straight tickets (support all candidates of the same party for all positions).
In the early 1950s, we saw the emergence of ticket splitting, or voting for candidates from both parties for different positions.
  • In the 1950s, ticket splitters made up 12% of the electorate. In recent years, they have grown between 20% to 40% of the electorate.
  • If this trend holds true, then it may indicate that the parties are becoming a weaker force in the political system.