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Government - Unit 7, Chapter 5: Political Parties
Transcript of Government - Unit 7, Chapter 5: Political Parties
Parties and What They Do
The Two-Party System
The Minor Parties
A political party is a group of persons who seek to control government through the winning of elections and the holding of public office.
There are two major political parties in the United States today: Democrats and Republicans.
Bell curve, the explanation of life...
(according to Mr. White anyways)
What do Political Parties do??
Parties are a vital link between the people and their government. Parties are the major mechanisms behind the development of policies, laws, and leadership choices.
Political parties are supposed to work as power brokers and try to bring conflicting groups together to find solutions and compromises to problems...although this seems to be changing...
The parties select candidates and then present them to the voters.
Then the parties work to help their candidates win elections.
Informing and Activating Supporters
The Bonding Agent Function
Acting as a Watchdog
"Inform" is an interesting word in this context...why?
Parties inform the people, and inspire and activate their interest and participation in public affairs. (The news media does this too.)
Parties campaign for their candidates, take stands on issues, and criticize the candidates and the positions of their opponents.
It is important to remember that each party tries to inform the people as it thinks they should be informed...to their own advantage.
Parties act as a "bonding agent" to ensure the good performance of its candidates and officeholders.
The party tries to ensure that its men and women are qualified and of good character (or at least not of bad character).
In several respects, government in the U.S. is government by party.
Public officeholders (aka those who govern) are regularly chosen on the basis of party.
Congress and the State legislatures are organized on party lines and conduct most of their business on a partisan basis.
Parties act as watchdogs over the conduct of the public's business. Especially the party OUT of power.
The party out of power plays this role by criticizing the policies and behavior of the party IN power.
In American politics the party in power is the party that controls the executive branch of government - the presidency at the national level or the governorship at the State level.
So why do we have a two-party system?
The Historical Basis
We've had two parties since the Constitution was first drafted...
The Force of Tradition
Once the two-party system was set up it became a self-perpetuating system.
The "rules of the game."
The Electoral System
The basic structure and many of the details of the election process favor the inclusion of only two parties.
Single-member districts - only one candidate is elected to each office on the ballot.
The American Ideological Consensus
While we don't agree on everything we are more homogeneous in our politics than most countries.
Also, remember that bell curve?
In a multiparty system many different parties exist, seriously compete for, and actually win public offices.
Multiparty systems have long been a part of European democracies.
Those in favor of the multiparty system say that it offers voters a more meaningful choice by giving them a candidate that better represents them.
The power to govern in this system is shared by several difference parties forming a coalition, or a temporary alliance of several groups who work together to form a majority.
But the multiparty system does have a more regular turnover and sometimes dysfunction.
There are also One-Party Systems...but these are really no-party systems because the people and those running for office don't have a choice.
Party Membership Patterns
Membership to a party is purely voluntary
Each party is composed of all different types of Americans BUT many groups are more closely aligned with one or the other parties.
Democrats - Minorities, lower income, younger
Republicans - White, higher income, older
Some minor parties limit their efforts to a particular local, others to a single State, and some to one region of the country. Yet others try to woo the entire nation.
Most have been short-lived, but a few have existed for decades.
Four Types of Minor Parties
Economic Protest Party
These parties are based on a particular set of beliefs held by its members.
Examples: Libertarian Party and Socialist Party
These parties focus on only one public-policy matter or issue.
Example: Green Party, Right to Life Party, and the "Know Nothings" (opposed Irish-Catholic immigration in the 1850s).
These parties come about during times of economic discontent and disappear when the nation climbs out of the economic problems it was in.
Example: National Greenback Party
These parties split away from or off of one of the major parties. These parties have usually formed around a strong personality or leader who failed to gain the major parties nomination for President.
Examples: Bull Moose Progressive Party (Theodore Roosevelt) and George Wallace's American Independent Party of 1968.
Minor Parties have played an important role in American politics...sometimes acting as the spoiler but they also play an important role as innovator. Issues like the progressive income tax, women's suffrage, and railroad and banking regulation have all been issues that were brought to the attention of the American people by various minor parties.
Most of you probably think the two major parties are highly organized, close-knit, and well-disciplined groups...but they aren't!
The parties are very decentralized, fragmented, and there is often a lot of internal fighting.
State and local political parties are usually only loosely tied to the National party...
National Party Machinery:
The National Convention
The National Committee
The National Chairperson
The Congressional Campaign Committees
If you want to get involved in politics getting involved in your local political party organization/headquarters would be a great place to start!
But many Americans are beginning to not identify themselves with either of the two major parties, instead they identify themselves as Independents.