What parties do:
– Link between people and the government.
– Attract public support, recruit candidates, maintain an organization, coordinate policy and government. Most important: win elections.
Normative views of parties:
– Source of collective responsibility. General belief in activist government.
– Source of everything that is wrong in politics.
Different levels at which parties operate:
– Party in government. Parties in Congress are the most visible. Progressive era reforms: tried to lessen influence of parties.
– Party in the electorate: voters
– Party as organization: party activists and permanent organizations at local, state, and national level.
Why do third parties have such a tough time in the American political system?
– Institutional explanations: Duverger’s Law (“first past the post,” winner-take-all; compare to proportional representation), ballot access, campaign finance, the Electoral College, the presidency (compare to parliamentary government).
– Natural dualism in politics.
– Cultural explanations.
Third Parties, cont.
Types of third parties:
– Bolter parties--when a major figure leaves one of the major parties to run for president on his own.
– Farmer-Labor parties.
– Parties of ideological protest.
– Single issue parties.
– The Reform Party. Founded by Ross Perot in 1996. Liberal on social issues, conservative on fiscal policy. Jesse “The Body” Ventura governor of Minnesota from 1999-2003.
Third parties in the 2008 election
Major parties: Barack Obama, Democrat, 69,499,428, 52.87%; John McCain, Republican, 59,950,323, 45.60%
Third parties (combined about 1.5%): Ralph Nader, Ind., 739,278, 0.56%
Bob Barr, Libertarian, 523,433, 0.40%
Write-ins-- 251,373, 0.19%
Charles O. Baldwin, Constitution, 199,869, 0.15%
Cynthia A. McKinney, Green, 161,868, 0.12%
Alan Keyes, Independent, 47,938, 0.04%
Ron Paul, Taxpayers, 47,466, 0.04%
Róger Calero, Socialist Workers 7,577, 0.01%
Gloria LaRiva, Socialism and Liberation, 6,821, 0.01%
Brian Moore, Socialist 6,581, 0.01%
Charles Jay, Boston Tea Party 2,425; also the New Party, New American, We the People, Objectivist, Prohibition, Vote Here , Reform, US Pacifist.
Factions within parties
Tea Party and the Republican party. Not really a third party, but a faction within the R party. Pose some problems for R leadership in the next Congress.
Blue Dogs and the Democratic party. More than half of them lost in the 20100 midterms.
Moderate Republicans are a much smaller group today (“gypsy moths,” RINOs).
1800-1826 Jeffersonian Democratic- Republicans vs. Federalists.
1828-1858 Jacksonian Democrats (vs. the Whigs).
1860-1894 Competitive system between the Democrats and Republicans
1896-1930 Republicans dominant
1932-1966 Democrats dominant
1968-present. Competitive system and divided government.
How to explain shifts from one party system to another. That is, party realignments explain the establishment of a new party system.
– Electorally-based arguments. Focus on patterns of voting, partisan identification, and group voting. Mobilization and conversion.
– Issue-based arguments. Cross-cutting issues.
– The “governing side” argument.
2008 Realignment? Youth vote. But 2010 midterms proved it wasn’t.
The 1968 party system change was of a different type. Rather than realignment, the recent period is characterized by dealignment.
Voters are less attached to parties and divided government is the norm.
Shift in patterns of group voting: Southern Democrats and the gender gap.
Increased volatility of elections.
Consequences of divided government?
– Gridlock and productivity? Depends on the measure that one uses. Some evidence that major legislation is more likely to pass under unified government. Morris Fiorina says that voter consensus is what really matters.
– Investigations. Likely to ramp up in next Congress.
– Accountability? What will happen if nothing gets done for the next two years? Blame Dems or Repubs?
– Others argue that divided government is OK because voters seem to want it and it provides a check on activist government.
Counter the dealignment idea that parties are getting weaker (also challenges the Fiorina “Collective Responsibility” article).
– Parties are weaker in the electorate, but even that has reversed to some extent in recent years.
– Parties have grown stronger as organizations in the past couple of decades.
– Parties have also strengthened in government, especially in the U.S. Congress.
Differences between the Parties
– favor stronger role for the national government in areas such as health care, education, and the environment.
– More supportive policies supporting various groups (minorities, women, gays).
– More in favor of redistributive policies.
Differences between the Parties
– More limited role for government in general, but especially the national government.
– Return more power to the states.
– Deregulation--give more power to the free market, less power to the government.
– Lower taxes and spending.
Debate over Social Security and Medicare, repealing health care reform, and how to stimulate economic growth are good illustrations of differences.