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The Party Structure and System
Linkage Institutions #2
Political Parties
A group that seeks to elect candidates
to public office by supplying them
with a label by which they are known
by the electorate.
Arenas of Politics Parties Exist In
Political parties exist as a label (or
brand) in the eyes of the voters.
That label allows voters who might
not be familiar with individual
candidates to have a general idea of
their values
Arenas of Politics Parties Exist In
Parties seek to recruit potential
candidates and to help
campaign on their behalf for
political office
Arenas of Politics Parties Exist In
Set of Leaders
Once elected party members work
together to organize and control
the branches of government they
are in so they can achieve their
policy goals.
Weakening of Parties
In all three areas Political Parties are weaker…
… As a label
• More independent voters and more split-ticket voting
(Voting for candidates of different parties)
… As organizations
• Been less effective in recruitment and mobilization of
voters since the 1960s (more individual elections)
… As a set of leaders
• Weakened the least, but not as disciplined as once due
to rule changes (Although changing)
European vs. U.S. Parties
Disciplined Gatekeepers
Loyal Voters
Unitary System
Unregulated by
Party leaders choose
Parliamentary System
United States
Not as disciplined
Voters shift alliances
Federal System
Regulated by Government
Primary Elections
President elected separately
from Congress
Evolution of Political Parties
Central Theme: Decentralization
Over time Parties have become less powerful
Founding Period
Originally a loose caucuses of political notables. Aligned along
Hamilton (Federalist) and Jefferson (Democratic-Republicans).
Jefferson’s Party eventually dominates.
Jacksonian Period
Political participation became a mass phenomenon and reacted
to the support of leaders to Adams over Jackson. Party during
this period was built from bottom up rather than top down.
Evolution of Political Parties
Civil War and Sectionalism
Party system was unable to survive and sectionalism. The
Republican Party emerges as an Anti-Slave Party and becomes
dominant. Democrats became sectionalized. Led to states
being dominated by one party and factions
Era of Reform
Began in 1900 but picked up steam since the New Deal
• Primary Elections replace nominating conventions
• Nonpartisan elections at city levels
• Stricter voter registration requirements to reduce fraud
• Civil service reform to eliminate patronage
• Initiative and Referendum process in states.
Party Realignment
Critical or Realignment Periods/Elections
Periods when a sharp, LASTING shift occurs in the
popular coalition supporting one or both parties.
1800: Democratic-Republicans defeat Federalists
1828: Jacksonian Democrats come into power
1860: Whig party collapses, Republicans emerge
1896: Republicans defeat William Jennings Bryant
1932: Democrats come into office under FDR
Types of Realignments
1) A major party is defeated so badly that
it disappears, and a new party emerges.
1828, 1860
2) Two existing parties continues, but
voters shift their loyalty from one to
1800, 1896, 1932
Historical Trends
Previously there have been realignments every
30-40 years in the United States. Which means
we should have had one around 1962-1972.
Have we?
Proposed “Re-alignments”
1968: Southern Re-Alignment
1980: Republican Dominance?
1970s: “De-Alignment”
Nominating the President
(Primary Elections)
Primary elections are elections held within the political
party to select who will be that parties official candidate.
Types of Primaries
• Primary Elections
• Closed primaries: Voters must be registered with their party in
advance and can only vote for that party
• Open primaries: Voters decide on election day which party to
participate in, and then only that party
• Blanket primaries: Voters get a list of all candidates and can
vote for one name for each office, regardless of party label
• Nominating Caucuses
• Meeting of party followers at which delegates are picked. Takes
up much more time so only the most dedicated party members
show up. Produces the most ideological candidate in each party.
Primary Elections
• Primary elections were adopted to give the
individual members of the party a greater say
in their candidate.
• The nature of primary elections changes the
strategy of the candidates.
• Voters are different (More activist and ideological)
• Media attention is less
• Must mobilize activists to give money and
Primary Elections
The Delegates
• Selected on basis on Primary Elections (Candidates pick
them based on loyalty and other factors)
• Delegates Today tend to be issue-oriented activists
(high education and income, not the same as typical
• Advantages
• Increased Opportunity for Activists to participate
• Decreased Probability they flee the party
• Disadvantage
• These delegates may nominate a candidate unacceptable
to majority of voters, or even rank and file members of the
Party Make-Up
• African-Americans,
Immigrants, Jews, Catholics,
Union Members (1932)
• Women (Late 1970s)
• Recent Changes
– Catholics are less reliable
Democratic voters due to
social issues becoming large
deciding factors
– Union members are less
reliable due to decrease in
number of them.
• Upper-Income “Business
Men” (1896)
• Protestant Fundamentalist
• Social Conservatives (1980s)
– Previously a non-existent
group that was organized by
the Christian Coalition in the
1980s. Strong supporters of
the Republican Party
The Two Party System
• Although we have multiple parties, we still are
a two party system because only the two
major parties have realistic chances of
winning elections on a national level
• Parties are balanced nationally but not locally
Why a Two Party System? (Legislative)
Proportional Representation
• Used in Europe
• Ballots list party, not
• Parties votes are tallied
• Party gets to name the
representatives based on
the percentage they get.
• Example: 100 Seats in
Parliament, party wins 45%
of the vote, therefore they
name 45 people to
Plurality System
• Used in the United States
• Ballots list individual
• Each seat is run for
• The person who gets the
most votes gets the seat
• Encourages candidates to
try to appeal to the “most”
people possible
Why a Two Party System?
•In the electoral college
(more on that later)
each state is worth a
certain amount of votes
•In all but 2 states
(Maine and Nebraska)
the winner of the state
gets ALL of the electoral
•Encourages candidates
to appeal to broadest
group possible
Role of Minor Parties
• Most Minor Parties are ideological parties that
are not interested in immediate electoral
• Third Party Successes (Carrying States)
– Economic Protest
– Factional Parties
• Tea Party? At this point a social movement
who holds influence in the Republican Party.
Impact of Minor Parties
Contribute New Ideas to System
Voice for the Fringe
Enhanced Participation
Protest Vote
Pushes Major Parties to go after
underrepresented voters