Political Science 1100, Introduction to American Politics, February 24, 2014


Current Events 


Political Parties

1. Why do we have political parties? 

    - Ask James Madison - Why did he help create America's first political party?

    - to make American government work by building coalitions of
                (1) legislators and other public officials (party in government),

                (2) voters who would vote for candidates for public office (party in the electorate) .

                (2) a party organization 


2. Why Do Only Two Parties Dominate American Politics?

   The Democrats and Republicans have dominated
       American politics since the 1850s -

      "Third" Parties rarely win electoral votes

1) History: We've Always Had Two

     Since the 1850s, the Democratic and Republican Parties have
     dominated American Politics


2) Party Identification: People Tend To Stick With One Party or the Other


3) Americans agree on basic values 


4)   Single Member, Plurality Elections Make It Difficult for 3rd Parties

       These rules make it hard for "Third" Parties to sustain electoral success


3. What groups tend to vote for Democrats and Republicans?


    Party Identification










        - the decline of the white electorate






    Region of the Country


    Size of place



4.Why are the Parties so Polarized Now?


   Political Polarization: 
     the separation of  Democrats and Republicans in political attitudes and behavior


Cross-Pressures and Changing coalitions have driven the parties apart

Realignment of American Parties since the 1980s

         The Southern states:
          were once solidly Democratic, even though  most Southerners were very conservative



         The New England states: was once solidly Republican, even though many
          New Englanders were moderate or liberal



         Rural across the country have become more Republican



The conservative South has transformed from a strong Democratic region to a strong Republican region
making the Republican Party more conservative & less moderate




Liberal areas of New England. the West and inner suburbs (like St. Louis County) have left the Republican Party
     -  making the Democratic Party more liberal and less moderate



The Tea Party:an even more conservative faction, has made the Republican party more conservative

    it favors lower taxes, less government spending, balanced budgets, and less government regulation



Americans and political parties are very polarized today


            Party in the electorate



            Party in government

                        If you are an elected official and you are too moderate, you may be "primaried," especially in the Republican Party, and you could lose }
                            because voters in primary elections are more ideological than voters in the general election.


5. WHO CARES about the political parties?

To Become President, Or Governor, Or A Legislator,

    You Still Have To Win Elections

    -- But Without Strong Parties To Help,

       Your Tactics For Winning Have To Include

1). The "Candidate-Centered" Campaign

You Have To Rely On Yourself To Win Elections

2). If You Go It Alone And Rely On Yourself,

You Have To Advertise Yourself To Potential Voters

(That's Because They Won't Rely On Party Labels

As Much)


You have to run your own campaign and find a lot of donors


And many donors will only give you big money if you are very ideological and very partisan like they are


And if you are rewarded for being very ideological and partisan, you may be punished if you compromise 


BUT ...  the Constitution requires compromise to make government work