Political Science 1100, Introduction to American Politics, February 24, 2014
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?
- the decline of the white electorate
Region of the Country
Size of place
4.Why are the Parties so Polarized Now?
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
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,
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
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