Political Parties – Week 8 – Text Notes

Political Parties


1. Define the term political party and contrast
the structure of the European and American parties, paying particular
attention to the federal structure of the American system and the
concept of party identification.

2. Trace the development of the party system
through its four periods. Explain why parties have been in decline
since the New Deal.

3. Describe the structure of a major party and
distinguish powerful from powerless party organs.

4. Indicate whether there are major differences
between the parties. Describe some of the issue differences between
delegates at Democratic and Republican conventions, and compare these
differences with those of the party rank and file.

Text Outline

I. Parties-here and abroad

A. Decentralization

1. A party is a group that seeks to
elect candidates to public office by supplying them with a
label (party identification)

2. Arenas of politics in which parties

a. In minds of the voters as

b. Organization recruiting and
campaigning for candidates

c. Set of leaders in

3. American parties have become weaker in
all three arenas

a. As label, more independents
and more ticket-splitting

b. As set of leaders, organization of
Congress less under their control

c. As organization, much weaker since

B. Reasons for differences with European

1. Federal system decentralizes
power in U.S.

a. Early on, most people with
political jobs worked for state and local government

b. National parties were then
coalitions of local parties.

c. As political power becomes more
centralized, parties did not do the same

2. Parties closely regulated by state and
federal laws

3. Candidates chosen through primaries,
not by party leaders, in U.S.

4. President elected separately from

5. Political culture

a. Parties unimportant in life;
Americans do not join or pay dues

b. Parties separate from other aspects
of life


II. The rise and decline of the political

A. The Founding (to 1820s)

1. Founders’ dislike of parties,
viewing them as factions

2. Emergence of Republicans, Federalists:
Jefferson vs. Hamilton

a. Loose caucuses of political

b. Republicans’ success and
Federalists’ demise

3. No representation of homogeneous
economic interests-parties always heterogeneous

B. The Jacksonians (to Civil War)

1. Political participation a mass

a . More voters to reach; by
1932, presidential electors controlled mostly by popular

b. Party built from bottom up

c. Abandonment of presidential

d. Beginning of national party
conventions to allow local control

C. The Civil War and sectionalism

1. Jacksonian system unable to
survive slavery and sectionalism

2. New Republicans became dominant
because of

a. Civil War-Republicans rely on
Union pride

b. Bryan’s alienation of northern
Democrats in 1896

3. Most states one-party

a . Factions emerge in each

b. Republicans with professional
politicians (Old Guard) and progressives (mugwumps)

c. Progressives moved from shifting
between parties to attacking partisanship

D. The era of reform

1. Progressive push measures to
curtail parties

a. Primary elections

b. Nonpartisan elections at city and
(sometimes) state level

c. No party-business

d. Strict voter registration

e. Civil service reform

f. Initiative and

2. Effects

a. Reduction in worst form of
political corruption

b. Weakening of all political


III. The national party structure today

A. Parties similar on paper

1. National convention ultimate
power; nominate presidential candidate

2. National committee composed of
delegates from states manages affairs between

3. Congressional campaign

4. National chair manages daily

B. Party structure diverges in late

1. RNC moves to bureaucratic
structure; a well-financed party devoted to electing its

2. Democrats move to factionalized
structure to redistribute power

3. RNC uses computerized mailing lists to
raise money

a. Money used to provide
services to candidates

4. DNC adopted same techniques, with some

5. DNC and RNC send money to state
parties, to sidestep federal spending limits

6. RNC now tries to help state and local

7. Democrats remain a collection of
feuding factions

C. National conventions

1. National committee sets time and
place; issues call setting number of delegates for each

2. Formulas used to allocate

a. Democrats shift formula away
from South, to North and West

b. Republicans shift formula from East
to South and Southwest

c. Result: Democrats move left,
Republicans right

3. Democrat formula rewards large states;
and Republican rewards loyal states

4. Democrats set new rules

a. In 1970s, rules changed to
weaken local party leaders and increase influence of women,
youth, minorities

b. Hunt Commission in 1981 increases
influence of elected officials and makes convention more

5. Consequence of reforms: parties
represent different sets of upper-middle class

a. Republicans represent
traditional middle class-more conservative

b. Democrats represent new class-more

c. Democrats hurt since traditional
middle class closer in opinions to most citizens

6. To become more competitive, Democrats
adopt rule changes

a. In 1988, number of
superdelegates increased while special interest caucuses

b. In 1992, three rules:

(1) Winner-reward system of
delegate distribution banned

(2) Proportional representation

(3) States that violate rules

7. Conventions today only ratify choices
made in primaries


IV. State and local parties

A. State-level structure

1. State central committee

2. County committee

3. Various local committees

4. Distribution of power varies with

B . The machine

1. Recruitment via tangible
incentives (money, jobs, political favors)

2. High degree of leadership

3. Abuses

a. Gradually controlled by

b. Machines continued until voter
demographics and federal programs changed

4. Machines both self-serving and

5. New machines a blend of old machine
and ideological party traits

C. Ideological parties–extreme opposite to

1. Principle above all else so
contentious and factionalized

2. Usually outside Democratic and
Republican parties-third parties

3. But some local reform clubs in 1950s
and 1960s

4. Reform clubs replaced by social
movements with specific demands

D. Solidary Groups

1. Most common form of party

2. Members motivated by solidary
incentives (companionship)

3. Advantage: neither corrupt nor

4. Disadvantage: not very hard

E. Sponsored parties

1. Created or sustained by another

2. Example: Detroit Democrats controlled
by United Auto Workers (UAW) union

3. Not very common in U.S.

F. Personal following

1. Examples: Kennedys (MA),
Talmadges (GA), Longs (LA), Byrds (VA)

V. The two-party system

A. Rarity among nations today

B . Evenly balanced nationally, not

C. Why such a permanent feature?

1 . Electoral
system-winner-take-all and plurality system

2. Opinions of voters-two broad
coalitions work, although times of bitter dissent

3. State laws have made it very difficult
for third parties to get on the ballot

VI. Minor parties

A. Ideological parties–comprehensive,
radical view; most enduring

Examples: Socialist, Communist,

B. One-issue parties-address one concern,
avoid others

Examples: Free Soil, Know-Nothing,

C. Economic protest parties-regional,
protest economic conditions

Examples: Greenback,

D. Factional parties-from split in a major

Examples: Bull Moose, Henry
Wallace, American Independent

E. Movements not producing parties; either
slim chance of success or parties accommodate via direct primary
and national party convention

Examples: civil rights, antiwar,

F. Factional parties have had greatest

G. Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996

VII. Nominating a president -By tradition, the party “out of
power”-the one not holding the presidency-holds its convention

A. Two contrary forces: party’s desire
to win motivates it to seek an appealing candidate, but its desire
to keep dissidents in party forces a compromise with more extreme

B . Are the delegates representative of the

1. Democratic delegates much more

2. Republican delegates much more

3. Explanation of this

a. Not quota rules alone-women,
youth, minorities have greater diversity of opinion than do
the delegates

C. Who votes in primaries?

1. Primaries now more numerous and
more decisive

a. Stevenson (1952) and Humphrey
(1968) won the presidential nomination without entering any

b. By 1992: forty primaries and twenty
caucuses (some states with both)

2. Little ideological difference between
primary voters and rank-and-file party voters

3. Caucus: meeting of party followers at
which delegates are picked

a. Only most dedicated partisans

b. Often choose most ideological
candidate: Jackson, Robertson in 1988

D. Who are the new delegates?

1. However chosen, today’s
delegates are issue-oriented activists

2. Advantages of new system

a. Increased chance for
activists within party

b. Decreased probability of their
bolting the party

3. Disadvantage: may nominate
presidential candidates unacceptable to voters or rank and


VIII. Parties versus voters

A. Democrats: have won more
congressional elections than presidential contests

1. Candidates are out of step with
average voters on social and taxation issues (hmm.. rather
strange assertion here! Clinton has a 70% aqpproval

2. So are delegates … and there’s a

B. Republicans had same problem with
Goldwater (1964)

C. Rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans
differ on many political issues

1. But differences are usually

D. Delegates from two parties differ widely
on these same issues

1. Delegates (and candidates) need
to correspond with views of average citizens

2. But candidates must often play to the
ideological extremes to win delegate support.


caucus (nominating) An
alternative to a state primary in which party followers meet, often
for many hours, to select party candidates.

congressional campaign committees
Separate committees in Congress for each political party to
help members who are running for reelection or would-be members
running for an open seat or challenging a candidate from the
opposition party.

direct primary A proposal
originated by progressive reformers to open up political parties to
their membership. It permits a vote of party members to select the
party’s nominee in the general election.

economic-protest parties
Parties, usually based in a particular region, especially
involving farmers, that protest against depressed economic
conditions. These tend to disappear as conditions improve. An example
would be the Greenback party.

factional parties Parties that
are created by a split in a major party, usually over the identity
and philosophy of the major party’s presidential candidate. An
example would be the “Bull Moose” Progressive party.

first party system The
original party structure in which political parties were loose
caucuses of political notables in various locations. It was replaced
around 1824.

ideological party A political
party organization that values principle above all else and spurns
money incentives for members to participate.

initiative A proposal favored
by progressive reformers to curtail corruption. It allows a law to be
enacted directly by vote of the people without approval of a
legislative body.

mugwumps (or progressives) One
of two major factions largely within the Republican party who opposed
the heavy emphasis on patronage and disliked the party machinery
because it only permitted bland candidates to rise to the top, was
fearful of immigrants, and wanted to see the party take unpopular
stances on certain issues. They challenged the Old Guard from around
1896 to the 1930s.

national chairman The person
responsible for managing the day-to-day work of a national political
party. The person is given a full-time, paid position and is elected
by the national committee.

national committee Delegates
from each state and territory who manage party affairs between
national conventions. These exist at the national level for both
major political parties.

national party convention The
ultimate authority in both major political parties in the United
States. The conventions are held every four years to nominate each
party’s candidate for the presidency.

Old Guard One of two major
factions largely within the Republican party, composed of the party
regulars and professional politicians. They were preoccupied with
building up the party machinery, developing party loyalty, and
acquiring and dispensing patronage. They were challenged by
progressives from around 1896 to the 1930s.

one-issue parties Parties
seeking a single policy, usually revealed by their names, and
avoiding other issues. An example would be the Free Soil

personal following A type of
local party organization in which a candidate gets people to work for
him or her for a campaign and then the organization disbands until
the next election. To run this type of campaign, a candidate needs an
appealing personality, a lot of friends, or a large bank

plurality system An electoral
system in which the winner is that person who gets the most votes,
even if they do not constitute a majority of the votes.

political machine A political
party organization that recruits its members by the use of tangible
incentives and is characterized by a high degree of leadership
control over members’ activities.

political party A group that
seeks to elect candidates to public office by supplying them with a
label by which they are known to the electorate.

second party system The second
party structure in the nation’s history that emerged when Andrew
Jackson first ran for the presidency in 1824. The system was built
from the bottom up as political participation became a mass

solidary group A political
party organization based on gregarious or game-loving instincts. It
survives on the basis of a friendship network.

solidary incentive An
inducement that attracts people out of gregarious or gameloving
instincts. It is one reason why people become involved in a state or
local party organization.

special-interest caucus A
group within a political party united by a concern over a specific
cause. The Democratic party has attempted to assure many
special-interest groups representation at its national convention,
although lately the party has moved away from this

sponsored party A political
party organization created or sponsored by another organization. This
form of local party organization is rare in the United

superdelegates Elected
officials and party leaders represented at the national convention of
the Democratic party. Such representation was provided for by a
recent party reform to ensure that an electable presidential
candidate is selected.

two-party system An electoral
system with two dominant parties that compete in state or national
elections. Third parties have little chance of winning.

unit rule A requirement that
all delegates representing a state at a national party convention
vote with the majority of their state delegation.

winner-take-all system An
element of the electoral system used in the United States which
requires that only one member of the House of Representatives can be
elected from each congressional district.