If we only considered the roles and composition of political parties, our understanding would be incomplete.
America's political parties compete for power.
The ability of the government to respond to the demands of the time is shaped by the struggle for control of government.
The fate of each party is linked to that of its major rival.
The constellation of parties that are important at any given moment is called a nation's party system by political scientists.
The number of major parties competing for power is the most obvious feature of a party system.
The United States usually has a two-party system, meaning that only two parties have a chance to win elections.
The United States has two parties because of both institutional and psychological reasons.
The American electoral system is winner take all.
Whoever gets the most votes wins the seat.
Whoever gets the most votes wins the presidency.
The Democratic and Republican parties are neither liberal nor conservative.
The electorate is divided about equally by their ideological positions.
It would not decrease Republican Party votes, but it would divide the left-leaning voters between the Democrats and the Greens, guaranteeing a Republican victory.
A third party that entered in the middle would be squeezed between the two parties with no hope of winning.
Most third parties stay out of this situation.
Getting on the ballot, recruiting candidates, building an organization, all carry tremendous costs.
The best the party could do was to come in a distant third.
It could cause the major party to lose.
Voters seem to understand the situation.
The electoral prospects of the major party that they favor less are boosted by those who vote for the third party.
The same forces are less likely to influence elections for legislative seats in proportion to their share of the national vote.
Smaller parties can join with larger parties in a coalition if no party wins a majority in parliament.
Sometimes systems that divvy up power based on the percentage of the vote won have to form coalitions in order to form a government.
There is an incentive for small parties to break away from larger parties.
The balance of power between and within party coalitions that endure over many years, the social and institutional bases of the parties, and the issues and policies around which party competition is organized are all encompassed by it.
A sense of equilibrium is implied by the idea of a party system.
Voters can expect the Democrats and Republicans to be the main parties in the next election and that Democrats will align with unions and urban interests while Republicans will align more with corporations and rural areas.
The alignment between the parties is based on history.
The party system of the past replicates itself as voters and candidates align with one party or the other based on their past experiences with the party.
The political system reflects the policies and coalitions of interest that those in office choose to champion.
The stability of the U.S. party system does not mean that the system is static.
There is a tension between moderate and extreme in each party.
Conflicts are worked out in state and national conventions, in the caucuses inside Congress, and in primary elections.
The ultimate goal of those involved in the political struggle inside the parties is to control the government.
The balance of the political struggles within the parties is reflected in the party system.
The president and members of Congress who have the greatest influence over party policy making are already in office, so they hesitate to embrace new principles or fundamentally alter the party coalitions, so that they don't harm their own position.
The character of a nation's party system changes when the parties realign their electoral coalitions.
Sometimes realignment comes subtly and sometimes suddenly.
Even though the Democrats and the Republicans are competing, the American party system is very different than it was in 1950.
Republicans wanted to dismantle Social Security and Democrats wanted to desegregate the South.
Social and economic changes from the 1950s to today forced a shift in the parties' policy orientations.
Political scientists refer to this gradual change as a realignment.
The most recent realignment was driven by race.
Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey were two of the Democratic leaders of the 1940s who embraced a new platform to end racial segregation.
The party system has suddenly changed.
In the 1860s, the nation was torn in half during the American Civil War; in the 1890s, when the country was in an economic crisis and depression; and in the 1930s, when the Great Depression hit.
The events changed the balance of power between the parties and the policies they represent.
The image of the parties in power was changed by those events.
Six party systems have been created over the course of American history, each with distinctive political institutions, issues, and patterns of political power and participation.
Conflicts over the distribution of wealth are an enduring feature of American political life.
The two-party system emerged early in the history of the new Republic because George Washington and many other leaders of the time deplored partisan politics.
Alexander Hamilton and the northeasterners formed a voting bloc in Congress because of the competition between the southern and northeastern mercantile groups.
The southerners, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were able to change the balance of power in Congress.
The birth of America's first national parties were the result of the northeasterners' response to the southern strategy.
Most of the parties existed for a single term.
The Anti-Masonics were the first party to hold a national nominating convention and the first to announce a party platform.
The policies were opposed by the Democrats and Republicans because they favored free trade, promotion of agrarian over commercial interests, and friendship with France.
Stable voting blocs within Congress would be created by the formation of both parties.
The Democrats and Republicans competed in elections, but their ties to the electorate were not strong.
Voters followed the lead of local political and religious leaders and community notables in the 1800's.
The local party leaders would gather the party elites and agree on a candidate.
caucuses are meetings where candidates are nominated.
Before the secret ballot, many voters were reluctant to vote against influential members of their community.
The Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists developed newspapers and newsletters to draw in more followers and organize political clubs.
John Adams was the incumbent president when Jefferson defeated him in the election of 1800.
The Federalists weakened over time.
The party was accused of being guilty of treason because of their pro-British sympathies during the War of 1812.
America had only one political party until the 1830s, the Democratic-Republicans.
The Era of Good Feelings is when there is no party competition.
There was intense factional conflict within the Democratic-Republican Party, particularly between supporters and opponents of General Andrew Jackson, America's great military hero of the War of 1812.
Jackson, one of five significant candidates for president in 1824, won the most popular and electoral votes but a majority of neither, throwing the election into the House of Representatives.
Jackson won the presidency in 1828 and again in 1832 despite his opponents denying him the presidency.
Jackson was admired by millions of ordinary Americans living on the nation's farms and in its villages, and the Jacksonians made the most of the general's appeal to the common people by expanding the right to vote.
Jacksonians built political clubs and held mass rallies in order to bring more voters to the polls.
Martin Van Buren was the organizational genius behind the Jacksonian movement, establishing a central party committee, state party organizations, and party newspapers.
State and national party conventions were established by Jacksonians.
The convention gave control of the presidential nominating process to the new state party organizations that the Jacksonians had created.
Van Buren was the first political leader to appreciate the need for a well-oiled national organization to overcome free riding and other collective action problems.
The Jacksonians, whose party became known as the Democratic Party, had opponents in New England.
The second American party system was formed during the 1830s when groups opposing Jackson united to form the Whig Party.
During the 1830s and 1840s, the Democrats and the Whigs built party organizations throughout the nation and sought increased support by expanding suffragist through the elimination of property restrictions and other barriers to voting.
There was strong support for the Whigs in the Northeast.
The Whigs were the successors of the Federalists.
Whigs favored a national bank, protective tariffs, and internal improvements.
All three policies were opposed by the Jacksonians.
Conflict between the parties is more about personality than policies.
The Whigs were more united by their opposition to the Democrats than by their agreement on programs.
The Whigs won their first presidential election under the leadership of General William Henry Harrison.
It was the first time in American history that the presidency was up for grabs in every state of the Union.
The Whig campaign emphasized the candidate's personal qualities and heroism.
The Whigs spent a lot of money on campaign rallies and entertainment.
The hard-cider campaign was named after the practice of using food and drink to get votes.
In the late 1840s and early 1850s, party leaders tried to bridge the widening gulf between North and South, despite the fact that conflicts over slavery produced sharp divisions within both parties.
The Whig Party was in trouble by 1856.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850 were both overturned by the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Each territory has the right to decide whether to allow slavery.
In 1856, the party's first presidential candidate won one-third of the popular vote and carried 11 states.
The early Republican platforms were interested in both commercial and anti slavery interests.
The Republicans favored homesteading, internal improvements, construction of a transcontinental railroad, and protective tariffs.
The Republican Party won control of the House of Representatives in 1858 and the Republican candidate for president in 1860.
Immediately after Lincoln's victory, southern calls for separation from the Union led to all-out civil war.
President Lincoln depended heavily on Republican governors and state legislatures to raise troops, provide funding, and maintain popular support for a long and bloody military conflict during the Civil War.
Although the South's secession stripped the Democratic Party of many of its leaders and supporters, it still remained politically competitive and nearly won the 1864 presidential election due to war weariness on the part of the northern public.
Reconstruction, a program that enfranchised newly freed slaves while disguising many white voters and disqualifying many white politicians from seeking office, was used by some congressional Republicans to convert the South into a Republican bastion after the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865.
It was thought that the enfranchisement of black voters would create a large pro-Republican voting bloc in the South, and federal reconstruction funds would bring many white Southerners to the Grand Old Party.
Reconstruction collapsed in the 1870s because of divisions within the Republican Party and resistance by southern whites.
The former Confederate states regained full control of their internal affairs after the end of Reconstruction.
The right to vote was not granted to African Americans in the South after the Civil War.
The national Democratic Party was able to confront the Republicans on a more equal basis after the Civil War because the South was solidly Democratic.
The Republican Party was the party of the North with strong business and middle-class support, while the Democratic Party was the party of the South with support from working-class and immigrant groups in the North.
Party organizations became well-oiled in the late 19th century.
The party's power to control government jobs was dependent on the patronage of the through patronage and spoils system.
The nomination process was worked on by patronage.
Government and party were almost interchangeable during the height of the party machines.
The creation of mass parties by Van Buren and other political entrepreneurs of the second party system solved a collective action problem, but the well-oiled machines applied the selective incentives of patronage and nomination to maintain their organizations and diminish free riding.
The rationality principle and the collective action principle suggest that many organizational aspects of party politics involve the ingenuity of rational politicians and leaders grappling with problems of coordination and collective action.
Party machines are antidemocratic and corrupt.
They argued that machines did not help the people who voted for them.
Plunkitt grasped a central fact about the collective action problem.
This observation was correct.
The excessive powers and abuses of party machines and their bosses led to one of the great reform movements in American history, the so-called Progressive Era.
Many reformers wanted to rid politics of corruption and improve the quality of government.
From the perspective of middle- and upper-class Progressives and the financial, commercial, and industrial elites with whom they were often associated, the weakening or elimination of party organization would also mean that power could more readily be acquired and retained by the "best men".
There is a list of antiparty reforms from the Progressive Era.
The introduction of voter registration laws required eligible voters to register in person before an election.
The Australian-ballot reform took away the parties' privilege of printing and distributing ballots, which led to the possibility of split-ticket voting.
The introduction of nonpartisan local elections eroded grassroots party organization.
The extension of "merit systems" for administrative appointments stripped party organizations of their access to patronage, thus reducing party leaders' capacity to control the nomination of candidates.
The reforms weakened party organizations.
The strength of American political parties began to diminish early in the twentieth century.
During the two world wars, organization remained the major tool for electoral forces, but in most regions the "reformed" state and local parties became less effective campaign tools.
The Populist Party won the support of hundreds of thousands of voters in the South and the West during the 1890s due to profound social and economic changes.
The Populists appealed to both small farmers and western miners.
Four states were won by the Populist Party in the presidential election of 1892.
In 1896, the Democrats adopted the Populist Party platform and nominated William Bryan, a Democratic senator with Populist sympathies, for the presidency.
William McKinley was nominated by the Republicans.
In the ensuing campaign, northern and midwestern business interests made an all out effort to defeat the Populist-Democratic alliance.
The Republicans had won a big victory.
In the nation's metropolitan regions, workers believed that the Populist-Democratic alliance threatened the industries that provided their jobs, while immigrants believed the nativist rhetoric of some Populist orators and writers.
The Democrats were confined to their strongholds in the South and the Far West by the Republicans.
The Republicans advocated low taxes, high tariffs, and minimal government regulation for the next 36 years.
The Democrats weren't strong enough to offer much opposition.
Maintaining the region's autonomy on issues of race was more important to the Southern Democrats than challenging the Republicans on other fronts.
The nation's economy collapsed after Herbert Hoover was elected president.
Millions of Americans blamed the Republican Party for not doing enough to promote economic recovery after the Great Depression.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a solidly Democratic Congress were elected in 1932.
The New Deal led to an increase in the size and reach of the national government.
Economic management and social welfare were taken over by the federal government.
Republicans supported popular programs such as Social Security despite groped for a response to the New Deal.
Conflicts over President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiative, the African American civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War strained the New Deal coalition.
The empowerment of local groups that were often at odds with city and county governments was involved in a number of Johnson's Great Society programs.
The national administration and local Democratic political machines fought over these programs.
The struggle over civil rights divided the northern and white southern Democrats.
As the movement launched a northern campaign seeking access to jobs and education and an end to discrimination in housing, blue-collar workers in the north voted Republican.
Liberal Democrats were against the Johnson administration's decision to involve U.S. forces in Southeast Asia in the Vietnam War.
The opportunity for the Republican Party to return to power was provided by the Democratic Party's schisms.
In the 1960s, conservatives argued that me-tooism was a recipe for failure and that the party should be seen as an alternative to the Democrats.
The ideas of Goldwater are still major themes of the Republican Party even though he was defeated by Lyndon Johnson.
Republicans were not able to get Goldwater's message across.
Nixon's "southern strategy" ended Democratic dominance of the political process.
Nixon promised to reduce federal support for school integration and voting rights when he was president.
With the help of the independent candidate and former Alabama governor George Wallace, Nixon's strategy sparked the voter shift that eventually gave the once-hated "party of Lincoln" a strong position in all the states of the former Confederacy.
Religious conservatives who were offended by Democratic support of abortion rights as well as alleged Democratic disdain for traditional cultural and religious values were added to the Republican coalition under Ronald Reagan.
While Republicans built a political base with economic and social conserva tives and white southerners, the Democratic Party maintained support among unionized workers and upper-middle-class intellectuals and professionals.
Democrats appealed to racial minorities.
The Voting Rights Act helped the Democratic Party retain some congressional and Senate seats in the South.
The Democrats appealed to voters who were concerned about abortion rights, gay rights, feminism, and other progressive causes.
The results have been close.
Since the Voting Rights Act was passed, Democrats have won the presidency five times and held at least one chamber of Congress for most of the time.
Dramatic changes in the parties' regional bases were masked by the apparent stalemate.
Republicans gained ground in the South but lost ground in the Northeast.
After the 2016 election, New England had only one Republican in the US House.
The electoral realignment that began in 1968 gave birth to the political polarization that characterizes contemporary politics.
The two parties lost their moderate wings as the southern Democrats and northeastern Republicans faded.
Southern white Democrats were socially conservative but aligned with the New Deal.
Suburban Republicans replaced the southern Democrats as the rural population in the South declined, and these areas are more economically conservative than their predecessors.
The North had an opposite dynamic.
Republicans in New York and New England were socially moderate and fiscally conservative.
The Republican Party was marginalized in the northeastern states due to the emergence of a strong liberal group within the Democratic Party.
There is a deep tension in the current political system, as both national parties have become more ideological and cater more to their base than to the center of the electorate.
The traditional Democratic and Republican formulas are being replaced by more and more people.
This is reflected in the rise of Independent voters and the appeal of unconventional candidates such as Donald Trump.
The shift of the South from the Democratic to the Republican camp, along with other developments, meant that each political party became more homogeneity after the 1980s.
There are no liberals or conservatives today.
Party loyalty in Congress has become more powerful, leading to a resurgence of party-line voting.
This is the percentage of bills that a majority of one party votes against a majority of the other party.
The glue holding together each party's coalition has been replaced by ideology.
In the long run, ideology is unreliable for party unity.
ideological divisions plague both camps because party activists are united by some beliefs.
Within the Republican coalition, social conservatives are often at odds with economic conservatives, while traditional liberals are at odds with proponents of regulatory reform and economic internationalism.
Today's more ideological party activists don't support the leadership if they disagree with their goals and plans.
Because of internal divisions in the Republican Party, Republican congressional leaders have adopted a strategy of avoiding votes on the many issues that might split the party, following an informal rule set by Speaker Dennis Hastert.
In order to appeal to both the conservative Freedom Caucus and the moderates in his party, President Trump tried to create legislation.
Speaker Ryan was urged by close advisers to the president to abandon the Hastert Rule in order to move forward on important issues such as health care and taxes.
The ideological gap between the two parties has been worsened by two factors: each party's dependence on ideologically motivated activists and the changes in the presidential nominating system that were introduced in the 1970s.
Democratic political candidates depend on the support of liberal activists such as feminists, environmentalists, and civil libertarians to organize and finance their campaigns, while Republican candidates depend equally on the support of conservative activists.
Political activists were more motivated by party loyalty and political patronage in the 19th century.
Today's issue-oriented activists demand that politicians demonstrate strong commitments to moral principles and political causes in exchange for their support.
Democrats and Republicans have both been pushed further to the political left by these demands.
Liberal forces succeeded in changing the rules, but did not win John Adams or the presidency.
The new rules required national convention delegates to be chosen in primaries and caucuses rather than by the central committee in each state.
The Anti usually pits liberal Democrats against conservative Republicans in elections.
The two parties that ran against the Federalists differed greatly on social, economic, and foreign policy issues and George Washington.
John Adams did not win any states.
Although the United States is said to have a two-party system, we have always competed against the two had more than one party.
Third parties have definitely influenced ideas and elections.
Populists were centered in rural areas of the West and the Midwest during the late historical-presidential nineteenth century and the Progressives spokesmen for urban middle classes in elections.
Ross Perot, who ran for president in 1992 and 1996 as an independent fiscal conservative, impressed some voters with his folksy style in the debates and received almost 19 percent of the votes cast in 1992.
The table lists the parties that offered candidates.
There are third-party candidacies at the state and local levels.
The Conservative Party has been on the ballot in New York for a long time.
The senator from Vermont caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate.
In 2016 he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
It is difficult for third parties to survive, but the two major current parties started as third parties.
The Democrats emerged as an alternative to the Antifederalists.
The Whig Party was replaced by the Republicans.
The two major parties started as alternative parties and have reinvented themselves to appeal to supporters of emerging parties.
The Democratic Party became more liberal when it adopted most of the Progressive program.
Many socialists felt that the New Deal had adopted most of their program, including old-age pensions, unemployment compensation, agricultural marketing program, and laws guaranteeing workers the right to organize into unions.
One explanation for the short lives of third parties is the ability of the major parties to evolve.
As the major parties absorb their programs, their causes are usually eliminated.
There are more reasons for the short duration of most third parties.
The American Independent Party received the most electoral votes ever in 1968, but the 1948 Progressive Party drew less than half of their votes from the state of New York.
A vote for a third-party or independent candidate is often wasted.
In the 2000 election, there is evidence that the third-party candidate, Ralph Nader, did better in states where George W. Bush or Al Gore were almost certain of winning.
Third-party candidates must struggle to overcome the perception that they can't win.
Third-party prospects are hampered by America's single-member-district plurality election system according to many scholars.
Several individuals are elected to represent each legislative district.
With multiple-member districts, weaker parties' candidates have a better chance of winning seats.
Voters are more willing to support minorparty candidates when they are concerned about wasting ballots.
Setting a high threshold for victory is caused by the effects of the single-member district.
Most European systems of proportional representation require candidates to get many more votes than they need to win a plurality race.
To win an American plurality election in a single-member district with only two candidates, a politician needs to win more than 50 percent of the votes cast.
To win a seat in a European multi member district, a candidate needs only 15 or 20 percent of the votes cast.
The high threshold in American elections discourages minor parties and encourages them to remain within the major-party coalitions.
American election law depresses the number of parties likely to survive over a long period of time.
There is no magic about two.
Democracy is made work by political parties.
Americans value a broadly participatory democracy and an effective government, but they are often at odds with each other.
Getting things done in an efficient and timely manner is usually inconsistent with full participation by everyone.
The ideals of democracy and efficiency in government are balanced by strong political parties.
Parties can convert participation into government.
The parties' struggle for political advantage can lead to the type of intense partisanship that cripples the government's ability to operate efficiently and in the nation's best interest.
Parties simplify the electoral process.
They set the electoral agenda via party platforms, recruit candidates, accumulate and distribute campaign resources, and register and mobilize people to vote.
Party control of the nominating process and the pressures toward twoparty politics in the United States mean that most voters must choose between two candidates in an election.
Both structure electoral choices and manage the legislative agenda.
Parties help bridge the gap between elections and government.