If a candidate is going to win an election, he or she must appeal to more voters than the opposing candidate.
In the American two-party system, most voters tend to be in the middle of the ideological spectrum, holding a moderate position between the two ideological extremes.
Most of the votes are won by the party that appeals to the moderate and independent voters.
The Republicans moved from their initial opposition to join the majority because of the pressures related to winning a majority of votes.
The Democrats did not embrace a single-payer plan until recently, when they wanted to expand health care coverage.
The forces that work toward moderation are not as strong as they should be in an age of extreme polarization.
This is different from hyperpartisanship because it goes beyond commitment to the party's ideological or policy positions; it becomes part of one's personal identity.
The parties can deal with the tension between activists and moderates in other ways than by changing their party positions.
One strategy is to emphasize partisan issues that are popular with moderates in ways that are palatable to more voters.
In the 2004 election, George W. Bush focused on the dangers inherent in the war on terror, but in 2008 and 2012 the need to appease the party base kept John McCain and Romney to the right of center.
In 2008 Barack Obama appealed to moderates with his insistence that politics need not be ideological and divisive, but in 2012 after four years of partisan gridlock in Washington, he ran instead on helping the middle class, and his campaign focused on turning out the Democratic base.
By 2016 we were outside of party politics.
Hillary Clinton tried to find a unifying theme with her "Stronger Together" message, but she had to spend a lot of her time reacting to things said and done by Donald Trump.
Trump didn't try to run to the middle or to distance himself from the base that gave him his primary victory.
Negative partisanship kept both parties in their lanes, but so many other variables were at work in that election that it is hard to fit it into the usual party narratives.
The rules of electoral politics create incentives for the parties to take moderate positions that appeal to the majority of voters, but party activists, primary voters, and big-money donors who tend to be more ideological and issue oriented, pull party policy agendas back toward their extremes.
Policy solutions that are consistent with the party's ideology are promoted by parties and their candidates.
The liberal interests of the coalition of groups that represent their most ardent supporters are reflected in the policy agenda of the Democratic candidates.
Republican candidates advocate a policy agenda that reflects the conservative interests of the coalition of groups that are their most ardent supporters.
Both parties in most elections offer voters a choice, not an echo, but they also contribute to the growing partisanship of American politics.
Moderates and independents who are less active than the party base may be the real loser in this situation.
Explain the tension between the general electorate and the party base.
Parties were just an organized version of a potentially dangerous political association for James Madison.
The ink on the Constitution was barely dry before the founding fathers were organizing themselves into groups to promote their political views.
Alexander Hamilton and John Adams formed the Federalists, a group of legislators who supported their views, after disagreements among early American politicians.
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson joined forces with the Democrats.
Over the course of the next decade, these organizations expanded beyond their legislative purposes to include recruiting candidates to run as members of their party for both Congress and the presidency.
The history of political parties in the United States is dominated by ambitious politicians who have shaped their parties in order to get elected to office and run the government once there.
The country's first mass-based party was created by Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson in the 19th century.
The main goal of this mass organization was to take advantage of the expansion of voting rights to all white men, even those Democrats enacted a number of party and government reforms designed to enhance the control of party leaders, known as candidates, the officeholders, and the campaigns.
The party bosses would pick the candidates for the general election during the nomination process.
The party caucus was the most common way of selecting candidates.
The boss would approve of any candidate who pledged his loyalty to the boss and supported policies that the boss favored.
Winning candidates were expected to reward only party supporters with government contracts.
The range of people with a stake in the electoral success of the party was expanded by this largesse.
The combination of candidates and people who had been given government jobs and contracts meant that the party had an army of supporters.
Because party bosses controlled the nomination process, any candidate who did not fulfill his pledges to the party was rewarded with public office, jobs, and government contracts.
Party bosses and their machines were very strong in urban areas.
The democratic consequence of integrating new immigrants into the urban centers at the turn of the twentieth century is what the urban machines were designed to do.
In most U.S. elections prior to the 1900s, the average participation rate was over 80 percent.
Boss Tweed of New York City ruled the ballot box.
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The weakness of these party machines was their strength.
In many cases, parties would do almost anything to win, including buying the votes of people, bringing in new immigrants, and resurrecting dead people from their graves.
The whole system of patronage, based on doling out government jobs, contracts, and favors, came under attack by reformers in the early 1900s.
Although we have not had a revolutionary war in America since the 1700s, we have changed our political course several times.
Dramatic changes in policy direction can be effected through the ballot box rather than through revolution, which is one of the advantages of a democratic form of government.