political party

January 18, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Political Science, Government
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Parties and Politics in America – An Overview American political parties are characterized by a number of contradictions:

On the one hand:  Two-thirds of the electorate identify with either party  Political institutions are organized entirely around parties  Parties exert tremendous influence on governmental policy

But on the other hand:  Most Americans think the two parties are not very different  Parties have few formal members, and are often understaffed  Parties are fragmented in power and disunited in policy

The Nature of Politics The essence of politics is power – the ability of one person to get another person to behave in a desired manner 

Because people have different values, and because of scarcity of resources, politics inevitably involves conflict

In its most basic sense politics is about “who gets what, when, and how” (Lasswell 1936)

Political conflict is resolved and managed through bargaining and compromise 


the prolonged exchange of proposals and counterproposals

Compromise: a settlement in which each side concedes some of its preferences in order to secure others

The Nature of Party Scholars have suggested a variety of formal definitions of political party: Two contrasting definitions:  Burke (eighteenth century): “a body of men united, for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest, upon some particular principle n which they are all agreed”

 Epstein (twentieth century): “any group, however loosely organized, seeking to elect government officeholders under a given label”

The Nature of Party Parties as tripartite social structures: 1. The party in the electorate: party voters and identifiers 2. The party organization: party officers, committees, staff, and workers

3. The party in government: governmental officeholders Brand names and economies of scale

The Tripartite Structure of American Political Parties

Party in the Electorate (party voters and identifiers)

Party in the Government

Party Organization


(party officers, committees, staff, and



Source: “The three-part political party,” p. 12, from Party Politics in America, 8 th ed., by Paul Allen Beck. Copyright © 1997 by Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc.

The Functions of Parties Within the American political system parties perform the following functions:

1. Serving as intermediaries - linkage between the citizens and their government - aggregate scattered societal interests into policy

Figure 1.2. Political Parties as Intermediaries Executive and Bureaucracy




Political Political Parties Political Parties Parties

Interest Groups

Mass Media

The Public

The Functions of Parties Within the American political system parties perform the following functions:

1. Serving as intermediaries - linkage between the citizens and their government - aggregate scattered societal interests into policy

2. Nominating candidates - controls the voter’s range of choice

- shift from party organization to the party in the electorate

3. Contesting elections and channeling the vote - mobilize the electorate in general elections

- channel the electorate to either party’s candidate

The Functions of Parties 4. Organizing the government - provide division of labor, leadership, and rules - coordinate legislative-executive cooperation

5. Providing public accountability - enable voters to hold public officials accountable - enable voters to sort out the complexities of politics through the party label

6. Managing conflict - reconcile competing group demands - building broadly based coalitions

Parties as Competitors for Political Influence Parties must compete for political influence with other political actors, including 

candidate organizations - raise funds independent of parties

campaign consultants - professional and skilled experts

interest groups - play an increasingly important role in funding candidates

the mass media - provide momentum by creating candidate images

Parties and Interest Groups – there is a difference! Interest groups engage in similar activities as political parties, but are inherently different 

Parties run candidates under their own labels - assume responsibility for their candidates, while interest groups do not

Parties have broad issue concerns - interest groups often reflect and prioritize narrow interests

Parties prioritize controlling government personnel - interest groups are concerned with government policy

Parties are quasi-public organizations - interest groups are less regulated, private associations

Parties have a unique relationship to their clientele - parties are inclusive, while interest groups are exclusive

The State of Parties in the 21st Century Some contradictory trends:  Parties have been a stable force throughout history

 Americans expect a two-party electoral contest  Citizens increasingly fail to identify with either party

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