January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Political Science, American Politics
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The Party Battle in America Throughout American party history, there have been periodic electoral realignments:  The occurrence of significant changes within the electorate: - a minority party becomes the majority party - dominance by one party through an infusion of strength - significant changes in the partisan loyalties of voters

 Realignments tend to occur when major crises intrude on the society and economy

Party Realignment in American History The five attributes of Realignment: 1. The regional support for the parties changes 2. The social groups supporting the parties change 3. New groups of citizens are mobilized and become part of the electorate 4. Voter change not just which party they vote for, but also the party that they identify with 5. Realignments are typically caused by new issues that divide citizens

Five realignments have occurred in the United States (1828, 1860, 1896, 1932, and 1968) These are used to divide American political history into six party systems

The First Party System, 1788 - 1824 

Competing parties: Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans

Parties emerged in the 1790s in the policy conflict between Hamilton and Jefferson: - Hamilton and the Federalists promoted business interests and sided with the British - Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans promoted agricultural interests and sided with the French

Extension of party organization to the local level

Nomination of presidential candidates by party caucuses in Congress

The First Party System, 1788 - 1824 

In the 1800 election, Jefferson defeated Adams

After this, the Federalists suffered a sharp decline - Federalist failure to respond to the popular and democratic style of politics that was developing


By 1816 the Federalists disappeared as a national political party capable of contesting for the presidency

After 1820 the Democratic-Republican Party was characterized by factionalism

Since Congress lacked an opposition party, the caucus system for presidential nominations collapsed

The Second Party System, 1828 - 1854 

Competing parties: Democrats vs. Whigs

The 1828 and 1832 elections, both won by Andrew Jackson, were fought in an era of bifactional politics within the dominant Democratic-Republican Party

In the 1832 election, Jackson ran under the new label “Democratic Party”

By 1834, the groups opposed to Jackson’s politics had coalesced sufficiently to form an opposition party – the Whigs

The Second Party System, 1828 - 1854 

The two decades following Jackson’s reelection in 1932 were characterized by balanced two-party competition

A significant expansion of the electorate through democratization and increased participation intensified this struggle

Both the Democrats and the Whigs were truly national parties with organizations both at the regional and the state levels

The Third Party System, 1856 - 1896 

Competing parties: Republicans vs. Democrats

Resulting from a national divide on the issue of slavery, the existing parties split into Northern and Southern factions

Unable to solve this internal conflict the Whig party dissolved after the election in 1854

At the same time, the anti-slavery Republican Party was founded in the North

The Third Party System, 1856 - 1896 

From 1862 to 1874 the Republican Party dominated, by forging an alliance between farmers and business interests

After 1874 the southern-based Democrats gained enough support in the North to enable balanced two-party competition

Party machines, or patronage-based party organizations, using the exchange of services for votes, grew strong during this period

Party machines were weakened through the introduction of Australian (secret) ballots

The Fourth Party System, 1896 - 1928 

Competing parties: Republicans vs. Democrats

The economic and social changes following the industrialization of America posed new problems for the political system

In 1896 the Democrats reacted to new economic challenges by adopting the People’s Party (Populist) platform, initiating economic reforms

At the same time, Republicans received an infusion of support, especially in growing urban areas

The Fourth Party System, 1896 - 1928 

Following the 1996 election the Republican Party dominated throughout this era, with one exception:

An intraparty Republican schism, leading to two Republican candidates running for the presidency, thus splitting the Republican vote, enabled the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912

After World War I, the Republicans asserted their dominance with victories in 1920, 1924, and 1928

The legal environment of parties changed during this era, with the introduction of direct primaries, state laws on primaries and campaign finance

Sectionalism in American Politics during the Post-Civil War Era and Early 20th Century 1880

1904 James Garfield (Republican) – 214 Electoral Votes Winfield Hancock (Democrat) – 155 Electoral Votes

Theodore Roosevelt (Republican) – 336 Electoral Votes Alton B. Parker (Democrat) – 140 Electoral Votes

The Fifth Party System, 1932 - 1968 

Competing parties: Republicans vs. Democrats

Following the Great Depression and the 1932 election, a new period of Democratic dominance began

The New Deal coalition that supported Franklin D. Roosevelt was formed, including a variety of groups

The New Deal social welfare policies further weakened patronage-based urban party machine, depriving these of their traditional service functions

The Fifth Party System, 1932 - 1968 

In the 1950s the Coalition began to fray, resulting from a North/South split over welfare policies and civil rights issues

After the Republicans won back both the presidency and Congress in 1952, an era of divided party control of the government began

The New Republican administration and Congress accepted the New Deal policies with minor changes, thus eliminating these as a divisive force

The Sixth Party System, 1968 

Competing parties: Republicans vs. Democrats

The traditional state of electoral partisanship underwent significant changes in the late 1960s: - increased participation and Democratic affiliation among black voters, as Democrats endorsed Civil Rights laws - declined partisanship as more voters identified themselves as independent - white Southerners, once a mainstay of the Democrat electoral coalition, became Republican - support for the Democrats declined among their other traditional supporters, such as Catholics and

The Sixth Party System, 1968 

These forces, together with television as the new dominant campaign medium, helped creating a candidate-centered party system

Other indicators of the weakening of party ties among voters is the emergence of strong thirdparty candidates and increased split-ticket voting

The most significant change during this period took place in the South, which underwent a substantial realignment that would fundamentally alter the landscape of party politics in America, enabling the Republicans to take control of Congress in 1994

Percent Affiliating with the Republican Party in the South and Non-South, 1956-2004




Source: National Election Studies

Minor Parties in American Politics Renewed interest in minor parties was sparked in the 1990s, through the candidacies of Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, and Ralph Nader in 2000 

The rise of third parties reflects the inability of the major parties to meet the expectations of the public

Third parties and independent candidates have helped to bring certain issues onto the public agenda

Several minor parties have existed independently at the state level on the basis of local bases of support

Several states have elected third-party or independent Governors

The Two-Party System: Some Explanations Throughout the party history of the United States, the following characteristics can be observed: 

Normally, just two major parties compete for power

Parties rely on broad-based coalitions of citizens

The Democratic and Republican parties are quite durable features in American political life

Several potential explanations for the prevalence of this pattern of two-party competition exist

The Two-Party System: Some Explanations The institutional explanation: 

French political scientist Maurice Duverger proposed that the basis for the two-party system is the singlemember district electoral system: - since only one party can win in any given district, only two parties have a reasonable chance of victory

Two-party competition is also encouraged by the College system for choosing presidents 


- the requirement of winning an absolute majority of the electoral votes makes a third-party candidate victory unlikely

The direct primary and presidential primary systems, and the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) constitute additional barriers for third-parties 

The Two-Party System: Some Explanations The historical explanation: 

The parties managed to renew themselves within different dualist conflicts and cleavage patterns throughout the history of American party systems

The cultural explanation: 

American society has not been characterized by as strong ideological and class divisions as European societies

Instead, it has become possible for one party to be slightly left of the center (liberal) and the other to be slightly right of the center (conservative), and still gain widespread electoral support

Parties as Coalitions Throughout their history, American parties have been broadly based coalitions: - both majority and minority party have attracted significant support from virtually every element of society 

Party coalitions change over time, in response to new crises and issues

An important consequence of the coalition nature of parties is that intraparty conflicts can be crucial in shaping the direction of governmental policy and the nature of party competition

Three types of party competition has existed since 1800: Balanced two-party competition, one-party dominance, and transitional pluralism

The Stability of the Republican-Democratic Conflict since 1860 Since 1860, the Republicans and Democrats have confronted each other as the major combatants in the electoral arena, both sustaining dramatic swings in support. How could this conflict be so durable? 

The parties are capable of absorbing protest emerging from third-party movements

The parties are ideologically eclectic, enabling the coexistence of a wide variety of viewpoints

The parties have exhibited coalitional flexibility, enabling the attraction of votes from all elements of society

Republican and Democratic Percentages of the Popular Vote for President, 1892-2004





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