Political parties and interest groups - Chapter 11 Political Parties and Interest Groups Essentials of American Government What is a Political Party

Political parties and interest groups - Chapter 11...

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Chapter 11 Political Parties and Interest Groups Essentials of American Government What is a Political Party? Basically, a political party is a group of office holders, candidates, activists, and voters who identify with a group label and seek to elect to public office individuals who run under that label. This is a practical definition in keeping with the practical nature of American politics. Our parties tend not to be as ideological as parties in other countries. Ours is a centrist party system. Our system contains two major parties: The Democratic Party and The Republican Party. We also have a number of minor or third parties at any given time. Among the more important third parties today are the Reform Party and the Libertarian Party. Parties are made up of three types of “members”: the office holders and candidates workers and activists those who vote for the party or consider themselves to be allied or associated with it The Evolution of American Party Democracy Americans have had a love-hate relationship with parties since the beginning of the republic. George Washington despised parties and used his Farewell Address to warn against them. However, Hamilton and Jefferson, as heads of the Federalist and Anti- Federalist groups, respectively, are often considered 'fathers' of the modern party system. By 1800, this country had a party system with two major parties that has remained relatively stable ever since. We have had some people sound the death knell for both parties on a variety of occasions but, they always seem to survive somehow. The period from 1817 to 1825 was called the Era of Good Feelings and party politics practically disappeared at the national level. However, parties were alive and well at lower levels. The electorate expanded dramatically at this time---the US pushed westward, most states abolished property requirements for voting, and immigration continued. Nomination processes and the Electoral College also opened up to additional participation. This broadened the base of the parties. Conventions were held beginning with the 1832 Democratic Convention to nominate presidential candidates. Andrew Jackson was the first candidate nominated at a party convention. Jackson's populism and strong personality polarized politics and the Whig Party emerged to oppose him. The Whig Party was descended from the Federalists and its early leaders included Henry Clay (Speaker of the House). The Whigs and Democrats were fiercely competitive. However, the issue of slavery plagued the Whigs and they soon dissolved to be
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2 replaced by the Republican Party formed in 1854. The Republicans set their sights on the abolition of slavery and by 1860 elected Abraham Lincoln as president. Democrats and Republicans From the presidential elections of 1860 to the present, the same two major parties have contested elections in the United States: Republicans and Democrats. Control of the major institutions of government has seesawed between them.
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