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Chapter 11.1Page 1As we saw in Chapter 2, apolitical partyis an organization that seeks to influence governmentby getting members elected to office and by coordinating the actions of elected officials ingovernment. In the United States today, there are dozens of political parties, but dominate thesystem:DemocratsandRepublicans.The Democratic Party is ideologically to the left and liberal.It is associated with the color blue and has a donkey as its symbol. (Yes, donkey.) The RepublicanParty, which is also known as the Grand Old Party (or GOP), is ideologically to the right andconservative. It is associated with the color red and has an elephant as its symbol.Many Americans think we would be better served by having more than two parties withsignificant influence over the system. Most other democracies operate this way, why should notwe? And some Americans are so repelled by the two major parties that they find the choicebetween them to be nothing more than a question of which party presents the least bad option.Whatever the merits (or demerits) of America’s two major political parties today, politicalscientists agree that parties perform crucial functions in a democratic political system. Theysimplify and stabilize the political process, promote governmental organization, and fostercoherent policy making. Without parties, it would be difficult for democratic systems to choosetheir leaders and even more difficult for those chosen to implement policies consistent with theinterests and rights of voters. And it is also the case that every modern democracy has at least twoor more viable political parties contending for power.In this chapter, we will take a closer look at political parties in American democracy. Specifically,in this chapter we consider the following:The conceptual distinction between major parties and minor partiesHow political parties compare with interest groupsCrucial democratic functions performed by political partiesThe differences between two-party systems and multiparty systemsWhat Durverges’ Law is, and why, according to it, electoral rules in the United States leadthe U.S. to have a two-party systemHow political parties have developed and changed over time in the United StatesThe current state of political parties in the U.S. from three perspectives: party-in-the-electorate, party organization, and party-in-governmentPage 2In this section, we will consider basic concepts about the nature and functions of political partiesin the United States. Before proceeding, it is worth noting something about political parties that isoften neglected in textbooks: parties are, in part, social organizations. People join and participatein political parties in part because they enjoy socializing with others, particularly when they sharesimilar political values. This is a benefit of party membership that helps drive participation and

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Tags
Democracy, Major party, Plurality voting system

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