pols 7 - Political Parties Why parties? What are parties?...

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Political Parties Why parties? What are parties? Where do we see parties? Introduction Do parties matter to voters? In 2000: most consistent party-line vote for president recorded in nearly half a century Florida Entering the White House on the heels of a partisan and disputed election, George W. Bush pledged to be a “uniter, not a divider” Pledge short lived Despite the national unity following 9/11, partisan divisions were even wider at the end of Bush’s term than when he took office 2004 was an even more partisan election then 2000 Suggests that parties are healthy and competitive They remain the central organizing instrument of government Nature of parties Expedience may explain their existence, but: The activities that maintain them contribute to successful democratic politics in unforeseen ways Recruit and train leaders, foster political participation, and teach new citizens democratic habits and practices Knit citizens and leaders together in electoral and policy coalitions Allow citizens to hold their elected agents collectively responsible for what the government does Help channel and constrain political conflicts, promoting their peaceful resolution Organize the activities of government, facilitating the collective action necessary to translate public preferences into public policy In short, they make democracy possible Scholars have proposed a variety of formal definitions of political party Two of the most prominent stand in contrast Burke (18 th century) – a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed Downs (20 th century) – a team of men seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election The Constitution’s unwanted offspring The constitution No mention of political parties Parties were widely considered to be a threat to good government and public order Pervasive fear of parties Based on historical evidence First American parties were not meant to be permanent Constitution shaped them as well To use party labels and enforce collective responsibility Parties, then, developed into three-part systems connecting: The party in government, an alliance of current officeholders cooperating to shape public policy The party organization, dedicated to electing the party’s candidates The party in the electorate, composed of those voters to identify with the party and regularly vote for its nominees Party in government
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The first American parties appeared in Congress Leaders with opposing visions of the national future began competing for legislative votes To win they had to: Obtain majority support for their side Arrange a common course of action Get the supporters to show up to vote Parties must also build alliances across institutional boundaries
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pols 7 - Political Parties Why parties? What are parties?...

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