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1UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2007 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz HUNK 16 PARTY TIME Now we ask: What do parties do? Why do they exist? What are the makeup and resources of the two US parties? We begin with the first question. What Parties Do •Parties are part of the legal apparatus of elections. Specifically, they are the legal vehicle for nomination. This is done either in primary elections(now the usual practice) or conventions(used in few states, but retained for presidential nominations). Unlike European parties, US parties are decentralized, so that various party structures run the nomination processes at different levels: local candidates are nominated solely by local party members. •Parties help recruit candidates and supporters. •Parties raise moneyfor campaigns. (Until the 1970s, US parties were the main source of campaign money.) •Parties organize the electorate. Parties gather information on the electorate and nag party members in the electorate to vote for their candidate. •Parties provide their members and aspiring candidates training and help with campaigns. •Parties provide platforms. These are statements of a party’s position on different issues. Compared with European ones, US party platforms are far less binding on party members and candidates. US candidates feel less obliged to stay loyal to their party platforms. In the US, parties cannot exercise much control over their candidates’ behavior.
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