790-302 - American Party Politics 790:302 Rutgers...

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American Party Politics 790:302 Rutgers University Spring 2009 T F 10:55-12:15 Dr. William Field Cook/Douglass Lecture Hall 109 whfield@rci.rutgers.edu Office hours: TF 12:20-1:15 pm https://sakai.rutgers.edu Office: Hickman 411 As the authoritative allocation of values, political outcomes strongly influence who gets what, when, and how. Controlling the government provides individuals and groups increased ability to tilt the allocation toward values favored by those in control. A desire to influence or control government moves people to organize into groups, since organized action by a group is more effective and more powerful than action by a similar number of people working individually. Democratic theory argues that citizens control their government through free and fair elections. Political parties stem naturally from these two points: people acting in concert are more influential than people acting singly, and control of the government rests with a democratic struggle for the people’s vote. In fact, E. E. Schattschneider wrote in the opening paragraph of his 1942 classic Party Government that “political parties created democracy, and … democracy is unthinkable save in terms of parties” (quoted in Beck 1997: 4). Despite the preeminence granted to parties in the democratic political process, American political parties have shown signs of decline since the 1960s. Ross Perot gained support from a significant portion of the electorate in 1992 and 1996, and independent candidates have won election as governors and even members of Congress in recent years. Meanwhile, the number of self-described “independent” voters has risen to over one third of the electorate. Candidates sponsored by the major parties have acknowledged the growing strength of independents by campaigning on their own merits rather than the merits of the party. Parties themselves seem
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790-302 - American Party Politics 790:302 Rutgers...

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