lecture16 - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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1 LECTURE NOTES UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2009 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz N.B. Papers due in final discussion sections. 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 money for 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
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2 US, parties cannot exercise much control over their candidates’ behavior. Whipping . This refers to a party’s efforts in a legislature to coordinate information and direct action among members. In Congress, parties assign their share of members to committees , and the majority party picks chairmen. That often happens in state legislatures, too. Party Structure Electoral Level Parties organize elections at different levels : national, state, county, congressional district, other types of constituency (e.g. city council districts), and even voting precinct. At each level there is a distinct party structure. Statewide party organizations have a lot of autonomy. In effect, the structure of US parties is federal : there is a national party organization sitting atop a pyramid of lower-level but semi-autonomous party units. At each of these levels there is pretty much the same set of actors : chairmen , committees , conventions (at national and state levels), and primary voters . (Depending on the state, voting in party primaries may be open only to a party’s registered members.) The National Chairman is appointed by the presidential nominee. The National Committee consists of committee man and committee woman from each state (and territory), chosen by state convention. Legislative Level
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lecture16 - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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