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November 25, 2013 - Political Parties.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 2244E
Peter Scapillato

Political Parties November 25, 2013 What are political parties?  Politics o As a general concept, the practice of the art or science of directing and administering states or other political units. o The activities associated with governing.  Party o A person or people forming one side in an agreement or dispute. o A group of people taking part in a particular activity or trip, especially one for which they have been chosen.  Political Party o An organization, with a public following, established to win elections, generally by promoting a set of principles. o Importantly, they organize American government around competing ideas. o Composed of card-carrying members (e.g. the “passionates”). These are the people that decide the primaries. o Because they promote a set of ideas, they organize American government around these (completing) ideas – this is what forms the conflict. Implications  Why is it important to note that political parties organize American government around ideas? o Free market of ideas; generates better competition. o Ideas are not always rational – especially in the heat of the moment. o System of checks and balances. Parties’ Functions  Five major functions: o Candidate selection  “Passsionates"  Decide who will represent the party at every level except for the local. Depending on who they choose, they will ultimately either fail or succeed.  Who’s going to run. o Champion ideas  Brand power  Promote their brand – bumper stickers, social media, etc. This brand is a cognitive shortcut.  Cognitive shortcut  Automatically associated with certain things – a quick association is all the party wants/needs.  Let’s try it out… o Mobilization and behind the scene  Mobilize voters  Money, consultants, advertisements, “phone banks.”  Hire word consultants (e.g. using the word “folks” resonates well among American people), where to stand, how to cut their hair, where to put their hands, etc.  Conduct polls, set up phone banks (supporters who volunteer to sit down and call). o Ball rollers  Push the party’s “signature program.”  It’s doctrine – opinions on different issues in upcoming election. As soon as the election’s over, they start to get the ball rolling.  Internal Congressional work (e.g. schmoozing).  Elected officials trying to persuade others; coalitions. o Integration/communication.  Targeting “fresh meat” – especially immigrants and youth.  Integrate new groups  Introduce the political process  Political socialization  Bias American’s Two Party System  Congress: 200 Democrats, 232 Republicans, 3 vacant seats.  Senate: 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, 2 Independents.  Why the Two Party System? o Ideas  The “roots”  Differing interpretations  Two different interpretations of the Constitution (Hamilton and Jefferson) eventually led to the Two Party System.  Federalists (strong central government) v. Anti-Federalists (keep the power in the states). o Institutions  Institutionalized  Winner-take-all; vicious cycle  Effectively keeps other parties out. Third party will not get any representation – making it very difficult to even enter the system.  What does this mean for third parties? They get absorbed by one of the two parties (e.g. Tea Party by the Republicans, Green Party by the Democrats).  Nader and the Iraq War  For these reasons, there is a push for proportional representation – giving a voice to smaller parties. The more ideas that exist in the intellectual market place, the more effective the system will be. o State Laws  States can determine the time, place, and manner of elections.  Ballot control.  Notarized signatures (you need a certain number of signatures
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