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POLI 222 (24)

The Party System (Janine Brodie and Jane Jenson)

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Political Science
POLI 222
Christa Scholtz

ER 15: The Party System (Janine Brodie and Jane Jenson) Introduction • sociological theory believes that as changes in social structure induced by urbanization and industrialization occur, the traditional electoral cleavages of religion, language and region will be eroded by the politics of class (#CrayCray) ◦ class cleavage will differentiate electoral support base + parties' major policies • Sociological Theory is WRONG ◦ religion, language and region continue to differentiate electorate's support for political parties • electorate does not divide its support accrediting to occupational position or location of status ranking • programs and policies of 2 major parties reveal few differences in class interests they claim to protect and advances ◦ call themselves guardians of "national interest" • social democratic or socialist parties (NDP) have never enjoyed anywhere near a majority of the support of their supposed constituency (working class ppl) ◦ Liberal Party gains these worker votes • attempts to categorize according to number of parties competing is difficult ◦ two-party system? ▪ only Liberals and Conservatives stand reasonable chance of forming gov't ◦ four-party system? (until 1980)? ▪ 4 competitors which consistently won seats ◦ two-and-a-half-party system? ▪ Lib. + Cons. + persistence of NDP • attempts to categorize according to their organization and electoral orientations is difficult ◦ two major parties generally called cadre parties, seeking consensus ◦ CCF/NDP depicted as mass party and a party of program, principle, or protest • neither attempt explains inability to modernize in predicted ways Party and Class in Canada • absence of pervasive class-based voting in federal politics ◦ cultural cleavage b/w Fr. and Eng. Canada ▪ lack of a sense of nation ◦ conflict b/w central and peripheral regions ◦ constitutional biases which encourage regionalism • middle-class thesis ◦ class conflict is irrelevant ◦ economic and geographic conditions have defused potentially divisive economic cleavages ◦ population movement and social mobility ◦ Canada is a "middle-class" society where material and social benefits are widely shared • brokerage thesis ◦ observations about the nature of the federal parties themselves ◦ Liberal and Conservatives as "brokers" ▪ offer electorate and aggregation and accommodation of the myriad of potentially conflicting interests ◦ accomodate diverse interests sufficiently to build an electoral coalition large enough to capture power ◦ politics of moderation to minimize differences and restrain divisive tendencies ▪ knit together diverse interests in a polity • BOTH THESES ARE WRONG • Canada is not and never was a "middle-class" society ◦ distribution of wealth gap increasing • the thriving of regionally-based third parties shows that major parties brokerage is a failure ◦ not all interests are equally accommodated by the 2 major parties • little evidence to suggest brokerage parties are neutral and non-class-based organizations ◦ campaign financing + recruitment of members and candidates + policy orientations = pro-capita
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