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American Government Political Parties & Realignment
Political Parties & the Founders • Political parties are complicated, important informal institutions of government that are difficult to evaluate in the American context • A. Many of the Founders were profoundly uncomfortable with the notion of parties • 1. they wanted some type of government by consensus where parties would play little in any role • 2. summarized by George Washington in his 1796 farewell address: "Let me warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally. " • B. That general distaste for parties has echoed through American history • 1. many Americans equate parties with back room deals, smoke filled rooms, corruption, etc. • 2. it is common to hear both Democrats and Republicans wail against partisanship and to equate following the "party line" with voting against the best interest of the people • 3. Tocqueville concurred: “Parties are an evil inherent in free governments”
Parties in Perspective: Poli. Sci • C. Contrast that with the attitude of most political scientists, who believe that political parties are essential to democracy • 1. E. E. Schattschneider: "political parties created democracy" • 2. His argument parties form a critical link between the public and the institutions of government • 3. Parties serve to educate, mobilize, crystallize, and organize public opinion, and • 4. to discipline the officials who serve in government • 5. Without parties, politics becomes chaos and democratic politics becomes impossible
Parties Defined • Downs: “a team of men seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election. ” • Burke: a group of men who seek to further “some particular principle in which they are all agreed. ” • Schattsneider: “an organized attempt to get…control of government” • Notice: • 1. different from interest groups • 2. parties supply the labels; they contest the elections; they structure the public debate — they aggregate
Party in the Electorate Party in the electorate performs three functions: • 1. provide an identification • 2. socializes the population • a. educates voters about issues and candidates • b. motivates and mobilizes participants to turn out and vote • 3. channels the political energies of the population • a. parties help guide and focus a messy, multi-faceted political process • b. parties help people make sense of politics by • -serving as an economizing device — vote on the basis of party ID, less need to collect other information (people are “cognitive misers”) • -serving as a perceptual screen — they screen out some information, lower cognitive dissonance, makes action easier • In sum, help the people articulate their core interests
Party as Organization Party as organization helps with the nomination and election of candidates • 1. recruit potential candidates • 2. serve as a cue giver to the public • A label to rally around • A signal-giver on important issues of the day • 3. provide resources
Party in Government Party in government performs two basic functions • 1. Organize governmental machinery when in the majority • a. staff the leadership of Congress • b. fill posts in the executive branch • c. fill vacancies in the judicial branch • 2. Serves as loyal opposition when in the minority • a. watches the majority to keep it honest • b. provides the public with an alternative ready to take power
Parties in American History The history of political progress in the U. S. is largely the history of partisan change A. The "mainsprings" of political development are realignments B. Loosely defined as events that result in the emergence of a new majority party, or in the reshuffling of coalitions with-in parties to change the nature of the majority party C. Realignments are “durable shifts in party support. ” D. There have been at least five in American history E. Each has been associated with major changes in policy
Realignments: What & Why Party realignments • V. O. Key: clear, sharp, decisive, & lasting shift in the popular coalition supporting one or both parties as a consequence of a “critical election. ” • Later softens definition: secular realignment • “the rise and fall of parties may to some degree be the consequence of trends that perhaps persist over decades and elections may mark only steps in a more or less continuous creation of new loyalties and decay of old” • Sundquist: change in issues that distinguish the parties, so supporting voters change • Often characterized by a “critical election” where majority party looses a substantial number of seats and control of government, but not necessarily so. Campbell: • Realigning elections – long-term shifts in coalition • Maintaining Elections – major party victories • Deviating Elections – short term forces
More on Realignments Two Major Types: • 1. Major party disappears and new party emerges (1800, 1860) • 2. Voters shift from one party to another (1896, 1932) Why? • Generational? • Exogenous Shocks?
Conceptual Problems w/ Realignment • Schneider: 1. Realignments necessarily produce a new majority party. 2. Realignments are the swift consequence of critical elections. 3. Realignments result in entire social group transplants from one party to the other. 4. Realignments replace the prevailing issue dimension with an orthogonal new issue dimension. 5. Realignments are expressed only in terms of partisanship
First Party System: Realignment of 1800 A. Thomas Jefferson elected president B. Jeffersonian Democrats replace the Federalists as the majority party C. Policy change from preference for a strong national government, centralized power, and government policies designed to benefit business to. . . D. Policies predicated on a rural country, small farmers, less government, more equality E. Federalists retreated to Supreme Court • Ceased being a viable electoral party altogether F. This "party system" ends in early 1820 s with virtual one party rule --- the "era of good feelings"
Second Party System: Realignment of 1828 A. this major realignment of parties coalesces around Andrew Jackson --- general, war hero, populist B. followers of Jackson become Democrats; majority party C. his opponents = Whigs (heirs of the old Federalists) - minority D. Jackson draws the majority of his support from the South and West • 1. populist in spirit -- mass participation • 2. believes in limited government, led by president • 3. battles Congress and Court E. Whigs believe in more active government centered around Congress • 1. leaders included Henry Clay and Daniel Webster F. This party system breaks down over slavery issue • 1. issue is a valence issue = cuts across party lines • 2. northern and southern branches of both parties develop over extension of slavery into the territories
Third Party System: Realingment of 1860 A. A new party emerges out of the slavery issue = Republicans B. GOP becomes the dominant party for 60 years; Democrats are the minority C. GOP is the party of the Union and of abolition • 1. they are also the party of business, national expansion • 2. draw most support from northeast/midwest (tariff) and west (land policies); some support in South from freed slaves D. Democrats are the minority party • 1. base of power in South • 2. northern Democrats were more progressive • -opposed to high tariffs • -favored womens suffrage, income tax, free silver • 3. only presidential victories between 1860 and 1932 = • -Grover Cleveland (1885 -1889, 1893 -1897), and • -Woodrow Wilson (1913 -1921) • -occured during splits in GOP E. From 1860 until 1896, Democrats and GOP roughly even
Fourth Party System: Realignment of 1896 A. Solidified Republican majority, but also contributed to splits within the party B. Democrats move to the left, following the populist policies of William Jennings Bryant, a charismatic, fundamentalist, populist C. Alienates many Democrats in the north and east D. GOP becomes much larger, but also less homogenous • 1. regulars (Old Guard) vs. mugwumps (Progressives) • 2. split in party in 1912 gives election to Wilson E. Experience of 1912 loss, resolidifies party (TR passes from the scene) and during 1920 s, GOP becomes strongly associated with conservative, pro -business policies
Fifth Party System: Realignment of 1932 A. Brought on by the Great Depression B. GOP President Herbert Hoover very unpopular • 1. conservative • 2. considered aloof • 3. believes in riding out the storm C. Democrats rally around FDR • 1. promises at first to do something -compassionate • 2. later adopts a liberal, activist agenda D. Democrats sweep into power nationally in 1932 elections, filters down to state elections over next several decades
Fifth Party System Continued E. Powerful majority coalition consisting of • • 1. 2. 3. 4. labor southern whites northern blacks ethnic groups (Catholic, Jews) F. Led to development of social welfare state in U. S. • 1. Social Security, welfare, unemployment • 2. federal government becomes responsible for economy in Employment Act of 1946
Coalition Crackup Question --- is New Deal realignment still operative A. Coalition undermined by defection of Solid South over racial matters • beginning in 1948, white southerners began to vote for Republicans (or Independents) at presidential level B. Labor and many northern poor have defected to GOP on occasion over economic and crime issues • -RMN, Reagan Democrats C. Some Catholics have defected over abortion D. Obviously, coalition is not as strong as it once was
Realignment w/o Critical Election? • Initially Republicans were unable to capitalize on the New Deal crackup • GOP victories largely personal -- RMN, RR • Democrats were the institutional party in Congress (except for Senate 1980 -1986; House post-1994) • Democrats controlled majority of state legislatures (30 both houses, 14 one house) and governors' mansions (28) as of 1988. • However, the Republicans have since gained control of both Houses as well as a majority of state governors & legislatures (although still fairly evenly split). • This occurred over a long period: 1980 - 1994
Sixth Party System? • Was there a realigning “critical” election in 1980? 1994? • Did we experience a Republican Realignment in the 80’s & 90’s? • Was the 2008 election a realignment? • Or, have realignments ended? • 1. are we now in an era of dealignment --- less commitment to parties, less discipline, more split ticket voting • the increase in split-ticket voting, the marked decline in levels of public confidence in the federal government, and the weakening of partisan identification in the electorate may be a ‘dealignment’ of the party system • 2. fates of different offices have been decoupled : “The fact that Ronald Reagan could win both contests [1980 & 84] by such decisive margins while the Democratic party retained control of such an important policy making body as the House of Representatives may tell us more about dealignment than any number of independents in the electorate. ” • Note, if so: • makes responsible party government harder • weakens the "mainspring" of policy change is it possible to have major changes without realignment?
Post-New Deal Realignment • Kevin Philips’ “Sunbelt Politics” or the “Southern Strategy” • Changing American Voter: Rise of the independents and the “alienated” voter • Religious v. Secular?