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Government 12th Grade
Intro to Gov't 1
Government Origins 2
U. S. Constitution 3
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Political Parties 16


         political party



         coalition government

         third party

         single-member district

         proportional representation




         single-member district

         proportional representation

         third party



Parties and Party Systems

·        A political party is a group of people with broad common interests who organize to win elections, control government, and influence government policies.

·        In a one-party system, the party is the government and party leaders set government.


·        A government run by religious officials is known as a theocracy



·        In nations that allow more than one political party, the most common political system today is the multiparty system.


·        The parties in a multiparty system often represent widely differing ideologies, or basic beliefs about government.


·        A coalition government is a group of parties that combine forces to obtain a majority.


·        In two-party systems, two major parties compete for power, although minor parties exist.



Rise of American Parties

·        After the Federalists elected John Adams, their power quickly declined.


·        The Democratic-Republicans dominated politics in the 1820s before being split over banking, tariffs and slavery into the Democrats and the National Republicans— or the Whigs


·        The debate over slavery split Democrats into Northern and Southern factions while many Whigs joined the Republican Party.


·        By the end of the Civil War the Republicans and the Democrats dominated the national political scene.


·        For most of the 60 years following 1932, the Democratic Party was the majority party.


The Role of Minor Parties


·        A third party is any party other than one of the two major parties.


·        Third parties generally fall into three categories:


·        The single-issue party focuses exclusively on one major social, economic, or moral issue.


·        The ideological party has a particular set of ideas about how to change society overall rather than focusing on a single issue.


·        The splinter party splits away from one of the major parties because of some disagreement.


·        Third parties can influence the outcome of national elections by drawing votes from one party and often influence politics by promoting new ideas.


·        Difficulties for minor parties include:


·        They must obtain a large number of voter signatures in a short time to appear on a ballot.


·        Nearly all elected officials in the U.S. are selected by single-member districts.


·        Many nations use an election system based on proportional representation in which several officials are elected to represent voters in an area.


·        They often have problems with financing and appealing to a broad cross section of voters.





precinct captain



state central committee

national convention

national committee



Membership and Organization

·        Local, state, and national parties select their own officers and raise their own funds.


·        The national party cannot give orders to the state or local parties.


·        In many states, citizens must declare
their party preference when they
register to vote or when they vote
in certain kinds of elections.


·        A voter may declare that he or she is an independent, not supporting any particular party.



·        The basic local unit is the precinct, a voting district ranging in size from just a few voters to more than 1,000 voters, all of whom cast their ballots at the same polling place.


·        In a precinct, each party has a volunteer precinct captain, who organizes party workers to distribute information about the party and its candidates to attract voters to the polls.


·        Several adjoining precincts comprise a larger district called a ward.


·        In each state, the most important part of a party is the state central committee, which usually is comprised largely of representatives from the party’s county organizations.


·        The national party organization has two main parts:


·        The national convention is a gathering of party members and local and state party officials that meets every four years to nominate the party’s presidential candidates.


·        The national committee is a large group, comprised mainly of representatives from the 50 state party organizations, that runs the party.


·        Both the Democrats and the Republicans also have independent campaign committees for Congress.

·        Political parties perform several important functions:



Political Party Functions

·        Political parties recruit candidates by seeking men and women who appear to have a good chance of being elected.


·        They educate the public by publishing its position on important issues facing voters.


·        Political parties play a key role in running and staffing the government because Congress and the state legislatures are organized and carry on their work on the basis of party affiliation.



·        Political parties also dispense patronage—favors given to reward party loyalty—to their members.


·        The party that is out of power in the legislative or executive branch assumes the role of “watchdog” over the government.



nominating convention


direct primary

closed primary

open primary



runoff primary





Selecting Candidates

·        Early in our nation’s history, caucuses—private meetings of party leaders—chose nearly all candidates for office.


·        In modern caucuses, party rules require openness with the selection process starting at the local level.


·        As political caucuses came under attack, the nominating convention, an official public meeting of a party to choose candidates for office, became popular.



·        As the convention system developed, powerful party leaders, called bosses, began to choose the delegates and take control of the conventions.


·        The method most commonly used today to nominate candidates is the direct primary, an election in which party members select people to run in the general election.


·        Two types of primary elections that are held are:


·        the closed primary—in which only members of a political party can vote; and


·        the open primary—in which all voters may participate, even if they do not belong to the party, but they can vote in only one party’s primary.


·        In most states a primary candidate does not need a majority to win, but only a plurality, or more votes than any other candidate.


·        In a few states, if no one receives a majority, a runoff primary is held.


·        In most states today, candidates for governor and for the House, Senate, other state offices, and most local offices are selected in primary elections.


·        Under the petition method, a person announces his or her candidacy and files petitions that a specified number of voters have signed in order to be placed on the ballot.



Presidential Nominations

·        The task of delegates is to select a ticket—candidates for president and vice president.


·        For years, when citizens voted in a presidential primary, they really were choosing among groups of party members who pledged to support specific candidates.


·        In the 1970s both major parties provided a more democratic nomination process, encouraging that women, minorities, and young people be included as convention delegates.


·        Three generalizations can be made about presidential primaries today:


·        They may be a delegate selection process or a presidential preference poll, or both.


·        Either the candidate who wins the primary gets all the state’s convention delegates, or each candidate gets delegates based on how many popular votes he or she receives in the primary.


·        Delegates selected on the basis of the popular vote may be required to support a certain candidate at the national convention, or they may be uncommitted.


·        Criticisms of the presidential primary system include:

·        Primaries extend too long in an election year.


·        Primaries seem to make the image of the candidates more important than the issues.


·        Relatively few people vote in primaries.


·        The National Convention


·        The national committee of each major party chooses the site and dates for the national convention, which is held in late summer.


·        Thousands of delegates assemble in the convention city, accompanied by a mass of spectators, protestors, and news media representatives.


·        Each party’s rules committee governs the way its convention is run.



·        The committee proposes rules for procedure and sets the convention’s order of business.


·        The committee selects the permanent chairperson and other officials for the convention.


·        The credentials committee must approve the delegations from each state.


·        Candidates who trail in delegate support may challenge the credentials of their opponents’ delegates.


·        The platform committee writes the party’s platform, a statement of its principles, beliefs, and positions on vital issues.


Part of the difficulty in getting platforms accepted is that individual parts of the platform—planks—may divide the delegates.

Because the party’s presidential candidate must support the party platform, all contenders try to get their points of view into the platform.


To nominate the candidates, the convention chairperson instructs the clerk to read an alphabetical roll call of the states, and the chairperson of each state delegation calls out the delegates’ votes.

The candidate who receives a majority becomes the nominee.


Late 1700s: Despite Washington’s warnings, two political parties—Federalists and Democratic-Republicans—form

Pre-Civil War: Conflicts over issues such as slavery cause divisions within the nation’s political parties; Democratic-Republicans split into Democrats and the Whigs


Chapter Summary

Post-Civil War: Republicans and Democrats emerge as the two dominant political parties

Third Parties: Continue to impact the political scene, despite obstacles presented by the two-party tradition


Political parties are organized at the local, state, and national levels

Functions of political parties include recruiting candidates for public office, educating the public about issues, running and staffing the government, rewarding party loyalists with favors, watching over the party in power, and encouraging compromise and moderate government policies


Caucuses—private meetings of party leaders; used early in our nation’s history and in some states today

Nominating conventions—official public meetings of a party to choose candidates for office


Primary elections—party members select people to run in the general election; method most commonly used today

Petitions—candidate is placed on the ballot if a certain number of voters signs a petition