A2, Unit 3C - Political Parties

I'm resitting this exam - these are updated notes! 

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Two-party system, the break up of the Solid South (Polarisation), structure of parties, the Republican party (ideas, factions, support), the Democratic party (ideas, faction, support), Third Parties (difficulties, types) and Party Renewal and Decline

I'm using this particularly for Unit 3C but it may be helpful for A Level overall!

This was all done by me, feedback and comments would be appreciated!


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Political Parties…read more

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Best defined by being a system in which two major
parties regularly win at least 80% of the popular vote
in general elections ­ making the US a very obvious
two-party system
· In 11 presidential elections (1968 ­ 2008) the
Democrats and Republicans have accounted for more
than 80% of the popular vote.
· This is the same within Congress ­ in 2008 only two out
of 100 seats in the Senate were held by independents.
· The system is also present within state legislatures ­ in
2009 ­ all 50 state governors were either Democrat or
Republican.…read more

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Reasons for the US two-party system :
· First past the post system ­ this makes it difficult for
third parties to have a chance ­ they're support is
usually wide but very shallow ­ they pick up a fraction
of the vote in many states but the winner takes all
system means they are never rewarded
· Umbrella parties ­ the two major parties cover such a
broad ideological spectrum ­ there isn't much room
left for other parties to attract sufficient support
· Primaries ­ they encourage the major parties to be
more responsive and aware of the electorate ­
meaning there is less discontent and little need for a
third option.…read more

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Arguments against :
· The two major parties have become so similar ­
that there can't possible be a two-party system in
the US
· 1990s : Democrats adopted Republican issues on
welfare reform and deficit reduction
· Bill Clinton declare during his term : "the era of big
government is over" ­ very much a Republican
· Some would argue that the two parties are
identical ­ only disagreeing on a minority of issues…read more

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Other arguments :
· 50-party system ­ a two-party system would suggest
two distinctive parties, disciplined, centralised national
parties ­ however, this isn't the case
· A 50-party system is consequence of federalism and
where much of the party organisation and elections
are state based, run under state laws by state officials…read more

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National committees : this is the only form of party
structure at national level ­ the Democratic National
Committee (DNC) and the Republican National
Committee (RNC)
· They both have offices in Washington DC ­ a chair that
is elected by the committee members
· They organise the National Conventions ­ they are
fairly weak and it is argued that parties are mostly
decentralised, state based parties.…read more

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Old Sir


A useful overview of the two main parties in US politics. Students might wish to extend their ability to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this system by looking in more depth at issues such as party discipline in the federal congress.

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