AQA GOV3A Political Parties Revision Notes

Revision notes for AQA GOV3A Political Parties.

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Political Parties
Party Organisation ­ National
The US has a federal system of government ­ The less centralised the government, the less
centralised the party system (rule of thumb) therefore US parties are decentralised. Some national
organisation but parties are principally state-based.
National organisation limited to National Committees:
Headed by a party chairman (Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat 2011)
Organises National Convention every four years (before election)
Public disagreement occurred during the 2008 presidential nomination:
Michigan + Florida state parties scheduled primaries before agreed dates
DNC voted to strip both state parties of their national convention delegates
Party Organisation ­ Congressional
Each party has a series of committees in both houses of Congress:
Oversee policy
2008 ­ Chair of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Charles Schumer, given much of credit
for Democrats' successful 2008 Senate campaign.
Party Organisation ­ State-Level
Complex party organisation at state level:
State Party Convention
State Party Committee (Headed by the state party chairman)
County Committees
District Committees
City Committees
Ward Committees
Precinct Committees
"Bottom up" organisation rather than "top down"/50 Democratic and 50 Republican parties

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Power of state parties can be seen at election time:
Delaware 2010 open Senate seat: Mike Castle (backed by national Republican party) lost
primary to Christine O'Donnell (backed by state party)
Arguments For/Against Organisationally Weak
For Against
No party leaders Minority/Majority leaders exist in Congress
No party manifesto (congressional/state Candidates stand as a Democrat or a Republican
candidates stand on own personal views) providing a cue for aligned voters
Finance raised by candidates rather than party Organisation does exist, it is just bottom up
rather…read more

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Civil Rights: From 1950s, the Democrats became associated with favouring the promotion of
civil rights through affirmative action programmes. This brought an end to the Solid
(Democratic) South and splintered the New Deal. Lyndon Johnson "signing away the south"
with 1965 Voting Rights legislation.
Federal Government: By 1930s, both parties had reversed earlier positions (Republicans
favouring decentralised government and Democrats favouring centralised government).
Democrats favoured federal government power/Republicans favoured states' rights.…read more

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Religious Right ­ 1980s, conviction-style politics (Reagan). Fiscal conservatism, commitment
to small government (Reagan ­ Govt is the problem, not the solution). Strong support of
social conservatism.…read more

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Overwhelmingly white Rainbow coalition ­ White, black, Hispanic, Asian
Protestant Catholic, not especially church-going
Rural (Suburban) Predominantly urban
Southern/Midwestern Northeastern/West coast
Conservative Liberal
The Two-Party System
Despite huge socioeconomic, regional and ethnic diversity, the USA does have a two-party system:
Every president since 1856 has been a Republican or a Democrat
Every presidential election since 1916 ­ Combined Democrat/Republican vote has exceeded
80% of the popular vote
Only in 1968 did the Democrats and Republicans fail to win all the Electoral College votes
Just two…read more

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Parties have lost control of presidential candidate selection ­ Rising importance of
presidential primaries means that candidates now create personal organisations to appeal to
voters. Intra-party contests weaken parties as candidates fight each other for nomination
Parties do not fund candidates ­ Federal matching funs (introduced in the 1970s) are given to
candidates, not the parties which reduces organisational role in the campaign.
Candidates communicate through "new media" bypassing parties as the medium.
Traditionally, parties organised rallies were candidates spoke to and heard from voters.…read more

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Third Parties
Types of Third Parties:
National ­ Reform Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party
Regional ­ George Wallace's Independent Party (Deep South, 1968)
State ­ New York Conservative Party
Permanent ­ Green Party, Libertarian Party
Temporary ­ American Independent Party (George Wallace), Reform Party (Ross Perot)
Issue Based ­ Green Party
Ideological ­ Socialist Party, Constitution Party
Key Details:
Constitution Party ­ Founded in 1992 (US Taxpayers' Party) and was renamed in 1999.
Collection of formerly separate right-wing independents. Strongly anti-gun control, anti-tax,
anti-immigration etc.…read more

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Obstacles Facing Third Parties
State electoral laws ­ Often require third parties to gather thousands of signatures before
they can get onto the ballot. Tennessee requires just 25 but Montana needs 5% of all
registered voters. It is challenging to do this in every state and parties must spend large
amounts of cash on ballot access petitions rather than campaigning.…read more


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