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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.

Polarisation of American Politics
Breakdown of the Solid South:

Solid South was a consequence of the Civil War "vote as you shot" ­…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…


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