Political Parties

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3.2 POLITICAL PARTIES
1. Key concepts:
a) New Deal Liberalism
In 1932 Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) forged a New Deal coalition of white Southerners, urban working class (especially in
poor northern cities), ethnic groups, trade unionists and liberal middle classes, which has been the basis of Democratic
support ever since. This coalition gave the party control of the White House from 19321968 for all but 8 years, and
Congress for the vast majority of the 193294 period. FDR's New Deal liberalism meant intervention (as opposed to pre
1932 laissezfaire approach) i.e. the federal government can and should actually intervene in the economy and in social
issues (providing welfare, public works etc) Taxes had to rise to pay for increased government spending.
In the 1960s JFK and LBJ extended the New Deal liberalism to include bringing civil rights to all, and expanding inner
city welfare and anti poverty programmes (very appealing to poor urban blacks and whites, but opposed by Southern
whites who previously had solidly supported the Democrats ­ Solid South). "White backlash" of the 70s, i.e., white
Southerners defected to the Republicans (further outraged by Democrat support for Affirmative action programmes).
In 90's the New Deal coalition began to splinter ­ Clinton was very popular with blacks, but gained only 36% of the
white Southern vote. In 2000 and 2004 the majority of Southerners voted for Bush ­ end of New Deal coalition? Other
traditional supporters of the party such as Irish Americans became wealthier and more conservative, drifting towards
the Republicans in the 80s and 90s. Also opposed to Affirmative Action.
Many Democrats who felt the party was weak on defence issues left the party in the 80s during the Carter presidency.
However,
o The industrial white working class, which looks to government to provide a high quality education for their
children, protection from unfair employment practices and support through periods of economic or medical
misfortune remains overwhelmingly loyal to the Democratic Party.
o African American have proved even more loyal since the 1970s with 90%, or more, consistently voting for the party
because of its support during the Civil Rights movement and its commitment to Affirmative Action since.
o Other groups who believe that government has an important role to play in protecting the vulnerable are less
reliable supporters of the party, including advocates of women's rights, gay rights and disability rights, sections of
the various Hispanic communities and some of the superrich, especially those in the entertainment industry, who
believe that the more fortunate should share their wealth with the less fortunate.
o The result is a more liberal party that is less of a broad church than the old "New Deal" coalition.
See question 2 under Democrats for a list of liberal ideas
b) Conservatism
Republicans appeared to have no answers to Great Depression of 19291930 (laissez faire approach)
As a result of FDR's New Deal success, Republican support shrank to Mid West farming communities, owners of
small businesses and middle class professionals
These Republicans were conservative in outlook i.e. not prepared to see federal government interference in the
economy, and a growing erosion of states rights.
JFK and LBJ's liberalism led to many southern whites supporting the anti civil rights agenda of the Republicans,
leading to Republican dominance of the White House from 19681992 (apart from Carter)
See question 2 under Republicans for a list of conservative ideas
In 2004 election Bush highlighted moral issues (appealing to Christian Evangelicals), in response to Democrat
support for abortion and gay rights.
The Tea Party (and Sarah Palin) now promoting Conservatism.
c) Reaganism
Small role for federal government (`Government is not the solution, it is part of the problem') and boost states rights
i.e., `rolling back the state'.
Emphasis on self reliance and free market economics therefore cut taxes and cut spending, especially on welfare
state (but not on defence) At the start of Reagan's first term the US biggest lender nation in the world, by 1988 the
greatest borrower (Ronald Reagan left a massive budget deficit)
Conservative on moral issues such as abortion, civil rights, gay rights, school prayer, and affirmative action (linked to
growth of Christian Right) ­ so called `conservatives of the heart'.
Strong on law and order
Strong defence, robust standing up to Soviet Union (`evil empire').
Reaganism lived on through the ideas of Newt Gingrich, and to a certain extent, G.W.Bush.
d) The twoparty system
The Facts
The USA has a twoparty system. Look at the following facts:
Every president since 1856 has been either a Republican or a Democrat
In 20 of those last 24 presidential elections, the combined Democrat and Republican vote has exceeded 90% of
the total votes cast.
Usually almost all the members of the US Senate belong to one of the two major parties.
At the same time, of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, almost all are either Republican or
Democrats. (In the UK 80 out of the 659 MPs are not in one of the 2 main parties).
W/Politics (PH)/Revision Sheets/3.2 Political Parties

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Out of the 50 state governors, 49 are either Republicans or Democrats.
The Republicans and Democrats dominate politics and elections in the USA to a startling extent.
The reasons:
There are two main reasons why the USA has a twoparty system:
The firstpastthepost, winnertakesall electoral system.
The diversity and allembracing nature of the two main parties which leaves very little room for third parties.…read more

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Republicans.
Note the fact that in recent years the trend has been towards increasingly ideological cohesion within each party.
3. Explain who supports each party and why (and the internal conflicts between different groupings in each party).
A. REPUBLICANS
a) Fiscal Conservatives
Support free market economics, minimalist governmental approach to the economy and a balanced federal
budget. Cut taxes, cut government spending. Often associated with Tea Party. Pro states rights, antimedia. In
foreign policy some are hawkish, others isolationist.…read more

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B. DEMOCRATS
a) Blue Dog Democrats (conservative). Note their emergence in 2006 Congressional elections (see 2 above). This
faction argues that Americans have become increasingly conservative and that Democrats have to respond to this
trend by presenting an agenda which protects the interests of the vulnerable while respecting traditional Christian
values and keeping taxes low. This agenda enables them to work with Republican moderates and they are the
least likely to vote on party lines of any identifiable group in Congress.…read more

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Guidance from the Catholic church hierarchy to support candidates, often Republican, who oppose abortion and
gay rights
iii. A drift towards the party of low taxation (as Catholics become wealthier they tend to become more likely to support
Republicans). However, Obama won 51% of the Catholic vote in 2012.
C. HOWEVER, US parties are not unified or homogenous. They are decentralised, heterogeneous coalitions that only come
together nationally every 4 years in their bid to win the Presidency. Note that often people change parties, e.g.…read more

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Al Gore the presidency in the 2000 presidential election
campaign. Even in the 2004 Presidential Election, when Ralph Nader won only 0.38% of the vote, his participation in the
campaign diverted time and funds of both major parties as the Democrats fought to keep him off the ballot in many states
and the Republicans provided assistance to help him.
d) Also evidence to suggest US could have a multiparty system:
0 No parties, rise of candidate centred politics and decline of parties i.e.…read more

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Ralph Nader Green 2.8m 2.7% 0
2004 Ralph Nader Independent 0.4m 0.4% 0
2008 Ralph Nader Independent 0.67m 0.6% 0
2012 Gary Johnson Libertarian 1.2m 1% 0
3. There are 2 types of 3rd parties:
a) Ideological. Usually radical, survive for a long time, permanent, get little support (e.g. socialists)
b) Temporary or transient. These spring up because of the differences of the 2 main parties and are often reabsorbed
(e.g. 1968 American Independence Party). These are often built around one charismatic individual (e.g.…read more

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Television and opinion polls have bypassed parties as the medium by which candidates communicate with voters. The party
used to be the most important vehicle of communication between politicians and voters through meetings and rallies etc.
Nowadays politicians increasingly talk to voters through the medium of television and voters `talk back' through opinion polls.
NOTE: Parties have declined in areas they traditionally dominated (selecting candidates, fundraising, campaigning).…read more

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Social security reform, introducing market forces to welfare benefits
Forcing government to live within its means through a balanced budget amendment
c) Although the Democratic Party is a broader church than the Republicans, its activist base is dominated by liberals
(internetleft) whose policies focus on fighting threats to hardwon rights such as abortion, civil rights for racial minorities,
gay rights etc.
d) In Obama's first year the number of partisan votes in Congress reached an all time high.…read more

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The history of the GW Bush presidency ­ tax cuts, probusiness legislation, `partialbirth' abortion ban, muscular foreign policy.
United Republican opposition in Congress to the Obama stimulus package, health care reform and budget. Led by
conservative John Boehner.
Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as running mate in 2012.
The emergence of the Tea Party movement as the dominant element within the party.
The emergence of Sarah Palin as a dominant figure in the party.…read more

Comments

Old Sir

Very detailed and comprehensive revision notes relating to US presidential elections. In addition to the factual detail these notes highlight some of the issues that students might possibly expect to come up. Useful examples and case studies are also referenced.

salyyyma

notes are very useful, and detailed :) thanks for contributing. 

Donnaduke

you are a life saver thank you so much

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