Political Parties Revision Notes

All of my notes from this topic last year. Should be plenty here to revise - hope they help!

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Political Parties
Why are political parties less important in America than in the UK?
o Size of US ­statebased organisations (e.g. Democrats in New York
and Alabama hugely different)
o Parties aren't sole custodians of powers to fundraise, communicate,
form policies etc. ­ pressure groups, PACs (Political Action
Committees) and media also have a go
Two party system ­ why and which?
o FPTP ­ so third parties are largely useless and certainly impotent
o Democrats and Republicans (a.k.a. GOP)
Paradox of political parties:
o Two parties are not as important as in the UK, and yet dominate
o Liberal ­ seek to change things (for the better) government as
enabler/positive force favour taxation for social security, regulation for
business to protect economy and ensure workers' rights interested in
protecting the weaker members of society/minorities prochoice,
antigun, secular
o Conservative ­ small government (little regulation, low taxes) ­ don't
tell us what to do! "Freedomloving people" ­Bush more religious,
antiabortion, proguns (stop telling us what to do, again)
o Social (conservative/liberal) ­ abortion, guns, religion etc.
o Fiscal (conservative/liberal) ­ economy, business regulation etc.
Average Democrats Republicans
Political leanings Leftleaning/liberal Right/conservative
Geography North East & West coast South & MidWest
Economy Economy needs Free market ­ benefits everyone
managing for interests of
the people
Big government? More in favour of tax for Low taxes, mistrust of
government programmes government
Race & Sex Government can improve Government should not worry too
relations position of minorities and much about race relations and
women sexism (because of mistrust of
Guns & Abortion AntiGun, pro gun Pro Gun rights
Prochoice Prolife

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Religion Secular state More faithbased/religion plays
bigger part in government and life
Urban/Rural Urban Rural
Ideological Changes
New Deal
o 1930s
o Big government to help the poor
o Democrats became party of big government
o Republicans had to follow or be left behind
Civil rights and affirmative action
o 1960s
o Democrats lost support in the South from white, working class men
who had lost faith in big government solutions
o Republicans in particular shifted away from interference/big
New Federalism
o 1980s (mostly…read more

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How much overlap is there between the two?
o Differences between or within greater? Make a judgement
o Must include viewpoints ­ e.g.…read more

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Desire for expanded suffrage won over the poor
farmers in the South
What happened?
1828 ­Andrew Jackson wanted more popular
participation in politics (e.g.…read more

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Republicans were party of business (big and small),
didn't believe in government getting involved
Did for the Republicans what civil war did for
Democrats ­ Republican wilderness
New Deal Coalition ­ South, unionised and urban
labour, liberals, ethnic minorities, religious minorities,
etc.…read more

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Richard Nixon launches `Southern Strategy' for '72 election
(Southern Strategy: mobilise white vote by making them feel victimised by
civil rights and black people, who vote Democrat ­ black people vote
Democrat, racist/'negrophobe' whites will vote t'other way)
The '5050 nation' & `red vs.…read more

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State governors, party overlap Congress (porkbarrel
mayors etc. are very (southern politics)
powerful Democratnorthern
Republican) McCain & Romney ­
President is not the party never properly
leader of the party Lots of evidence of unified behind them, not
nonpartisan voting really accepted by
Party committees grassroots voters
operate at state, Groups within
county and town levels parties (Blue dog States defying National
democrats) Committees in 2008
Federal system (e.g.…read more

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But Clinton had trouble with healthcare reform despite united
o Now between ­ since 60s partisanship has become increasingly
Even vaguely liberal Republicans are a dying breed
Impeachment of Clinton ­ not a single Democrat in Senate
voted against him, while only 10 Republicans voted to acquit
TwoParty System
o Could be defined as two major parties regularly winning 80% of the popular
vote, 90% of the legislature seats and alternately control the executive
o If so, USA is certainly a twoparty…read more

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Parties are as Tweedledee and Tweedledum ­ identical but arguing
over apparent differences
o But this is challenged by various other apparent ideological
distinctions between the two parties
o 50party system
o Parties are not disciplined, centralised national parties with national
leaders and national policy programmes ­ not true
o Parties are undisciplined, decentralised, statebased parties with no
real national leader and no national policy programme ­ except for
four months of every four years in presidential campaigns
o Texas Republican Party is very different…read more

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E.g. 2000: Ralph Nader's 2.7% vote almost certainly cost Al Gore the
Florida: Bush won by 537 votes, Nader polled nearly 100k
New Hampshire: Bush won by 7k, Nader had over 22k (exit
poll data suggests half would have been Gore voters, half
would likely not have voted if Nader had not stood)
o E.g. 2008: overall result unaffected, but three states were:
Missouri: McCain won by 1.…read more


Old Sir

A detailed and useful set of notes covering the two major US parties. It refers to recent issues and outcomes and these might form a good starting point for students wishing to extend their ability to discuss the influence of the big two in order to maximise marks at AO2 (evaluation and analysis).

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