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  • Created on: 08-04-19 14:05

Theories of Party Decline

1. Candidate Selection 

The parties have lost control over presidential candidate selection. 

Until the late 1960s, presidential candidates were largely selected by party bosses in smoke-filled rooms, now they are largely chosen by ordinary voters in presidential primaries. 

In 2016, both parties had difficulty in controlling their presidential candidate selection process. The Democrats struggled to anoint their preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton, because of unexpectedly strong opposition from Bernie Sanders. 

Meanwhile, the Republican hierarchy lost complete control with the hostile takeover from Donald Trump. 

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Theories of Party Decline

2. Communication with voters.

Parties have lost their traditional function as the communicator between politicians and the voters, and vice versa. 

Politicians who wished to communicate with the voters would do so through a party rally. The same party-organised function gave the voters a chance to communicate with politicians, either through a formal question-and-answer session, or by heckling. 

Today, politicians communicate their message largely through television, while voters 'speak back' to the politicians through the opinion polls. 

The role o the party is cut out. 

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Theories of Party Decline

3. Emergence of 'movements'.

The emergence of the Tea Party and Occupy 'movements' during the first decade of this century showed the extent to which many Americans are more prone to join a 'movement' than a traditional party. 

Each of these movements has sought to exert a political influence on the Republican and Democratic parties respectively.

Americans therefore seek to influenece the parties more from without than within. 

The extent to which the Tea Party movement managed to get its preferred candidates chosen in certain congressional races over the wishes of the Republican Party leadership was yet another manifestation of the decline of political parties. 

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Theories of Party Renewal

1. Theories of party decline were exaggerated.

Parties might be less important than they used to be, but they still play a significant role in US politics. 

The death of the Republican Party was reported following the Watergate affair and Nixon's resignation; its candidate was back in the whitehouse in just over six years.

The death of the Democrat Party was reported following the leftward shift of the party in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but the party was resurrected by the New Democrat model of the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992. 

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Theories of Party Renewal

2. Nationalisation of Campaigns.

Party renewal has been seen in moves towards the nationalising of electoral campaigns. This is especially true of the Republican Party in the midterm elections of 1994 and 2002. 

In 1994, the Republicans campaigned around a ten-point policy programme called the Contract with AmericaThis national policy document was supported by nearly all Republican House candidates in the election.

It promised that, under a Republican-controlled Congress, votes would be held within the first 100 days of such a Congress on ten policy issues of interest to conservative voters, such as a constitutional amendment for providing a balanced budget and congressional term limits. 

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Theories of Party Renewal

3. Increased partisanship in Congress

A final pointer to party renewal came with increased levels of partisanship in Congress. 

If parties were declining in importance, a decline in partisanship could be anticipated. 

After all, if parties no longer matter, why should their members continually disagree? 

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