The factionalised nature of the parties: the reasons for, and consequences of, their internal divisions.


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What is the reason for the factionalised nature of both parties?

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Because of the internal coalitions as result of ideological debate in both parties

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Who was the debate between in the Democratic Party?

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The Old Fashioned Democrats and the New Democrats

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What was the reason for the ideological debates within the Democratic Party?

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Many in the party saw the defeats of 1968 and 72 elections and again in 84 and 88 as a refusal from the electorate of old style democratic ideology. This was because candidates in those elections were old style liberals. 

In that period, the only victory during this period was Jimmy Carter in 1976

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What was the consequence of the ideological debate in the Democratic Party?

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The rise of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) who sought to move the Democrats futher to the centre of the political centre and thus appeal to a wider proportion of the American electorate

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What did the DLC achieve in 1993?

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There presidential candidate, Senator Bill Clinton of Arkansas, broke the succession of defeats and survived two full terms of presidency- first Democratic candidate to do so since FDR

This was evidence to suggest that the public preferred this new style of politics

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What was the result of the rise of New Democrats?

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Although old fashioned liberals still existed such as late Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts who had their roots still in unionised labour, the New Democrats emerged as the major coalition within the party

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Lasting decades, who was the Republican Party debate between?

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Moderate and Conservative Republicans

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How did the Republican internal debate begin?

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With the defeat of Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona in the Presidential elections came the debate between his conservative faction and the moderate Rockefeller Republicans (term used to scorn moderates)

Battle evident in almost every Presidential election cycle.

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The battle between moderate and conservative Republicans was evident in almost every election cycle, what seemed to settle it?

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When conservative candidate Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and then overwhelmingly in 1984- appeared to show that public preferred a more conservative Republican party

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What did the election of Republican George Bush Sr do?

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Returned the party back to a more moderate leadership in 1988

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What did President George W Bush attempt to do in his 2000 Campaign to solve the internal divisions

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Sought to blur the differences through campaigning under Compassionate Conservative.

Compassionate to please the Rockefeller Republican faction and Conservative to please the Reagan Republicans.

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Why are the Political parties decentralised in America?

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Because America has a decentralised sytem of government based on federalism and so political parties are likely to be decentralised also.

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Why is President Obama's position as leader of the Democratic Party questionable?

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Even as president he is unable to exercise much leadership at times, even among his own party. America does not have the UK's whipping system and so the Democrats aren't required to vote along "party lines" or according to Obama's wishes.

System of checks and balances are imposed on the President by congress

Also, unlike UK, Obama was not elected as the party leader, rather he was elected by public to be president

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At a national level, what is the only manifestation of party structure?

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National Committees-

The Democartic and Republican National Committees both have offices in Washington DC

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Current Chair of Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee?

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DNC Chair - Debbie Schultz 

RNC Chair - Reince Priebus

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What is the role of National Committees?

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They organise the parties National Conventions

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What are National Conventions?

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Part of the electoral process

Held in august in recent years

Have to show their parties at their very best as the media coverage of the events is immense

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Why were the past two national conventions for each party very important?

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Very important as they announced who had won the party ticket and who would represent the party in a presidential election- 

The running mate would also be announced

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Why have National Conventions been considered unimportant?

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Difficult to think that conventions made up of 2000 and 4000 people, meeting four days every four years could exercise much influence or be responsible for much

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What are Congressional committees?

What/Who achieved something in 2002

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Committees in both houses of congress overseeing policy and campaigning. 

Then chair of national republican senatorial committee, senator Bill Frist was given ,much of the credit for Republicans successful 2002 midterm election campaign when the party regained control of the senate

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Describe and explain state level organisation?

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Everything else to do with parties is at state level and considerable power is vested in the states

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How do states influence National conventions?

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National conventions are merely the coming together of state parties chosen by state run primaries

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What are state and local parties dominated by


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Party activists

Issue activist- people committed to particular issue such as civil rights

candidate activists- people who have entered politics through working on campaign of candidate

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Which characters from popular book have the two main parties been compared to?

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Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee- always arguing about differences when actually just the same

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Three commentators quotes on party decline?

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David Broder "The Party's Over: The failure of politics in America

Dennis Brogan "like two bottles with different labels, both empty"

Ruth Scott "The Decline of American Political Parties"

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Why has it been claimed that parties have lost control of their presidential candidates?

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Up until late 1960s it was down to party bosses in smoke filled rooms to select their party's candidate for presidency

However now primaries are the only route to becoming president whereas before in the 50s and 60s, primaries were virtually unheard of except in some states to nominate presidential candidates and despite the fact system thought of elitist/undemocratic/potentially corrupt andnon participatory, it was still down to party bosses

However system was reformed after Democratic Party National Party Convention of 1968

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What reforms to the presidential selection process did the Democratic party introduce 

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McGovern- Fraser Commission recommended reforms to the presidential nomination process; led to increased state held primaries from 1972 onwards

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What did Broder say about the reformed nomination process?

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Any way you look at it, it's madness

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What traditional function has it been claimed the party has lost?

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The communicator between politicians and voters

Used to hold party rallys when politicians wanted to get support and voters could question them formally or heckle

Instead today message largely conveyed via television to the public and public respond with opinion polls

Role of party cut out

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How have the campaigns on television changed and led to theories of party decline?

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Campaigns on television much less party focused and instead more candidate focused

John McCain accused Obama of links with terroism and also of not being a US citizen- negative campaigning aimed at candidate rather than whole party

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What do voters tend to cast ballots for now, instead of parties?

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voters tend to cast ballots, not in support of the party, but because they feel a strong attachment to a candidate,

many would have voted for Obama in 2008 because of his promises on health care reforms, the closing of Guantanamo Bay and promise to end war in Iraq- therefore they were supporting issues he was espousing, rather than the ideology of the party in general. 

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Example of group who traditionally supported party but switched because of candidate

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 Hispanics who traditionally have favoured the Democrats, in 2000 supported Republican George W Bush because he reached out to them.

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Reasons why people may have voted for Obama in 2008 (party decline)

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Because of his promises of health care reforms

Closure of Guantanamo Bay

Ending war in Iraq

Supporting his policies rather than his party's

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What is split ticket voting and how can it occur?

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Split ticket voting is a result of candidate/issue based voting

Occurs when someone votes for candidates of different parties for different offices in the same election

People traditionally like a Republican President and a Congress controlled by the Democrats- because Republicans offer lower taxes while Democratic Senators at state level offer welfare policies etc

Best of both worlds

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What other kind of voter, apart from split ticket, fuelled theories of party decline?

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Independent voters, voting for neither main party

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Why may Congressmen/women not vote along party lines in Congress?

(party decline)

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Vote on bills to appease their electorate rather than support their party - result of geography of state they represent

Eg A Democrat in the south may vote more conservatively than a Democrat in the North

Priority is to keep their constituents happy as they are the reason they're there in first place

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What are people more likely to join now, instead of parties, if they want to get involved in an issue and why?

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Because Parties are now considered to be too vague and broad in their political outlook, why people want to become involved in a specific political issue instead such as Pro Life, they are more likely to join a Pressure Group rather than the Democratic Party

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In terms of party decline, how is the US similar to the UK

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People's psychological attachment to parties is in decline and suggests a more fickle electorate more likely to shift their loyalty depending on issues presented

Like in the UK- more likely to vote based on rational choice rather than party affiliation

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Quickly suggest 6 reasons for the suggestion of party decline

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  • Number of political commentators have written about it in detail
  • They have suggested that changes to the nomination process of President is a reason
  • Also suggested people more likely to vote based on candidates/issues rather than parties
  • Role of the media focuses more on candidate rather than party campaign
  • increasing number of split ticket/independent voters
  • changing pattern of voting behaviour
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When were theories of party decline popular and what have people been saying about them now?

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Popular in the 70s and 80s, however may have been exaggerated and their are now theories of party renewal

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Reason for suggestion that Party Decline had been exaggerated?

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Although parties may be less important than once were- still pay important role in US politics

Democratic Party first to have African-American in Whitehouse

Further, if parties were no longer important, why do politically minded continue to join them, surely Obama would have ran successfully as an independent if the parties were in such obvious decline

Still hold enough political influence over USA

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What other political deaths have been reported apart from that of the party?

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Death of Republican Party after Watergate and Nixon's resignation- however back in White House in just 6 years

Death of Democratic Party reported after break up of solid south and shift to left in 60s 70s and 80s- However, with New Democrats came Bill Clinton who survived two full terms as President

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How have the Democratic Party tried to renew its role in the nomination process

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Created Super Delegates- elected officio holders given seats at the Democrat National Convention- by 2000 super delegates accounted for 20% of the delegate votes in DNC

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How was George W Bush win in 2000 also an example of party renewal?

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He was preferred choice of party officials and triumphed over the preferred choice of the popular vote, John McCain

Therefore fact Bush enjoyed significant support from party officials still counted for a lot in the nomination process

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How does soft money help the parties in renewal?

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provides the party with money which increases their role significantly as it stopped money going directly to candidates instead of parties

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What did the Republican's do with their election campaign in 2000 and 2002 midterms which fuelled party renewal?

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Nationalised their election campain- contract with America which nearly all Republican Party Candidates supported- showed party still had ability to come together without whipping system of USA

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Two reasons for two party dominance?

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  • First past the post electoral system means that even though third parties normally win a fraction of the vote in each election, winner takes all system of USA means that they get no reward for it because their percentage of the vote isn't enough
  • Parties both encompass large ideological spectrum meaning that third parties don't really offer anything different- mainly just offer extremism in one issue and Americans have always been suspicious of extremist views and so disadvantage to them
  • If people want to join group because of single issue= pressure groups
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What is a disadvantage to third parties in terms of qualifying for matching funds?

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To qualify for matching funds a third party candidate must have got at least 5% of the vote in the last election compared to a major party candidate who need only raise £5000

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Why is it a difficult request to ask third party candidates to have at least 5% of vote in last election?

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Many third parties are temporary and so don't tend to stand for election more than once making it impossible for them to have gained 5% in last election

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How many third parties have managed to qualify for matching funds?

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3 in last 50 years  and last was Ross Perot in 1996

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How can states be challenging to third parties?

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Laws about how they get on ballot- New York must have a certain number of signatures from each county of state before name gets put on ballot

Cost John Anderson $3 million to get his name on every ballot in the US in 1980

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If they qualify for matching funds, what normally happens to the money they get?

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Instead of going towards their campaign, usually goes to cost of getting name on ballot and people less likely to give money to party they know is going to lose so its a catch 22

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What other disadvantage do third parties have to deal with?

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Lack of media coverage as can rarely afford cost of making, let alone airing, commercials and candidates normally barred from appearing on State and National television debates

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Why might third parties not care about presidency?

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instead want to influence political debate and have managed to do that

in 2000, people who voted for Nader were exclusively Democrat voters- took votes away from Gore and reason Republicans won

Third Parties can also influence the political agenda of Main parties

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What are the different types of Third Party?

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National/regional/state based

Temporary issue based/ideological

Green Party = issue based

Socialist =  ideological

American Independent Party =  regional

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In terms of third parties what does the US not have

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Permanent third parties regularly winning sizeable proportion of election

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