6 big issue which shaped the US
- The form of the govt. i.e. the extent of federalism and/or state control
- Democracy i.e. the founding fathers established 2 houses of congress
- Slavery i.e. orignally Republicans were anti-slavery but GOP and Democrats were ideologically switched after the 1960s civil rights.
- The economy i.e. both parties agree upon a general capitalist system, the great depression in the 20-30s created the new deal.
- Civil rights, this broke up the new deal coalition of the democrats and so they became more a party for minorities
- The role of federal govt.
Consensus on: Individualism, liberty, equality and the 'American Dream'
- Party organisation:
- Weaker and decentralised du to the seperation of powers meaning each branch is elected sperately under difficult mandates.
- Federlism means parties are organised at state level committees creating a 'bottom up structure' and '50 parties'for each state.
- They are both seen as 'big tent', 'catch all' parties so as to maximise votes. They have centralised policy and rarely clearly outline a coherent policy programme.
- David Broder (in 1972) published "the party is overL The failure of politics in America" which showed:
- Changes in campaigning
- Growth of special interest groups
- Partisan de-alignment
- Southern conservative wing (conservative views on all issues who are never reliable in congress. Theyre often labeled DINOs)
- NE/ Liberal wing (More liberal of all issues e.g. Obama coalition in 2008)
- 1980s 'New Democrats were 'modinisers' who aimed to get rid of the liberal tax/spend image (like new labour). They aimed to win back the more conservative 'blue collar' and southern votes and cherry picked the ebst policies from both sides.
- Wall street wing (fiscally conservative but socially liberal e.g. Compassionate conservatives who are more socially liberal but are still fiscally conservative e.g. Bush)
- Main street wing (Tradionally conservative in all issues e.g. Religious right who are neoconservative and are particularly against issues such as Roe vs Wade in 1973 (abortion rights))
- There are factions within the tea party itself
- They are the extreme religious right
- They differ extremely from ordinary peoples point of view e.g. 76% of the Tea party said decreasing the federal deficit was more important than creating jobs but only 42% of 'regular joes' agreed with them.
- There are 61 caucus memeber in congress.
- Their aim was to try and elect truly conservative Republicans from the 2010 mideterms ->
- They preformed badly in the 2012 primaries/cauacuses and the Tea party cost GOP atleast 5 senate seat in 2012
Weakness within parties
- No Whips (candidates can vote freely on any issue)
- No mass membership
- No party leaders
- No manifesto (only 'party platforms whihc are decided at conventions)
- Candidates are selected by primaries and caucuses rather than the party itself
Therefore parties have little control and parties tend not even be mentioned by candidates during a campaign.
- Over the past 2 decades the parties have been resorted
- Impact of resorting
- The parties are more cohesive, united and disipline
- People stick with their self-identified parties more e.g. 1964 20% of self identified Republicans voted for Johnson but only 6% voted for Obama in 2012.
- Decreased number of swing states as voters ar more partisan
- Decreased number of split ticket votes and split districts e.g. 1996 there were 110 split districts and in 2012 there were 25.
- There was an overlap of ideology of 30 people within Congress in 1993 however in 2011 there was none.
- Ideological and organisational resurgenece
- GOP are more cohsive e.g. Bush 2004 and Tea party 2012 were to energise the base of 'value voters'
- Democrats offer a clear alternative and are more liberal e.g. health care reform and bank regulation.
- Increased party control of directin and focus of campaigns.
- Both committes now channel political donations to candidates in tight races.
- Two party system:
- FPTP means 3rd parties and independents are seen as a wasted vote
- They're 'catchall parties' which just take on popular policy ideas e.g. green ideas
- Partisan alignment is fairly strong and hard to create
- Natural duopoly i.e. For and Against
- Single issues are normally faught for by pressure groups
- Primaries mean candidates can be chosen form public suppor so 3rd parties aren't needed.
- 3rd parties
- Since 1947 7 non D/R candidate have been elected to congress.
- They have narrow appeal i.e. are sectional, ideological, regional or single issue
- George Wallace won 46 EC votes in the 1968 presidential elections for dissatisfied voters.
- They are normally based on protest or a charismatic leader, so tend to fade or be absorbed into one of the big party's ideology e.g. green issues
- Perot gain 19% of the popular vote in 1992 after economic problems
- This is because 3rd parties:
- Normally can't get enough funds
- FPTP prevents them from gaining seats
- Rarely qualify for public funding
- They're organised groups who share common interests and seek to influence public policy.
- They're part of a pluralist democracy and show a multiplicity of ides. Groups are free to form and lobby with competition between other groups. Opposed to elitist theory where the power is concentrated with a set few.
- Type of pressure groups:
- Economic- may have structural power over the govt if they have pivital economic importance e.g. AFL who lobby on behalf of organised labour.
- Public Interest e.g. Sierra club who lobby for the envirnoment (over 2 million members)
- Single Issue e.g. Pro-choice groups
- AARP (40 million retired people)
- NRA (small but very active membership)
- Vetrans (Dispersed so gives importance over many states)
- Money: They can spend on behalf of candidates
- Proffessional lobbyists: 'Revolving door' i.e. coming straight out of congress and into a lobbying firm.
- Iron Triangle: Strong relationship between pressure groups, congressional committees and federal agencies in a given policy area e.g. Defence contractor, Senate and House Armed services committee and Defence department.
- May be representatives of a groups views. This gives and important link between the public and politicians and allows citizens to have their say and back their views (as they might not be listened to individually)
- They aid citizen participation as there are greater oppurtunities to participate in politics between elections
- They may enhance public education e.g. warning against climate change
- Try to influence agendas of political parties and may bring together different groups e.g. Business groups, religious groups etc. to work towards a common goal.
- They may hold governments account for policy promises
- Material benefits
- Tangible rewards that individuals or companies get inr eturn for their donations e.g. Sierra Club sends out the Sierra Magazine or AARP offer services such as mail discount pharmacy, a motor club and health insurance etc.
- Purposive benefits
- Being part of a movement which tries to make the US (or even the world) a better place e.g. Amnesty International
- Solidarity benefits
- Social benefit that is brought about by interacting with like minded people e.g. a local bird watching group who mainly meet for their own social benefit.
- Electioneering and endorsement
- Since the campaign finance reforms in 1970s, pressure groups can only give a limited amount directly to campaigns.
- Political action committees (PACs): Pressure groups who collect money from their members and then give it to candidates or parties who support their interests.
- Super PACs: They do/can not directly fund candidates
- Lobbying: An attempt to exert influence on the 3 branches of govt. or organised groups.
- Publicity: They launch public relations campaigns to educate people about their cause
- Organising grass roots activities: Seen as the most effective methods, particularly when aimed directly at legislators and policy makers e.g. marches
Impact of pressure groups on:
- They try to influence members of congress. The can do this by making direct contact or members of congress or making contact with relevant congressional (sub)committees, mainly the powerful standing committees, and form a strong bond. Often members contact lobbyists for information and support. They may also encourage their members to diirectly call, email or vist their representatives.
- Pressure groups seek to form strong ties with executive departments, agenecies and regulatory commissions e.g. regarding health and saftey in the work place. They may be questioned to be 'lapdogs' instead of 'watchdogs'.
- Some groups groups gain ties with the white hosue e.g. Bush's political director (Karl Rove) had ties with Christian Right groups who attempted to get someone onto the Supreme Court.
- Amicus Curiae briefings allow pressure groups to present their views to the court in writing before oral arguments are heard. It's often used by groups on issues such as abortion rights, 1st Amendment rights and civil rights.
- State government:
- Because of federadlism alot of important decisions are made at state level. Each state has a different manufacturing base e.g. oil in Alaska, so groups often target state governors, state legislative and judges to have a better impact.
- Access by pressure groups is enhanced in the US because of the openness of the political system and by the fact that high levels of democratic participation are encouraged.
- They're difficult to regulate as any regulation could be seen as infringing upon the 1st amendment right of freedom of speech.
- 1946 Lobbying act required lobbyists to register with the clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate.
- The campaign finance reform of the 70s gave rise to the huge growth of PACs.
- In the 90s legislation widened the definition of pressure groups thus making more groups register.
- 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government act sought to close the revolving door (e.g. Senators must wait 2 years before becoming lobbyists), prohibite gifts by lobbyists, full public disclosure of lobbying activity etc. For example the Sierra club could no longer show members of congress the NAtional Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
- For Pressure Groups
- Revolving door syndrome: Former members of congress goign straight to lobbying firms. This is seen as an abuse of public service i.e. people exploit their knowledge and contacts for pressure groups and often make large sums of money for themselves
- Iron triangle: Relationships between pressure groups, congressional committees and an executive department. Unelected pressure groups have large amounts of influence (...). This questions whether they're compatible with a pluralist society.
- Inequality: Some pressure groups have more resources than other e.g. Big business has more influence (because of greater funds, revolving door members, iron triangles etc.) than environmental groups.
- Special interest vs public interest: Most groups tend to focus on 'me' over 'we' and spend too much time working for their special interest and little on wider public interest.
- Buying political influence: "The finest Congress money can buy"- Edward Kennedy. In 1999 $1.45 billion was spent on lobbying activities.
Compared to the UK
- Different types
- Perform similar functions i.e. representation, participation, education, agenda building etc.
- Use different methods e.g. electioneering, lobbying, organising grass roots etc.
- Seek to influence govt in a number of areas and at different levels
- Rise in the improtance of US PACs
- More access points for US pressure groups
- Lower levels of party discipline in Congress
- US can target the judicary which can't really be targeted as much in the UK
Party identification: A Strong attachment to a party, from factors such as family socialisation and socioeconomic status, which leads to habit voting, creating core voters who have stable predictable patterns of voting behaviour. Partinsanship can be weak or strong and can change e.g. after the New Deal.
Domocrats: More liberal party offering interventionist politices. Until the breakdown of the New Deal (60s) it was also the party of the conservative south. Now attracts more liberal voters.
Republicans: More conservative and assosiated with richers, WASP voters. Assosiated with business favouring policies, free markets, fiscal and social conservatism. Attracts wealthier white voters.
Influences on voting
- Income: Class is insignificant (unlike the UK where it's more established) e.g. 90% of Americans say they're 'middleclass'. Richer voters vote Repulican and poorer voters vote Democrat. There are occupational difference e.g. unionised car workers ar emore likely to vote Democrat and business executives are more likely to vote Republican.
- The 'Black vote': After the 30s New Deal they voted mainly Democrat as it benefitted many poor 'black' areas. The Democrats supported the Civil Rights movement, they support affirmative action and have many influencial Black member e.g. Obama. 95% voted for Obama in 2008. Republicans ignore them as they're unlikely to win them over (although the tried to win over rich religious groups in 08 but failed). Democrats could be seen to take them for granted.
- Hispanic vote: Fastest growing minority- 'sleeping giant'. Very concentrated e.g. New Mexico. 70% are Roman catholic so have switched from Democrat to Republican over wedge issues like abortion. Obama won 66% in 2008.
- Asian vote: Obama won 56% of their vote in 2008
Influences on voting:
- Democrats: Catholics (Some have switched over 'wedge issues'), Jewish, Atheists.
- Republicans: WASPs, Christian fundamentalists (In 2004 1 in 4 voters were Evangelical Christians and 80% voted for Bush)
- Democrats attract more women and Republicans men. In 2008 the both parties tried to attarct 'Hockey Moms'
- Gender gap: Women are more likely to vote Democrat because they're: Pro choice, pro gun control, anti death penalty, more emphasis on health education and welfare issues e.g. childcare and they're more environmentally aware.
- Age: Voters are likely to stick with who their first vote was for. Old people are more likley to vote Republican and young people are more likley to vote Democrat. In 2008 Obama won 68% 1st time voters.
- Swing voters: They're de-aligned and lack strong party identification. They're targetted by campaigns and can be crucial. 30% of people are self identified as so.
- De-alignment: Lack or loss of party identification links with volatility, split ticket voting, higher abstention and candidate and issue voting.
- Split ticket voting:
- Federalism and seperation of powers enable voters to vote for different parties on the same ballot paper. In 1972 30% of voters did this compared to 1996 where 18% did.
- Divided govt. which leads to grid lock.
- Could be the 'best of both worlds' e.g. Republican president who is strong and hawkish with foreign policy with a Democrat member who will seek to increase welfare spending.
- Helps prevent an elective dicatatorship as checks and balances are increased.
- Performance voting: Voters make judgements on past performance of incumbents e.g. Bush Sr in 1992, after the recession, lost the presidency.
- Candidate voting: Personality, image and experience of media dominated, candidate centered campaigns e.g. Kennedy and Nixon TV debate Kennedy looked good so 'won' eventhough Nixon has more substance.
- Issue voting: Single issues e.g. same sex marriage, with economic issues being most important. 1992 Clinton- 'The Economy Stupid' 2004- wedge issues. 2008 economics crisis helped obama win with the message of 'change'
- Voter registration: Now easier with 'Help America Vote act'- 2002 which allowed same day registration and early voting. There are drives to 'mobilise the vote' but still many people fail to vote and register.
- Democratic overload and voter fatigue: Huge numbers of elections (80000 units of Govt) lead to permenant campaigning and bed sheet ballots.
- Media dominated campaigns: Soundbites, photo oppurtunties and negative campaigning mean little is said about real issues leading to allienation of voters.
- Lack of choice: "Bore v Gush" in 2000. Texas Cowboy v Boston Elistist.
- Decline of partisanship: Fewer people, who have no strong connection to a party, vote.
- Electoral system and EC: In 'safe' seats people see little point in voting.
- Voter apathy: Lobbyist dominated govt. and dissatisfaction with presidential performance and political scandals.
- Hapathy: In 2008 turnout rose to 64% as people weren't content. 'Ground war' turn-out-the-vote effort and inspiring candidates also helped.
Differential abstention: 1 in 3 voters who voted in 2008 didn't vote in 2010 mid terms leading to an 'enthusiasm gap'. More low income, less educated, younger, minority voters tend to abstain. Turnout is lower in mid term election. Low turnout undermines the winning candidates' mandates legitimacy.