Political Parties in the United States

12-12-2011 02:21 AM - عدد القراءات : 24422

When the Founders of the American Republic wrote the U.S. Constitution in 1787, they didn?t envision a role for political parties in the governmental order.

. Indeed, they sought through various constitutional arrangements – such as separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism and indirect election of president by an electoral college to insulate the new republic from political parties and factions.
The Emergence and pervasiveness of Political Parties :
The development of political parties was closely linked to the extension of the suffrage as qualifications requiring property ownership were lifted during the early 1800s. with avastly expanded electorate, ameans was required to mobilize masses of voters.
Political parties became institutionalized to accomplish this essential task. Thus, parties in America emerged as apart of this democratic expansion, and by the 1830s, they were afirmly established part of the political firmament.
Today, the Republican and Democratic parties pervade the political process. Approximately 60 percent of Americans consider themselves either Republicans or Democrats, and even those who say that they are independents normaly have partisan leanings and exhibit high levels of party loyalty.for example, in the five presidential elections between 1980 and 1996, 75 percent of independents who " leaned " toward the Republicans or Democrats voted for their preferred party¢s presidential candidate. And in 2000, 79 percent of Republican " leaners " voted for Republican George W.Bush, while 72 percent of Democratic"leaners" cast ballots for the Democratic candidate, AlGore.
The pervasiveness of partisan influences also extends to the party in government. The two major parties now dominate the presidency, congress, the governorships and the state legislatures. Every president since 1852 has been either a Republican or a Democrat, and in the post – world war II era, the two major parties¢ share of the popular vote for president has averaged 94.8 percent.
Although American parties tend to be less ideologically cohesive programmatic than parties in many democracies, they do play a major and often decisive role in shaping public policy.indeed, since the 1994 elections, congressional Republicans and Democrats have demonstrated sharp policy differences and unusually high level of intra-party unity compared to historic norms. the policy disagreements between the two parties exist within a context of congressional and senatorial elections every two years that have real potential to result in achange in partisan control of the House of Representatives and senate. The combination of policy divisiveness and intense competition for chamber control has created in recent years a super – heated atmosphere of partisan conflict in both the senate and the House.
Why a Two-party System in the United States?   
  Two – Party competition stands out as one of the American political system¢ most salient and enduring features.since the 1860s, the Republicans and Democrats have dominated electoral politics. This unrivaled record of the same two parties continuously monopolizing a nation¢s electoral politics reflects structural aspects of the political system as well as special features of American political parties.
The standard arrangement for electing national and state legislators in the United States in the "single-member" district system. What this means is that whoever receives a plurality of the vote ( that is,the greatest number of votesin any given voting district ) is elected. Unlike proportional systems, the single – member district arrangement permits only one party to win in any given district. The single member system thus creates incentives to form two broadly based parties with sufficient popular appeal to win legislative district pluralities, while condemning minor and third parties to almost perpetual defeat – not a prescription for longevity unless they can combine forces with a major party. Combining forces with a major party, however, is not an option for most minor parties because all but a handful of states ban so-called fusion tickets in which a candidate runs as the nominee of more than one party.
A further institutional nudge toward two- partyism is provided by the electoral college system for choosing presidents. Under the electoral college system, Americans technically do not vote directly for a presidential slate of candidates. Instead , they vote within each state for a slate of electors who are pledged to one or another presidential candidate. Election as president requires as absolute majority of the 50 states¢ 538 electoral votes. This requirement makes it extremely difficult for a third party to achieve the presidency because the individual states¢ electoral votes are allocated under a winner- take all arrangement.
With the Democrats and Republicans in control of the governmental machinery, it is not surprising that they have created other electoral rules that work to the advantage of the major parties. Just getting anew party¢s name on the ballot within the states can be an arduous and expensive undertaking. In addition, the federal election campaign act bestows special benefits on major parties, including public funding of presidential campaigns at a substantially higher level than is available to minor parties- even those that reached the qualifying threshold of 5 percent of the popular vote in the last election.
 America¢s distinctive nominating process is an additional structural barrier to third parties among the world¢s democracies, the United States is unique in its reliance on primary election to nominate partisan candidates for congressional and state offices and its use of state-level presidential primaries in the selection of presidential nominees. Under this type of nominating system, rank-and-file voters in a primary election select their party¢s nominee for the general election. In most nations, partisan nominations are controlled by the party organizations and their leaders, But in the United States it is the voters who make the ultimate determinationof who the Republican and Democratic nominees will be.
Broad – Based support and Centrist Position :
American parties are multi – class and broad based in their electoral support. With the exception of African – American voters – 90 percent of whom voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2000. both the Republican and Democratic parties draw significant levels of support from virtually every major socioeconomic group in society. Although members of labor – union households for example, are commonly though to be Democrats, the Republicans can expect in most elections to receive at least one – third of the labor union vote, and in 1984, the party received 46 percent of the union vote. In 2000, union households voted 37 percent Republican. Similarly, while support for Democrats normally declines as income levels go up, Democratic presidential candidates can usually expect substantial support from upper- middle – class voters.
Political parties in the United States also exhibit relatively low internal unity and lack strict adherence to an ideology or set of policy goals. Rather, they have traditionally been concerned first and foremost with winning elections and controlling the personnel of government.
Third parties and Independent Candidates :
Third parties and independent candidates, despite the obstacles discussed previously, have been a periodic feature of American politics. Often they have brought societal problems that the major parties were failing to confront to the forefront of public discourse – and onto the governmental agenda. But most third parties have tended to flourish for a single election and then die, fad or be absorbed into one of the major parties.
Public opinion surveys since the 1990s have consistently shown a high level of popular for the concept of a third party. In the run-up to the 2000 election, a Gallup poll found that 67 percent of Americans favored a strong third party that would run candidates for president, Congress and state offices against Republican and Democratic nominees.
In spite of demonstrations of potentional support for a third party, imposing barriers exist to a third party¢s winning the presidency and even electing a substantial number of senators or representatives. In addition to those noted previously, the most significant is the fear among voters that if they vote for a third party candidate, they will in effect be
" wasting" their votes.
- supportive of the war on terror.