Chapter 8: Political Parties American government is defined by Party Competition between the two dominant parties,
Democrats and Republicans. Political Party: according to Anthony Downs, a team of men and women seeking to control the government
apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election A widely adopted way of thinking about parties in political science is as three-headed political giants :
(1) the party in the electorate; (2) the party as an organization; (3) the party in government Party in the Electorate
By far the largest component of an American political party; consists of individuals that perceive themselves as party members American parties do not require dues or membership cards, you become a member by simply saying you are one, even if you vote for
the opposite party Party as an Organization Each party has a national office (also state and local offices), a full time staff, rules and bylaws, and budgets
There are leaders of the party who are the people that keep the party running between elections and make its rules The party organization is always pursuing electoral victory
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz Democratic National Committee Chairperson Republican National Committee Chairman Party in Government
Consists of elected officials who call themselves members of the party These leaders are the spokespersons for the party They do not always agree with each other
Linkage Institutions The channels or access points through which issues and peoples policy preferences get on the governments policy agenda In the U.S. there are four: elections; political parties; interest groups; and the mass media
Linkage institutions help ensure that public preferences are heard Tasks performed by Parties 1. Parties pick candidates: a person needs to
be nominated, or endorsed, by their party 2. Parties run campaigns: parties coordinate political campaigns, although with new technology it is easier for candidates to campaign on
their own (ex. Ross Perot) 3. Parties give cues to voters: many people rely on the party to give them the cues for voting a. Party Image: the voters perception of what the
Republicans or Democrats stand for, such as conservatism or liberalism What is your perceived party image for: Democrats?
Republicans? 4. Parties articulate policies: within the electorate and within the government, each political party advocates specific policy
alternatives 5. Parties coordinate policymaking: parties are essential for coordination among the branches of government; when a public official
needs support to get something done, they look to their fellow partisans Anthony Downs Rational-Choice Theory a popular theory in political science to explain the actions of voters as well as politicians;
assumes that individuals act in their own best interest, carefully weighing the costs and benefits of possible alternatives a. voters want to maximize the chance that policies they favor will be adopted by government
b. in order to win offices, the wise party selects policies that are widely favored c. since the majority of the electorate are in the middle, successful parties rarely stray far from the midpoint of public opinion d. there is frequent criticism that there is not much
difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, however, given the nature of the American political market, they have no choice e. parties do differentiate themselves to some extent in order to forge different identities and build voter loyalty f. more than half of the population currently believes that
important differences do exist between the parties
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