American Political Parties Decline And Resurgance Essay

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American Political Parties Decline And Resurgance Essay, Research Paper American Political Parties decline and resurganceFew elements of the American political process have changed as much inrecent years as the major political parties. For most Americans, politicalparties are essentially the government office-holders or aspiringoffice-holders who carry the party label at elections. Parties were notmentioned in the Constitution nor were they anticipated by its framers backin 1787. However two major parties – The Democrats and The Republicans -did come to the fore and it is my intention to prove that, after a centuryof rapid social and economic change, they continue to be an integral partof the political process and are still of meaning to most Americans.In assessing party

strengths and weaknesses and their decline we mustrecognize that parties have to operate in diverse social circumstances,within the doctrine of separation of powers and a Federalist system ofgovernment. Parties tend, therefore, to be broadly based coalitions ofinterests; organized in a decentralized way as opposed to the ratherdisciplined hierarchical structure of many of their European counterparts. Parties are seen as manifold entities, attempting to select candidates forofficial positions, promote certain objectives and policies and strive togain government power (Epstein, 1986). Successfully operating within theAmerican system are two major political parties, the Democratic Party andthe Republican Party, and as we shall see the labels Democratic andRepublican continue to mean

something to most Americans. In this essay Ishall examine some of the characteristics and functions of American partiesand focus upon the rise of candidate-centered campaigns and, wherepossible, show whether or not the party has declined. Party renewal will bediscussed in the latter part of this essay.Party decline primarily refers to a reduction in the importance of party asa determinant of voters’ decisions. In the U.S. a voter in any givenPresidential election year may have to cast a ballot for the Presidency, aU.S. Senator, a Member of the House, State Legislature, Local and Countyofficials. Coupled with this ballot complexity, complications associatedwith demographic diversity have, since the 1960s led towards electoralfracture. This fracture has manifested itself in three

main ways vis- -visparty decline: the Party in the electorate, the Party in organization andthe Party in Government. The growth in the number of independents tends toconvey the sense that voters are alienated from the major parties and thatthey believe that they need to look elsewhere to gain meaningfulrepresentation. The electorate are now less inclined to identify witheither of the two major parties; with the percentage of people identifyingwith the two major parties dropping from 80% in the 1950s to 70% in the1980s – indeed one third of the electorate are now classified asindependent (Epstein, 1986). As a result of weakened party identificationthere has been a decline in straight ticket voting (this is voting for acandidate from the same party for all the offices on the

ballot). Ticketsplitting between Presidential and House candidates increased from 12% to34% in the period 1952-1980 and had been on an upward trend until the 1980swhen it leveled off at around 20% for both kinds of ticket splitters. Congressional split election results have become more common in theAmerican voting pattern, that is, in seats where one party won thePresidential race but lost the Congressional race (Wattenberg, 1994).The problem for party leaders is that they are expected to promote anddevelop party unity, but are given few reasons to do so. In most Westerndemocracies the ability of party leaders to control the legislative processis predicated upon the support of a unified political party where partycohesion is strong, but, in the U.S. this has not been the case.In