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Critical Election

Significant number of voters change their traditional patterns of party loyalty

Divided Government

Governance divided between the parties, especially when one holds the presidency and the other controls one or both houses of Congress.

Election of 1860

Critical Election - Republican Party goes from a minority party to a majority party; Democrats become the party of the South (Solid South)

Election of 1896

Critical Election - Republicans remain American's majority party until the Great Depression due to William Jennings Bryan coalition of labor unions and small farmers vs. McKinley's industrialists, monopolists, and small business owners

Election of 1932

Critical Election - Ended Republican dominance and created the New Deal coalition (urban dwellers, labor unions, Catholics, Jews, southerners, African Americans. Party realignment for urban dwellers and African Americans

Functions of a Political Party

Recruiting and nominating candidates for public office, running political campaigns, articulating their positions on issues, critiquing the policies of the party in power, and linking citizens to government

Ideological Parties

Organized around a particular ideology - Social Party or Libertarian Party

Impact of Divided Government

increased partisanship, difficult to compromise, slowed the confirmation and legislative processes (gridlock), increased political frustration and trust in government

Importance of Minor Parties

Force major parties to adopt their ideas or can play a spoiler role in presidential elections (Nader in 2000 Election)

Linkage institution

Providing information to voters about candidates running for office, mobilizing voters to elect party candidates, and raising funds to support party candidates

McGovern-Frasier Commission

Effect: significant representation changes to the party→ future conventions more democratic by including more minority representation.

National Committee

Governing body of a political party made up of state and national party

National Nominating Committee

Forums where presidential candidates are given the official nod by their parties.

New Democrat

More conservative, centrist Democrat - 1990s.

Obstacles to Minor Parties

winner-take-all format of Electoral College, single-member districts & exclusion from presidential debates

Party De-alignment

Voters' disengagement from political parties to an independent position

Party Eras

Time period characterized by national dominance by one political party. Examples: Era of Good Feeling, the Republican era following the Civil War, the Democratic era following the election of Franklin Roosevelt, and the Republican era following the election of Richard Nixon.

Political Party

Group of citizens who organize to win elections, hold public offices, operate the government and determine public policy

Party Machine

party organization that exists on the local level and uses patronage as the means to keep the party members in line. Example: Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall

Party Platforms

Voted on by the delegates attending the National Convention; represents the ideological point of view of a political party.

Party Realignment

Caused by a critical election where the majority party is displaced by the minority party ushering in a new party era

Political Participation

Different ways an average citizen gets involved in the political process ranging from conventional means (voting) of influencing government to more radical unconventional tools (riots & protests).

Reagan Democrats

Traditional Democratic middle-class voters turning to Ronald Reagan during the 1980s.

Religious Right

Evangelical conglomeration of ultraconservative political activists, many of whom support the Republican Party.

Single Issue Parties

Organized around one single issue - Free Soil Party, Know Nothing Party

Split ticket voting

Voters support candidates of different parties on the same ballot


Democratic party leaders and elected party officials who automatically are selected as delegates to the National Convention.

Third political parties

Political parties that can be described as ideological, single-issue oriented, economically motivated, and personality driven. Examples: Free Soil Party, Know Nothings, Populist, and Bull Moose Parties.

Why America has a Two-Party System

Strong commitment to political values, winner takes all - single member districts, expensive elections, legislative dominance of the two parties, tradition

Election of 1968

Critical Election - Beginning of Republican dominance of presidential politics - Solid South began to transform Republican - Divided Government began also

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