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political parties

play a formal role in trying to influence the outcomes of elections and legislative struggles

bipartisan system

reinforced by the nation's electoral system

party characteristics

serve as intermediaries between people and the government; made up of grassroots members, activist members, and leadership; organized to raise money, present positions on policy, get candidates elected to office; created outside of the Constitution

primary elections

since 1960, states have passed laws requiring parties to select candidates through these state-run processes

splinter/bolter parties

unite around a feeling that the major parties are not responding o the demands of some segment of the electorate

doctrinal parties

reject the prevailing attitudes and policies of the political system

single-issue parties

parties formed to promote one principle

Independent candidates

run without party affiliation; like Eugene McCarthy in 1968 or John Anderson in 1980

subdivisions of political parties

the party among the electorate; the party in government; the party organization

functions of political parties

recruit and nominate candidates; educate and mobilize voters; provide campaign funds and support; organize government activity; provide balance through opposition of two parties; reduce conflict and tension in society

loyal opposition

minority party that constantly critiques the performance of the party in power


The current holders of elected office.

national conventions

national party plans the____held every four years to nominate a presidential candidate

split ticket

voting for a presidential candidate of one party and legislators of the other


political parties consist of groups, which consist of combinations of individuals. the larger the _____ the more likely the candidate will win.

Republican coalition

disaffected conservative Democrats, veterans' groups, religious conservatives, pro-lifers, opponents of gay rights, missile-defense supporters, opponents of affirmative action, Cuban Americans, supporters of development of natural resources on public lands

Democratic coalition

disaffected moderate Republicans, pro-choicers, African Americans, labor unions, intellectuals, people with lower incomes, city dwellers, non-Cuban Latinos, feminists, Jewish people, environmentalists

party bases

greatest ideological differences; liberals in Democratic Party, conservatives in Republican Party

Democratic characteristics

less disposed to spend on defense; less disposed to use vouchers to let students attend private schools; more disposed to spend money to advance social-welfare programs; more disposed to use government money for public education; more disposed to spend money on government-run health programs; more disposed to grant tax relief to targeted groups; against private ownership of assault weapons and for broader regulations of ownership of firearms

Republican characteristics

more disposed to spend on defense; more disposed to use vouchers for private schools and to give government aid to parochial schools; more disposed to grant tax relief to everyone, including wealthy and corporations; less disposed to spend money on social-welfare programs; less disposed to spend money on government-run health programs; less disposed to regulate firearms

party realignment

occurs when coalitions making up the two parties fall apart, such as when many of the groups that make up the majority party defect to the minority party

critical election

when a new party comes to dominate politics


usually a result of party members becoming disaffected as a result of some policy position taken by the party

interest groups

organizations dedicated to a particular political goal or to a set of unified goals


when interest groups try to influence legislators

economic, public interest, government interest

categories of interest groups in the United States

examples of economic interest groups

US Chamber of Commerce; American Farm Bureau Federation; American Nuclear Energy Council; AFL-CIO; United Auto Workers; American Medical Association; American Bar Association

examples of public interest groups

consumer groups like Public Citizen (Ralph Nader); environmental groups like Sierra Club; religious groups like Christian Coalition; women's rights, minority rights, political reform; single-issue groups like National Rifle Association, National Right to Life Committee

examples of government interest groups

states, cities, localities, foreign governments and businesses

how interest groups influence government

direct lobbying; testifying before Congress; socializing; political donations; endorsements; court action; rallying their membership; propaganda

class action suits

interest groups file lawsuits or_____to protect and advance their interests

amicus curiae briefs

(friend of the court); interest groups submit so that judges may consider their advice in respect to matters of law that directly affect the case in question

Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act

1946; intended to allow the government to monitor lobbying activities by requiring lobbyists to register with the government and publicly disclose their salaries, expenses, and nature of activities in DC

influence peddling

the practice of using personal friendships and inside information to get political advantage

Buckley v. Valeo

1976; case that equated donations with free speech; Supreme Court upheld federal limits on campaign contributions and ruled that donating money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech

Federal Election Campaign Act

1974; allows corporations, unions, and trade associations to form political action committees as a means of raising campaign funds

restrictions on PACs

must raise money from at least 50 contributors; mus donate to at least five different candidates; may not donate more than $5,000 per year to any single candidate nor more than $15,000 to a national party per year; corporate, union, and trade must raise money from employees and members

federal limits on donations

candidates $2,300; national parties $28,500; individual PACs $5,000; sum ma not exceed $108,200 over two years

527 group

named after section of tax code that allows them; tax-exempt organization that promotes a political agenda, although they cannot expressly advocate for or against a specific candidate; not subject to campaign finance law contribution limits

examples of 527s

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; College Republican National Committee; The Media Fund

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (McCain-Feingold Act)

2002; changed soft money rules that make establishing new 527s a more attractive option than traditional PACs

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