Amer Gov't Final Exam

Terms in this set (43)

The two-party system can be said to have originated in the debate between supporters of the Constitution (the Federalists) and those who though the states should be the locus of authority and advocated a Bill of Rights (the Anti-Federalists). Under George Washington and John Adams, the Federalist Party was the first party to control the national government. By 1796,however, another party came into the political process. This party was headed by Thomas Jefferson and was called the Republicans. (Do not confuse this party with the later party of Lincoln.) While Jefferson's party supported the Constitution, it was clearly the heir of the pre-revolutionary republican movement and the later Anti-Federalists.A. The Historical Foundations of the Two-Party System. Often, on major issues confronting the country there have been two clear sides. This duality helped to initiate a two-party system and has maintained this system through the present.

B. Political Socialization and Practical Considerations: For generations, all that has existed is a two party system. If individuals are not exposed to anything but a two-party system, they will not likely seek change to a different type of system.

C. The Winner-Take-All Electoral System. This system elects the candidate who receives a plurality of the votes. Candidates who finish second receive nothing. Say a party is able to gain 19 percent of the vote nationwide, but in no single district manages to attain a plurality. The party will elect no candidates.

1. Presidential Voting. The winner-take-all system also works in presidential voting. In all but two states, the presidential candidate with a plurality gets all the electoral votes of that state. This is the unit rule.

2. Popular Election of the Governors and President. In most democratic countries, the chief executive is a premier or prime minister elected by the legislature. If there are three or more parties, two or more can band together to elect a premier. In America, however, governors are elected directly by the people and presidents are elected indirectly by the people. There is no opportunity for negotiations between parties.

3. Proportional Representation. Many countries use proportional representation in elections. Such a system allows a party to receive the number of legislators equal to the percentage of the vote the party received. If a party receives 19 percent of the vote it would then receive 19 percent of the seats in the legislature. As long as the U.S. continues to use a winner-take-all electoral system, it is highly unlikely that a minor party will be successful.

D. State and Federal Laws Favoring the Two Parties. This occurs because the two major parties are in control of the policy-making process. As long as the Democrats and Republicans are in power at the state and national levels they will continue to pass laws which favor the two-party system and will pass laws making it difficult for new parties to develop.A. The Historical Foundations of the Two-Party System. Often, on major issues confronting the country there have been two clear sides. This duality helped to initiate a two-party system and has maintained this system through the present.

B. Political Socialization and Practical Considerations: For generations, all that has existed is a two party system. If individuals are not exposed to anything but a two-party system, they will not likely seek change to a different type of system.

C. The Winner-Take-All Electoral System. This system elects the candidate who receives a plurality of the votes. Candidates who finish second receive nothing. Say a party is able to gain 19 percent of the vote nationwide, but in no single district manages to attain a plurality. The party will elect no candidates.

1. Presidential Voting. The winner-take-all system also works in presidential voting. In all but two states, the presidential candidate with a plurality gets all the electoral votes of that state. This is the unit rule.

2. Popular Election of the Governors and President. In most democratic countries, the chief executive is a premier or prime minister elected by the legislature. If there are three or more parties, two or more can band together to elect a premier. In America, however, governors are elected directly by the people and presidents are elected indirectly by the people. There is no opportunity for negotiations between parties.

3. Proportional Representation. Many countries use proportional representation in elections. Such a system allows a party to receive the number of legislators equal to the percentage of the vote the party received. If a party receives 19 percent of the vote it would then receive 19 percent of the seats in the legislature. As long as the U.S. continues to use a winner-take-all electoral system, it is highly unlikely that a minor party will be successful.

D. State and Federal Laws Favoring the Two Parties. This occurs because the two major parties are in control of the policy-making process. As long as the Democrats and Republicans are in power at the state and national levels they will continue to pass laws which favor the two-party system and will pass laws making it difficult for new parties to develop.
A. Ideological Third Parties. Many third parties are long-lived organizations with strong ideological foundations. A historical example is the Socialist Party, which existed from 1900 to 1972. Current examples include the Libertarian Party and the Green Party.

B. Splinter Parties. Not all minor parties have been based on a different ideology from the major parties. A few minor parties are formed when members of one of the two major parties are dissatisfied with the leader of the major party, or the members are dissatisfied with the platform of the major party. These are usually referred to as spin-off parties. For example, the Bull-Moose Progressives were a spin-off of the Republican Party. The Progressives were those reform-minded Republicans who supported the candidacy of Theodore Roosevelt over that of William Howard Taft.

C. The Impact of Minor Parties. No presidential candidate has been elected from a minor party. Very few members of Congress have been elected on the label of a minor party. But minor parties have had an impact in that they raise issues that the two major parties must address. These parties also provide voters with another option.

1. Influencing the Major Parties. Minor parties can raise issues that major parties than adopt. The Populist Party was an example. Many of its policies were taken over by the Democrats in 1896 (which hurt the Democrats rather than helping them, however.) During its existence, the Socialist Party advanced many proposals that were picked up by liberals (and sometimes even by a bipartisan consensus)

2 Affecting the Outcome of an Election. Some claim that the candidacy of Ralph Nader on the Green Party ticket hurt Democrat Al Gore's chances of

winning the presidency, particularly given how close the election was. Nader may have taken votes from Gore, thus giving George W. Bush an edge.
The Selection of Federal Judges

A. Judicial Appointments. After the president has nominated a candidate for any federal judicial position, the United States Senate must consider the candidate. If a majority of the Senate approves the candidate, the president will then appoint the judge to serve for life. Senatorial courtesy is a constraint on the president's freedom to appoint federal district judges. Senatorial courtesy allows a senator to veto a judicial appointment in her or his state.

1. Federal District Court Judgeship Nominations. Until President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) the nomination of federal district court judges actually originated with a senator or senators of the president's party from the state in which there was a vacancy. In effect, judicial appointments were a form of political patronage. Since Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), the president has established complete control of nominations. Beginning in 2002, the Republicans have revoked the extension of senatorial courtesy to the opposition party.

2. Federal Courts of Appeals Appointments. At the Court of Appeals level candidates are reviewed in more detail. It is not unusual for those positions to be a stepping-stone to the Supreme Court.

3. Supreme Court Appointments. Nominations to the Supreme Court are carefully considered by the president. Acetate CT-3 demonstrates the significant differences in the demographic attribute of federal judges during four presidential administrations. Only two members of the Court have been African American and only two have been female.

B. Partisanship and Judicial Appointments. In selecting a candidate the president may take into account many factors but two factors in particular stand out: the party affiliation of the candidate and the political philosophy of the individual.

C. The Senate's Role. If the president nominates a candidate that is considered to be significantly to the left or right of the political spectrum, the candidate may face opposition in the Senate. The impact of ideology also can be witnessed in the confirmation process. Since the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Senate has often failed to confirm presidential judicial appointments. During the Reagan administration, there was acrimonious debate over the nomination of Robert Bork, whom the Senate rejected. During the George H. W. Bush administration, the nomination of Clarence Thomas was also contentious, though Thomas was confirmed. President Clinton succeeded in getting both of his Supreme Court nominees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer confirmed.
1. The Choice of Electors. The Electoral College is set forth in the Constitution (Article II, Section 1; Amendment XII; and Amendment XXIII). Each state chooses electors equal in number to the number of representatives and senators the state has at the time of the election. The District of Columbia also chooses three electors. Currently there are a total of 538 electors. For a candidate to be elected president, he or she must win a minimum of 270 electoral votes.

2. The Electors' Commitment. In each state the political party selects a number of people to serve as potential electors under the party label. When voters go to the polls to cast a ballot for the presidential candidate they are actually voting for a slate of electors pledged to support the presidential candidate of the party. In all but two states, there is the winner-take-all system. That is, if a candidate receives a plurality of the votes cast he or she wins all of the electoral votes from the state. This is the unit rule.

3. Criticisms of the Electoral College. As a result of the unit rule, presidential candidates often ignore states where the result is not in doubt. Also, in four different elections (including 2000), the presidential candidate who received a plurality of the popular vote did not receive a majority of the electoral vote. In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote and still received a majority of the electoral vote, though Democrats challenged the popular vote count in Florida, which determined Bush's Electoral College victory. In the wake of the 2000 elections, there have been numerous arguments against the Electoral College. Regardless of these arguments, it is likely to remain as the method for the election of the president. To change how the president is elected, an amendment to the Constitution would have to be proposed and ratified. Such an amendment is not likely to pass. The unit rule, however, could be altered by national legislation
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