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Political Party

Organized effort by office holders, candidates, activists, and voters to pursue their common interests by gaining and exercising power through the electoral process. Stress the role of elections in gaining and exercising power.

Interest Groups

Influences public policy, while political parties have traditionally existed to win elections.

Governmental Party

Office holders who organize themselves and pursue policy objectives under a party label.

Organizational Party

The workers and activists who make up the party's formal organization structure

Electorate Party

The voters who consider themselves allied or associated with the party.


John Adams and allies supported a strong central government. New Englanders favored them.


Thomas Jefferson and allies preferred a federal system in which the states retained the balance of power. Southerners favored them.

Thomas Jefferson

Became the first U.S president elected as the nominee of a political party.

Andrew Jackson

"Jacksonian Democracy" His strong personality polarized many people. Was the first chief executive who won the White House as the nominee of a truly, national popular based political party.

Era of Good Feelings

James Monroe's presidency produced this when party politics was nearly suspended at the national level.

Democratic Party

In 1832 held the first national presidential nomination convention. 37% of women identify themselves with this party, favored by African Americans and Hispanics, youngest and oldest voters prefer this party, blue collar workers, methodists, unmarried/single

Whigs and Democrats

The first broadly supported two-party system in the Western world.

Republican Party

Replaced the Whig party due to the issue of slavery. Formed in 1854 by anti-slavery activists and set its sights on the abolition of slavery. Supported by Cuban Americans, mostly southern states vote this way, middle-aged voters, white collar workers, catholics/jewish, married

The Golden Age

Party stability, dominance of party organizations in local and state governments, and the impact of those organizations on the lives of millions of voters were the central traits of this era.

Political Machines

A party organization that recruits voter loyalty with tangible incentives and is characterized by a high degree of control over member activity. Also characterized by a high degree of leadership control over member society.

The Modern Era

Many social, political, technological, and government changes have contributed to changes in the nature of national parties.

Candidate Centered Politics

Politics that focuses on the candidates, their particular issues, and character rather than party affiliation.

Post WWII Era

Extensive social changes contributed to the move away from strong parties and population shift from urban to suburban locales affected the election process.

Party Realignment

Dramatic shifts in partisan preferences that drastically alter the political landscape.

Critical Election

An election that signals a party realignment through voter polarization around new issues and personalities such as war or an economic depression.

Secular Realignment

The gradual rearrangement of party coalitions, based more on demographic shifts than on shocks to the political system such as generational replacement.

National Party

Establishes a cohesive vision for partisan identifiers nationwide and to disseminate that vision to party members and voters. A chairperson (head of the national committee) leads the national party.

National Committee

Headed by a chairperson, every 4 years organizes a convention designed to reevaluate policies and nominate a candidate for the presidency.

Organization of Political Parties

National Chair, National committee, National convention, State central committees and state conventions, Congressional district committees, City and county committees, Precinct and ward committees, Activists and volunteers, Identifiers and voters.

National Chairperson

Heads the national committee and leads the national party. Selected by the sitting president or newly nominated presidential candidate. Called on to damp factionalism, negotiate candidate disputes, and prepare machinery for the next presidential election. Also raises funds and keeps the party financially strong.


Focus primarily on aiding presidential campaigns and conducting general party-building activities.

Congressional campaign committees

Work primarily to maximize the number of seats held by their respective parties in Congress.

National Convention

Occurs every 4 years. A party meeting held in the presidential election year for the purposes of nominating a presidential and vice presidential ticket and adopting a platform. Also fulfills its role as the ultimate governing body for the party. Rules adopted and the party platform that is passed serve as durable guidelines that steer the party until next convention.


Delegate to the democratic party's national convention that is reserved for a party official and whose vote at the convention is unpledged to a candidate. Allow the party to maintain some level of control over the selection process, while still allowing most delegates to be pledged by the people.

States and Localities

All government regulation of political parties is left to the states and vast majority of party leadership positions are filled at subnational levels. Free to act within the limits set by their state legislatures without interference from the national party.


Smallest voting unit, takes in a few neighborhoods and is the fundamental building block of the party. More than 100,000 in the US.

State Central (Executive) Committee

State governing body supervising this collection of local party organizations

Informal Groups

National Federation of Democratic Women, National Federation of Republican Women, College Democrats of America, and the College Republican National Committee.

Think Tanks

Institutional collection of policy-oriented researchers and academics who are sources of policy ideas. Influence party positions and platforms. Republican think tanks: Hudson Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Foundation. Democrat think tanks: Center for National Policy and Open Society Institute.

Running Candidates for Office

Raises money and mobilizes support and getting out the vote.

National Party Platform

A statement of the general and specific philosophy and policy goals of a political party, usually promulgated at the national convention. Parties use this to formulate, convey, and promote public policy.

Parties in Congress

The parties in both houses of Congress gather separately to select party leaders and to arrange for the appointment of members of each chamber's committees.

Pork Barrel Projects

Government projects yielding rich patronage benefits that sustain many legislator's electoral survival.

Presidential Party

President is the head of the party. Appoints many activists to office, recruits candidates, raises money for party treasury, and campaigns for party nominees during election seasons.

Parties in State Government

Party leaders and caucuses have greater influence over legislators than at the federal level.

Line Item Veto

Permits a governor to veto single items (such as pork barrel projects) in appropriations bills. Has given governors enormous leverage with legislators as they can now remove pork barrel projects sponsored by members who oppose the governor's agenda.

Missouri Plan

Relies on a nonpartisan judicial nominating commission to choose appointed state court judges.

Party Affiliation

Basis for mediation and negotiation among the branches of government and among national, state, and local layers.

Party Identification

A citizen's personal affinity for a political party, usually expressed by a tendency to vote for the candidates of that party. Marriage, economic status, and other aspects of adult life can change one's identification. Social issues such as abortion or same sex marriages can change identification as well.

Political Socialization

Parents are the single greatest influence in establishing a person's first party identification.

Role of Third Parties

Find their roots in sectionalism and achieve their greatest successes when they incorporate new ideas or alienated groups or nominate attractive candidates as their standard-bearers. Attracts independent voters. Liberty free soil, Prohibition, Progressive/Bull Moose, American Independent, Libertarian, Reform, and Green.

Proportional Representation

A voting system that apportions legislative seats according to the percentage of the vote won by a particular political party.

Winner Take All System

An electoral system in which the party that receives at least one more vote than any other party wins the election.


A general decline in party identification and loyalty in the electorate.

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