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American Political Parties

Oldest in the world, but are relatively weak as more are voting split ticket and identifying as independents.


The first organized political party in America. Were followers of Jefferson, thus were more like today's democrats.

First Party System

Weak because it was the first, but when Jefferson won the presidency in 1800, the Federalist party virtually ceased to exist by 1820.

Second Party System

Lasted from 1824 until the Civil War with political participation becoming a popular event.

Party Convention System

Developed as a reform to give more local control over the nominating process.

Republican Party

As a result of the Civil War, became the only third party to gain major-party status.

One-Party States

From the 1890s until the 1930s, a significant split between Republican support by the northern states and Democratic support by the southern states.


Opposed to the heavy emphasis on patronage, disliked the party "machinery," was fearful of heavy immigration. Also called progressives.


Favored primary elections, strict voter registration, and civil service reform.

realigning periods

Also known as critical periods, kinds of voters that support parties change

Realignment #1

Major party is so badly defeated that it disappears and a new party emerges to take its place.

Realignment #2

Two existing parties continue but voters shift their support from one to another.

Electoral Realignment

New issue cuts across existing parties and replaces old issues that were formerly the basis of party identification. (Slavery, Great Depression)

Split Ticket Voting

Vote for different parties in an election (versus straight ticket). Creates divided government in which Congress and the Presidency are two different parties.

Office Bloc Ticket

Versus the Party Column Ticket that creates more split ticket voting

National Convention

Meet every four years to nominate a presidential candidate.

National Party Spending

$12 million spending for each party for direct presidential candidate work. Thus, send much $$$ to the state parties!

soft money

Money not reported to the FEC to be spent on party activities, such as voter registration instead of on a specific candidate.

Buckley v. Valeo

held that limitations on donations to candidates were constitutional, but spending caps were an unconstitutional abridgment of free speech under the First Amendment.

McCain-Feingold Act

Banned national political party committees from accepting or spending soft money contributions.

National Convention Delegates

Republicans give more delegates to faithful states. Democrats give more to large states.


Party leaders and elected officials who don't have to run in the primary to become delegates to the National Convention

Political Machine

Party organization that recruits its members by incentives such as jobs, money, and government favors.

Hatch Act

Made it illegal for federal civil service employees to take an active part in political management or political campaigns.

Ideological Party

Values principles above all else; including winning. Mostly Third Parties.

Litmus Test

Demands of the ideological activists in the party to find out true party beliefs. Usually controversial questions used.

Solidary Incentives

People who engage in politics for the fun of it and to be a part of an organization.

Sponsored Party

Another organization that creates or sponsors a local party structure. (Typically unions.)

Personal Following

Political support of a candidate on the basis of popularity.

Plurality System

The winner is the person who gets the most votes, but not necessarily the majority of the votes.

Winner take All

Not in Maine and Nebraska --- Minor parties can't compete in this system.

Williams v. Rhodes

Unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment to restrict third parties from getting on the ballot.

One-Issue Parties

Seek a single policy and thus avoid other issues. (Free-Soil Party)

Economic-Protest Party

Protest against depressed economic conditions, but usually disappear as soon as conditions improve.

Factional Parties

Created by a split in the major party, usually over the identity and philosophy of the major party's presidential candidate.

Third Party Influence

Minor parties develop ideas that the major parties adopt. Factional Parties have had the greatest influence on public policies.

Nominating a President

Push to appeal to the majority of the voters, thus take a middle-of-the-road view.


More activists than rank and file members; more liberal or conservative.

Primary Elections

Only about 1/2 of the number of voters in the general election.


Meeting of party followers in which party delegates are picked. Only the most dedicated attend.

Congressional Incumbents

Win with over 60% of the vote. Since 1962, over 90% of House incumbents have won. Have the staff, publicity, and franking privileges. Can deny they are the cause of the "mess in Washington."

Congressional Elections

Lower turnout during off year races. Candidates must be appealing to their constituents, b/c can do things president cannot.


A popular president could help get congressional candidates elected. Not so much any more.


Committee set up by and representing a corporation, union, or special interest group. Can give up to $5000 in an election. (primaries and general election are separate)

Federal Matching Election Funds

Must raise at least $5,000 in individual contributions of $250 or less in each of 20 states.


Districts of unequal size


Drawing a district boundary in some bizarre or unusual shape to make it easy for the candidate of one party to win the election in that district.

Wesberry v. Sanders

1964 - Ruled the Constitution requires that districts be drawn so that one person's vote would be worth as much as another's.

Sophomore Surge

Newly elected congressional leaders become strong in their districts very quickly. (Difference in the number of votes received as a Freshman and the second time around.)

Getting Elected to Congress

Must be closely tied to local concerns and have little influence by the party leaders.

Congressional "Delegates"

Want to get reelected over all else. Seek out committee appointments to produce benefits for their home districts.

Congressional "Trustees"

Seek out committee assignments that give them a chance to address large questions, such as foreign affairs, that have no impact on their districts.

Position Issue

Rival candidate has opposing views.

Valence Issue

Support of the public's view on a matter about which nearly everyone agrees.


Short television ads that contain much information that is seen and remembered.


Campaign activity that appears on a news broadcast. Have greater credibility than spots and cost little money.

Free Television

Time given to major presidential candidates, but not minor third parties.

Congressional Election Money

No federal dollars. Incumbents get over 1/3 of their money from PACS and don't spend much out of pockets. Challengers spend half as much money, but only get 1/10 from PACs.

Federal Support of Third Parties

Money from federal government is you have won at least 5% of the vote in the last election.

independent Expenditures

Spending money by PACs that is not directly given to the candidate, such as advertising. Can't directly refer to a candidate during the 60 days preceding a general election or 30 days before a primary.

Hard Money

Donations to a campaign through PACs or individual donations as limited by law.

Peace Time Election

Winner determined by the state of the economy, the political party affiliation, and the character of the candidate.

Pocketbook Vote

In good times, the party holding the White House does well. In bad times, it does poorly.

Party Identification and Voting

More identify with Democrats, but Republicans do better with Independents. Higher percentage of Republicans tend to vote.

Prospective Voting

Examine the views that the rival candidate has on the issues of the day and cast our ballots for the person we think has the best ideas for handling these matters. Mostly political activists!

Retrospective Voting

Looking at how things have gone in the recent past and vote for the party that controls the White House if we like it and against the party if we don't. Elections are decided this way!

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