Political Parties

Republican and Democrat Party logos. But which is which?

Political Parties in the US

There are two main parties; Republican (GOP) and Democrat

Parties are decentralised

Each has a national committee; the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC)

However everything else is done at state level;

  • State Party Convention
  • State Party Committee
  • County Commitees
  • District Commitees
  • City Commitees
  • Ward Commitees
  • Precinct Commitee

Parties are diverse

The Democrats include;

  • Liberal Democrats
  • New/Centrist Democrats
  • Conservative Democrats

And their priorities vary at state level.

What kind of Democrat is Clinton?

The Republicans include;

  • Right-wing Republicans
  • Moderate Republicans
  • Compassionate Conservatives
  • Christian Conservatives

And their priorities vary at state level.

What kind of Republican is John McCain?

In general, the old Democrat ‘New Deal Coalition’ has weakened.   During the 1990s Bill Clinton tried to move the party away from its ‘tax and spend’ liberal base to a more centrist third way.  The democrats have lost support among southern whites and have a problem attracting male voters but they are still strong in the Northeast

Typical Democrat voting blocs; blue-collar, unionised, urban, west and northeast, Jewish, racial minority, possibly black, female, liberal, less wealthy, less well-educated


The Republicans have experienced difficulties attracting women and racial minority voters but are very strong amongst white evangelical Christians.

Typical Republican voting blocs; white-collar, professional, suburban, rural, sun-belt, protestant, especially evangelical and increasingly catholic, white but increasingly Hispanic, male, conservative, well-off, college educated


The US has a Two Party System

  • Every President since 1856 has been Democrat or Republican
  • In Jan 2005 every congressman except one and every senator except one was a Republican or Democrat
  • All 50 state governors are Republican or Democrat

This is because

  • FPTP electoral system
  • Major parties are very diverse so a range of opinions are catered for

Some political scientists argue that the party system is in decline

Evidence for this is;

  • Parties have lost control over candidate selection through the use of primaries
  • Candidates communicate with voters directly through the media rather than through party machine
  • Campaigns are candidate centred and issue based
  • Candidates given funding in presidential elections rather than parties
  • Split ticket voting

However other political scientists argue that there has been party renewal

Evidence for this is;

  • All presidents and most governors and members of congress have been Republican or Democrat
  • National Conventions
  • Both parties have modernised their structures and network
  • Soft money
  • Nationalisation of campaigns
  • Increased partisanship in congress

Third Parties

There are a number of other political parties in the US

They have enjoyed some success

1992   Ross Perot won 19% of vote

2000 Ralph Nader

Nader in 2008

However third parties face difficulties because of;

FPTP electoral system

  • Federal Campaign Finance Laws
  • Ballot Access laws
  • Lack resources of major parties
  • Lack media coverage
  • Often seen as extremist
  • Major parties are diverse and cater for most opinions


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