The American Democracy, 10th Edition (Patterson)

Chapter 8: Political Parties, Candidates, andCampaigns: Defining the Voter's Choice

Chapter Overview

This chapter examines political parties and the candidates who run under their banners. The development and continued evolution of the two-party American system is explored, and the effect it has had on the U.S. electoral system and governmental system is discussed. Campaigns are also examined; U.S. campaigns are party-centered in the sense that the Republican and Democratic parties compete across the country election after election. Yet campaigns are also candidate-centered in the sense that individual candidates devise their own strategies, choose their own issues, and form their own campaign organizations.

The main ideas included in this chapter are as follows:

  • Political competition in the United States has centered on two parties, a pattern that is explained by the nature of America’s electoral system, political institutions, and political culture. Minor parties exist in the United States but have been unable to compete successfully for governing power.

  • To win an electoral majority, candidates of the two major parties must appeal to a diverse set of interests. This necessity has normally led them to advocate moderate and somewhat overlapping policies, although this tendency has weakened in recent years.

  • U.S. party organizations are decentralized and fragmented. The national organization is a loose collection of state organizations, which in turn are loose associations of local organizations. This feature of U.S. parties can be traced to federalism and the nation’s diversity, which have made it difficult for the parties to act as instruments of national power.

  • The ability of America’s party organizations to control nominations and election to office is weak, which in turn strengthens the candidates’ role.

  • Candidate-centered campaigns are based on money and media and utilize the skills of professional consultants.

Patterson Tenth Edition Large Cover
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