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Political Parties and the Electoral Process

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Political Parties and the Electoral Process
Dr. Michael Keith Smith
U.S Government- POL 110
Strayer University
March 7, 2015

Political Parties and the Electoral Process The relationship between political parties and the electoral system has always been a significant one. Federalists and Anti-Federalists formed political parties, each seeking control over the destiny of the new nation that was emerging from the Revolution. It was not long into the foundation of the United States that the protection of the people became a divergent issue among the country's first political parties. Federalists and Anti-Federalists clashed over how to best represent the needs of American citizens in the one document that would become the highest law in the nation — the Constitution. The issue of particular controversy was a component that has since become the mainstay of protecting the interests of the people: the Bill of Rights (Auerbach, 2015). This paper will take an in-depth look at the nature of political parties, as well as the two-party system that has evolved in the United States since its creation in 1776. An ideological difference between political parties is the contrasting visions that constitute their distinct mission and actions as well as the electorial program. While other democracies have numerous active political parties, in the United States there are but two major parties taking part in national elections—the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The main ideological difference between Democrats and Republicans is their fundamental philosophy of which The Democratic Party is the liberal one, while Republicans are comparatively believed to be conservative (Levendusky, 2009). This leads to their respective stance on major economic, taxation/government spending, defense/military, and educational/religious issues that are described herein:
Economic Issues Republicans believe that each person is responsible for his or her own place in society. Government should enable each person the ability to secure the benefits of society for themselves, their families and for those who are unable to care for themselves. Republican philosophy is based on limiting the intervention of government as a catalyst of individual prosperity. Government should only intervene in specific cases where society cannot effectively act at the individual level. The belief is that a person’s destiny should be in their own hands. Governmental power and resources should be kept close to the people, through their state and community leaders, and not centralized in distant federal government agencies (Levendusky, 2009). Democrats believe it is the responsibility of government to care for all individuals, even if it means giving up some individual rights and/or “subordinating” enterprise and initiative. Democrat Party administrations have pushed for the centralization of power with only secondary consideration for the rights of both individuals and communities. (Levendusky, 2009). Taxes and Government Spending Republicans work to cut government spending and to eliminate government waste. Republicans believe individuals should control both their own and their government’s pocketbook – the people should authorize all tax increases. Democrats believe that government knows what is best for individuals. They argue that federal bureaucrats better understand the needs of a community than a locally elected council and the federal government should define the tax burden necessary to meet its obligations, because this is too complicated for individuals to comprehend (Levendusky, 2009).
Defense and Military
Democrats promote deploying lesser military force and prefer lowering military and intelligence services’ expenses. They believe in strengthening the foreign policy of the country to ensure its safety and defense and are hesitant towards the use of military force against nations. Republicans consider a strong national defense as an elementary responsibility of the government. Following 9/11, the Republicans believe in ensuring maximum safety and national defense by scaling up military resources and expenses to lessen the probability of future terrorist acts (Adamic & Glance, 2005).
Education and Civil Rights The Democratic Party does not believe in overburdening students with exams and assessments while Republicans believe that conducting assessments and tests are the best way to assess students’ intellect. Republicans believe that this asserts accountability of students as well as teachers and improves the overall educational system. Republicans have had a tendency to support freedom of individuals and condemned the age old tradition of slavery by passing a bill with majority of Republicans voting in favor of the abolition of slavery. Democrats on the other hand voted with a lesser percentage in favor of the bill which may indicate that they did not consider slavery as condemnable as the Republicans (Carsey & Layman, 2006). When examining the role of other political parties, one has to wonder why “third” parties have done so poorly at the Presidential Level. Probably the single most important reason that the United States has a two-party system is the “winner-take-all” electoral system, instead of proportional representation. In nearly all elections, the winner is the one who receives the largest number of votes. The winner does not need to have more than 50 percent of the vote, only one vote more than his or her opponents. Because a party does not gain anything by finishing second, minor parties can rarely overcome the assumption that a vote for them is “wasted.” Elections for national and most state representatives are based on single-member districts. One person represents the people within a small area, or district, of a state. No matter how many people run, the person with the largest number of votes wins. This encourages parties to become larger, spreading their “umbrellas” to embrace more voters. Parties without big groups of voters supporting them have little hope of winning, and often even have a hard time getting their candidates listed on the ballot (Carsey & Layman, 2006). Consequently, no third party has ever been able to attain major representation at the Presidential Level. The role of the campaign process in maintaing the two-party system is as follows:
The campaign process involves campaigning for financing, resourcing and media coverage. The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) provides major parties a huge sum for their campaign and Democratic/ Republican National Committees serve as central groups that manage finances and other volunteer activities for the campaigns. On the contrary, third parties are denied any substantial funds and are only eligible for it when they win at least ten states or acquire 5% representation. With fewer resources allocated to minor parties, their chance of winning is quite grim as they are unable to hire technical experts and political intelligence the way majorarity parties are alloted. In the absence of any representative party committees for minor parties, ballot access drives are also constrained. Media coverage which is a crucial part of any successful modern-day election campaign is minimal for third parties while Democrats and Republicans receive enormous press exposure. All these campaigning strategies have contributed in upholding the two-party system (Levendusky, 2009).
In conclusion, the analysis in this document shows that electoral systems are central processes that govern political parties and the overall phenomenon of democracy. The emergence and persistence of two major political parties in the history of the American political scenario has been a noteworthy journey.

Auerbach, M. (2015). U.S. Politics: Political Parties. Research Starters. Retrieved from Strayer Library Website: 4ac37165-76ae-439a-af9f-0463a6e253cf%40sessionmgr4002&hid=4105
Adamic, L. A., & Glance, N. (2005). The political blogosphere and the 2004 US election: divided they blog. In Proceedings of the 3rd international workshop on Link discovery (pp. 36-43). ACM, retrieved from on May 6, 2014
Carsey, T. M., & Layman, G. C. (2006). Changing sides or changing minds? Party identification and policy preferences in the American electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 50(2), 464-477.
Levendusky, M. (2009). The partisan sort: How liberals became Democrats and conservatives became Republicans. University of Chicago Press, retrieved from

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