POLI 360: Lecture 3
∙ TwoParty Competition across the United States
o There was lots of twoparty competition in the United States during the 19th century. This changed, however, after the 1896 election between William
McKinley (Republican) and William Jennings Bryan (Democrat).
o McKinley had traditional, moderate Republican policies that were antagonistic to
immigrants while still representing northern corporate interests.
o Bryan ran a populist campaign, focusing on rural issues against corporate interests. He promoted the idea that cities were corrupt, and so were the Catholics
that lived in those cities.
∙ McKinley Won the Election of 1896
If you want to learn more check out What is the ficks law of diffusion?
o That election ushered in a large Republican majority in the North. Republicans no
longer needed to compete in the South to win the presidency.
o In return, the South became just as completely Democratic, though it was still
controlled by southern conservatives.
o System of 1896: a competitive twoparty system is replaced by a sectional system, with oneparty Republican dominance in the North and oneparty Democratic
dominance in the South. We also discuss several other topics like What is the effects on demand?
o The result was a declining voter turnout and lack of issue competition in national
∙ 50 State Party Systems
o Twoparty competition at the state and local levels increased with the New Deal readjustment in the 1930s, and Democrats became much more competitive in the
North than they had been in the System of 1896.
o Since then, local and state party competition has continued to change over time. ∙ Ranney Index of State Party Competition
o This index examines competitiveness between parties.
o Three indicators of party strength:
Percentage of popular vote for parties’ gubernational (governor)
Percentage of seats held by parties in each house of the state legislature. Length of time and percentage of time that parties held both the
governorship and majority in state legislature.
o Five categories of states:
OneParty Democratic State and OneParty Republican State: the
dominant party has complete control over the respective states.
Modified OneParty Democratic State and Modified OneParty
Republican State: the dominant party has control over the respective state We also discuss several other topics like Volley theory states what?
although the minority party does win some elections.
TwoParty States: both the Democratic and the Republican parties are
competitive in elections.
o Trends Over Time
The OneParty Democratic State essentially no longer exists.
The Ranney index investigates party competition at the state level. o Local Presidential Voting Competition
Ranney Index analyzes party competition using voting for only the
gubernational and state legislative races.
The Ranney Index can also analyze how presidential election competition
differs across the United States.
Some people say that American are moving to counties consistent with their political preferences; many counties, however, are actually more
competitive now than in the Election of 1920.
∙ Why Does the United States Have a TwoParty System? We also discuss several other topics like Photosynthesis converts light energy to?
We also discuss several other topics like What are the 6 major mountain ranges?
o Many democracies in other nations have multiparty systems.
o Most political scientists argue that the main reason for the difference is institutional, since parties are ingrained into the American election and voting
Duverger’s Law: singlemember (for example, the House of
Representatives) election districts with plurality elections tend to produce twoparty systems.
o SingleMember Districts: only one person is elected to represent a district. This
is the system we have the in the United States. If you want to learn more check out Who was the sociologist who was primarily responsible for establishing sociology in britain and america?
o MultiMember District: multiple individuals are elected to represent a district. o Plurality Elections: the candidate with the most votes wins the election. o Proportional Representation Elections: the seats in the district are apportioned
to different parties, depending on each party’s share of the vote. This occurs only
in multimember districts.
o Incentives for Minor Parties in These Systems:
Singlemember plurality election systems are winnertakeall systems. Potential minor parties are incentivized to support a major party candidate,
rather than risking the least preferred candidate winning the election.
o Proportional Representative Systems Are Not WinnerTakeAll Systems In this system, minority parties can still get elected, and proportional
representation gives minority parties an incentive to truly compete in the
This system also implies that minority parties do not have to fear throwing
the election to the leastpreferred candidate.
∙ Alternative Theories of TwoParty Systems
o Dualist Theories
Dualist theories argue that American political conflict is naturally divided into two choices, like eastern commercial interests vs. western
frontiersman and agrarian interests; North vs. South; urban vs. rural; and
upperincome vs. lowerincome.
Another dualist argument is that all politics are inherently focused on binary choices, like incumbents vs. challengers; change vs. status quo; and
conservatives vs. liberals.
In the latter view, the multiparty system in other countries is a façade for a dualist system that eventually emerges once parties form coalitions to
govern. Essentially, European parties only have trivial differences that
vanish once coalitions are needed.
o Social Consensus Theories
There is a broad consensus in American politics on the Constitution, government structure, and a regulated free enterprise system. This broad
consensus allows America politics to come together in a twoparty system. This broad consensus may have been encouraged by the fact that political
rights came early to the United States, in contrast to the rest of the world. ∙ All white males had the right to vote in the United States before
the Industrial Revolution, regardless of property holdings or
financial status. This allowed them to fight for economic rights as
members of a twoparty system.
∙ White males could also bring women and minority votes into this
twoparty system once their political rights were recognized.
In other countries, voting rights did not come until after the Industrial Revolution. This meant that citizens were fighting for their political and
economic rights at the same time.
∙ These people often fought for their rights through Socialist and
Communist parties that challenged basic political and economic
structures of society.
∙ The TwoParty System and Third Parties
o Once the twoparty system was established, both major parties had compelling reasons to continue it by restricting minor party opportunities. It is easier to manage competition with only one other competitor, and so the twoparty system
o Constraints on Minor Parties:
Ballot Access Laws: Major parties usually get placed on the ballots automatically, while minor parties must petition to get on the ballot. Since
election laws are states’ responsibility, this implies that there are 51
different ballot access laws (including the District of Columbia). There are
different numbers of signatures and different filing deadlines in all states. Campaign Finance Laws: Major party candidates automatically get
public funding for presidential elections once their conventions are held, whereas minor parties must get five percent of the national vote to get public funding for the next national election. For example, if the Green Party gets five percent or more of the national vote in 2016, then they will
get public funding for the 2020 presidential election.
Presidential Debates: Presidential debates after party conventions are sponsored by a bipartisan commission between Democrats and
Republicans; they decide who is allowed to participate in the debates. For instance, in 2000, Ralph Nader of the green Party and Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party were not allowed to participate in the presidential debates, based on the relatively high threshold of potential votes.
POLI 360 – Lecture 4
∙ Other Minority Party Hurdles
o Campaign Resources: Minor party candidates have little, if any, access to most partisan donors. Moreover, minor party candidates do not have access to the media support that majority party candidates have, such as advertising and media
consultants and partisan media coaching.
o Media Coverage: The media reports on candidates that they think have a chance of winning. Most minor parties do not get a great deal of media coverage since
they are usually unsuccessful; that coverage, therefore, would not draw large
audiences to media companies.
∙ Opportunities for Minority Party Candidates
o Financial Resources: Wealthy minority party candidates can buy some of the
resources that minority party candidates already use.
o Existing Name Identification: It is easier to run a campaign when people already know who you are and what you stand for. Trump is an example of this
∙ Major Party Responses to Minor Parties
o Major parties respond to minority challengers by absorbing the minor party’s issues; this gives the majority party an opportunity to convert the minority party’s
supporters into their own supporters.
∙ State and Local Organizations
o Cadre Parties vs. MassMembership Parties
Cadre Parties: Cadre parties are run by leaders and activists with little participation by the public. These few leaders and activists choose party strategies and candidates. Their focus is on electing candidates, not
promoting issues or ideology. Party actions ramp up mainly at election
MassMembership Parties: Massmembership parties have large numbers of duespaying members. They are focused on ideology and
issues, not just elections. Members choose both the party’s policies and its
leaders. Therefore, members directly influence their party in government. o American political parties are modified cadre parties. American parties focus
more on electionwinning than ideological purity. Additionally, American political parties do not have large, duespaying memberships that choose party policies and leaders.
o American political parties do diverge from the cadre party model in some ways. For instance, there is some significant public participation, although not as much
as in European ideological parties.
o American political parties are increasingly yearround, professional organizations. ∙ Public Participation
o Primary voting
o Getoutthevote efforts: The Democratic Party coordinates with unions, and the Republican Party uses the 72hour plan, in which Republicans ask their families, friends, and communities to vote for their preferred candidate. This plan is effective because it has been proven that people are more likely to take a specific
action when someone they know asks them to perform that specific action. ∙ Levels of Party Organization
o Precinct, Ward, and Township Committees: Activity of local committeepeople is varied. These positions go vacant in many communities. In the late 19th century, however, these committees were the backbone of the party machines, such as
Tammany Hall and the Daily Machine, which focused on winning elected offices. o City Committees
o County Committees
o District Committees
o State Central Committees
∙ Party Machines
o Hierarchically structured: Party bosses managed the ward leaders, who in turn
managed the precinct leaders.
o Operated through material incentives: Party organizations provided jobs and social services to immigrants in return for votes. In fact, some party machines, like Tammany Hall, would meet immigrants on the dock and shuttle them directly
to voter registration.
o Patronage positions: These are jobs granted for party loyalty, as opposed to merit. These positions were exempt from the civil service protection; essentially,
this means that employees could be fired for not supporting the party that gave
them their positions.
o Party organizations provided business to local companies.
∙ Famous Machines
o Chicago’s Daily Machine
o New York’s Tammany Hall
o Philadelphia’s Republican Machine
o Many cities, like Phoenix, Milwaukee, and Seattle, have never had party machines. Despite elites’ incentives to form machines, they are not guaranteed to
∙ The Decline of Party Machines
o Opposition to corruption: Reform groups, and those created by Democratic
professionals, opposed corruption.
o Civil service protection: job security (can only be fired for meritorious reasons)
and equal pay.
o Changing ethnic makeup of cities: The flood of immigrants into the United States as well as the AfricanAmerican Great Migration from the South to the
North resulted in diverse cities.
o Replacement of parties’ social welfare functions with federal social programs: immigrants needed welfare from somewhere, as many of them came to the United States with very few possessions or connections, and the federal government began to provide that welfare. The New Deal, however, temporarily strengthened party machines as FDR funneled social welfare through them. Party machines were eventually rendered obsolete with President Johnson’s Great
Society social programs.
o A survey conducted in 19791980 and again in 1992 showed that parties have gotten stronger, regardless of the decline in party machines.
∙ Changes in Local Parties’ Organization Strength: local Republican and Democratic parties show noticeable increases in infrastructure between the late 1970s and the early 1990s. Local Republican and Democratic parties, however, shows less noticeable
increases in professional staffing over the same period of time.
∙ State Committees: these committees have important powers, like… o Calling and shaping party conventions.
o Choosing representatives for the national committee.
o Selecting the party’s presidential electors.
o Choosing some national convention delegates.
o Diffusing campaign assets for state and local race.