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POLI 360 - Lecture 2, Week 2

by: runnergal

POLI 360 - Lecture 2, Week 2 POLI 360 001


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These notes cover what was discussed in the second lecture. These notes do not include the third lecture, since those notes are available on BlackBoard.
American Political Parties
David C. Darmofal
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by runnergal on Wednesday January 20, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to POLI 360 001 at University of South Carolina taught by David C. Darmofal in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 44 views. For similar materials see American Political Parties in Political Science at University of South Carolina.


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Date Created: 01/20/16
POLI 360 – Lecture 2 Calculus of Voting (Riker and Ordeshook, 1968) Continued  If citizens behave logically (ex. engage in behavior that’s benefits outweigh its costs),  then they should only vote if they have clear rewards from voting (ex. if R is positive).  This analysis only examines the empirical standpoint, not the normative standpoint.  R will not be positive for most citizens since PB is almost equal to 0, and C is usually  bigger than D.  It is, however, in the candidates’ benefits to convince their followers to vote and to create positive rewards for their supporters. Parties allow candidates to do this by influencing  costs and benefits of voting.  Essentially, the calculus of voting leads to parties, which then influence costs and  benefits to get elites elected.  Parties mobilize their supporters by reducing their costs of voting (C). For example, “get  out the vote” efforts decrease supporters’ costs of transportation. Additionally, party  advertising decreases supporters’ costs of gathering information. For instance, parties  could provide supporters with basic campaign platforms for their candidates as well as  locations of local polling places.  Parties also rally their followers by increasing their psychological benefits (D). For  example, party rallies and conventions increase supporters’ attachments to the party and  the party’s candidates. Parties also seek to paint the opposition party in the worst possible light.  Issue Ownership Issue: the idea that certain parties “own” certain issues. For example,  Republicans “own” taxes and foreign policy. Parties diminish issues that their opposing  party owns as well. For example, George W. Bush ran on the No Child Left Behind Act  in 2001, reducing differences in educational policy between Republicans and Democrats.  Ideally, Republicans believed that this would reduce Democratic motivation to vote since both parties appeared to have the same positive stance on education.  Aldrich argues that elites create parties to solve problems of ambition, social choice, and  collective action.  A critique of Aldrich’s work is that it is too fixated on political elites and reduces  citizens’ interests generating parties. Parties and Citizens’ Needs  Parties serve three principle interests of citizens: they make voting easier, they inform  citizens, and they connect citizens to their government.  Informing Citizens o Studies show that citizens pay slight attention to politics and do not know many  particulars about politics. This is not surprising, given the numerous strains on  citizens’ time. o Parties offer information shortcuts to aid citizens’ decision making. These  shortcuts pose no negative consequences for society, since shortcuts and “long­ cuts” offer the same outcome, and citizens have the opportunity to save time as  well. o Citizens know what parties stand for, so they can follow a simple party label and  still vote for their interests. Essentially, citizens do not need to know specific  candidates’ policy stances in order to vote. o By following prompts from party elites they trust, citizens can make effective  policy choices despite their absence of understanding. Some people, however,  follow this party label blindly and may accidentally vote for policies and  candidates that they do not agree with; these cues merely come with a trade­off.  Connecting Citizens to Government o Parties have motivation to pay attention to their supporters’ understandings. o Elected officials, candidates, party activists, and party leaders all pay attention to  followers’ predilections. o This can allow for the communication of citizens’ interpretations to candidates  and elected bureaucrats. o This interest expression is essential for government effectiveness.  Parties and the Polity o Parties also serve essential occupations for the polity. o Parties allow for more effective policymaking in separation of powers, a system  designed to make policies difficult to enact. Essentially, parties link the  government branches. However, when the same party holds the executive and  legislative branches, not passing legislation damages the party label. o They provide continuity to U.S. politics. Additionally, party identification travels  generations because of socialization or genetic predisposition for personality traits that are typically associated with certain parties. o The Democratic Party has been around since 1832, and many would argue that it  traces its origins back to 1800 with the Democratic­Republicans. o The Republican Party was founded in 1854 in Wisconsin. It emerged out of the  Whig party. o This striking constancy (the Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the  world) provides steadiness in U.S. politics. Since parties are so stable, there is no  need to constantly form new coalitions with different members and new parties. Parties as Flawed but Necessary Institutions  Parties have some severe boundaries; the normal critiques of parties have worth.  At the same time, parties execute some essential duties in American politics.  They serve the interests of elite, citizens, and the polity as a whole.  Schatlschneider (1942) argues that democracy is unthinkable without political parties.  No democracy has ever operated in the absence of political parties. American politics has had a competitive 2­party system since 1830s, with the Democrats versus the Whigs initially, which then merged into the Democrats versus Republicans. Characteristics of This System  Competitive: Both of the two major parties have a reasonable chance of achieving  victory in national office.  Two­party system: minor parties do not have a realistic chance of achieving victory in  national office in the majority of elections.  The competitive two­party system speaks only to national competition for the presidency.  National competition is a consequence of local and state­level rivalry.  At local and state­level, the two­party system perseveres. For example, Democrats can  still get on the ballot in South Carolina.  At local and state­level, however, competition has not always persisted.


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