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POLI 360, Week 12

by: runnergal

POLI 360, Week 12 POLI 360 001


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These notes cover what was discussed in class during the week of 4/4/16.
American Political Parties
David C. Darmofal
Class Notes
political science, Government
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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by runnergal on Sunday April 10, 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 28 views. For similar materials see American Political Parties in Political Science at University of South Carolina.


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Date Created: 04/10/16
POLI 360 – Lecture 17  Parties in Congress o The founding fathers initially put most governing power in the state legislatures  under the Articles of Confederation. o When the Articles failed, the founding fathers implemented the separation of  powers into the Constitution. o The separation of powers was designed to limit the factions’ abilities to enact  policies easily and to undermine party unity. o As a result, parties must form policies across different branches of government  and different branches of Congress. o Parliamentary Systems  Party unity is stronger in parliamentary systems.  In these systems, the cabinet is rearranged or the government is dissolved  if the leaders cannot muster up a majority for their policies, resulting in no particular election date.  Unity is essential in parliamentary systems to prevent government  collapse, especially because those parties are mass­membership parties  with strong platforms that were developed by members and elected  officials. o Congressional Systems  In contrast, Congress can vote against the president, the Speaker, the  majority leader, or any other leader without threat of government  dissolution. The congressperson that votes against the party line may  suffer personal professional problems, such distrust within the party or  fewer campaign donations from the party, but these problems are trivial in  relation to government dissolution.  Congresspeople are therefore freer to vote the preferences of their  constituents or their campaign contributors. o Party Unity  Despite all of these factors that limit party unity. Congressional parties are now much more unified than before.  Congressional party unity varies over time.  Party unity is highest at the beginning of party systems because new  political issues produce realignments with the governing party intending to act on those new political issues.  Party Voting: proportion of roll call votes on which most Democrats  oppose most Republicans.  Party unity was also high during the Czar Cannon period (1903­1911  under Speaker Joseph G. Cannon).  He centralized power in the Speaker position by chairing the Rules  Committee, controlling the floor, and controlling the rules under which  legislation was debated.  Cannon also appointed committee members and committee chairs,  gratifying loyalty and penalizing disloyalty.  The Rules Committee members removed Cannon from the committee in  1910 because of his autocratic leadership style.  Soon after Cannon’s reign, Congress took power away from party leaders  by taking away the Speaker’s ability to appoint committee members and  chairs, leading to a decline in party unity.  Party unity declined even more when the Conservative Coalition emerged  (1940s­1980s); this coalition was comprised of Republicans and  conservative Southern Democrats that agreed on positions concerning civil rights, education, and labor unions.  Speakers in Congress during that era had little party influence; it was hard  for them to influence policymaking and move legislation onto the floor.  As party leaders’ policy influence decreased, policy entrepreneurship by  individual Congresspeople increased.  During the 1960s­1970s, legislators tried to further their careers and  increase their power by spearheading legislation in unaddressed but  developing policy areas. o Rise of the Post­Reform Congress  After the Watergate scandal (mid­1970s), many Democrats took the  positions of vulnerable Republican congresspeople.  These young Democrats took this opportunity to increase the party  leaders’ powers by revising the seniority rule.  Originally, the seniority rule stated that the most senior member of  the majority party on a committee automatically becomes the chair  of that committee.  Since southern reelection rates were very high, many chairs were  Southern Democrats that opposed the party’s policies.  The Democratic Caucus revised the seniority rule; it gave itself the power to challenge and remove committee chairs.  This revision reduced the committees’ powers in relation to the powers of  the party leaders.  Other Reforms  The power to assign committee members was given to the Steering and Policy committee, which is chaired by the Speaker.  The Speaker was also given the power to choose the chair and  party members of the Rules Committee.  The whip system was made more responsive to the party leaders.  Changes in elections and campaigns made parties more  ideologically distinct and therefore more unified. o Three Important Changes  Party activists became more policy­motivated and more ideological.  Campaign contributions increasingly came from ideological  contributors, pulling parties toward their respective extremes.  Southern Democrats were replaced by Southern Republicans, reducing the influence and importance of the Conservative Coalition.  Partisan gerrymandering became more complex, resulting in more safe  (ideological) seats and fewer swing (moderate) seats. o Party Unity Continued  The greatest increase in party unity came with the election of a Republican majority in 1994; the freshman Republican class was very conservative.  Speaker Newt Gingrich used his power to select committee chairs that  would be loyal to his policy program, Contract with America, and he used  the committee structure to get parts of that program on the floor.  This extreme party unity continued in the next Democratic Congress under Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  There is now less party unity in the Republican Party. POLI 360 – Lecture 18  Parties in the Executive Branch o One of the president’s many duties is to be the party leader. o Modern presidents also take responsibility for party fundraising. o Parties are very polarized now, but the citizens they represent are less polarized.  The citizens, however, are more sorted now; liberals are more likely to identify as  Democrats and conservatives are more likely to identify as Republicans. o Even unpopular presidents are still popular with their bases, and therefore can still raise lots of money for their respective parties. o Another one of the president’s duties is to choose the chair of his/her party’s  national committee. 1. Fun fact: Don Fowler, a faculty member of the USC Political Science  Department, was the Democratic National Committee’s chair from 1995­ 1996! 2. Debbie Schultz, the current chair of the Democratic National Committee,  is very controversial because she appears to support Hillary Clinton over  Bernie Sanders. Additionally, she has pledged to not campaign against her Republican friends in Florida. o Nowadays, the president also creats their respective party’s foreign and domestic  th policies. For example, the 111  Congress supported President Obama’s Medicare  overhaul in order to support his presidency, despite the fact that many Democrats  privately did not support the package. o On Election Day, presidents influence voting for their respective parties on the  rest of the ballot because of the position’s conspicuousness. Popular presidential  candidates can increase votes for his/her party, while unpopular presidents can  lessen votes for his/her party. 3. Coattail Effect: When candidates for lower positions are voted into office on the coattails of the president (on the president’s popularity). This effect  has lessened in recent years, but it still exists. 4. Some candidates that the president sweeps into office are in competitive  districts or districts that are usually favored by the opposing party. 5. Additionally, some of these candidates are not strong campaigners. o Presidential popularity also shapes congressional votes during midterm elections. o The president usually loses congressional seats in the midterm election, but the  extent of that loss depends on the president’s popularity at the time. o The president’s party usually loses seats in the midterm elections because of the  theory of surge and decline: the idea that losing seats in the midterm election  reflects different agents of change in the midterm and presidential election years. 6. For example, a popular president is not on the ballot during midterm  election years. o As a result, the marginal candidates in marginal districts lose their seats in the  midterm election without the president’s popularity to support them. o It is currently unclear if Obama’s coalition of voters is transferable to other  candidates. o The Democratic coalition usually stays home for midterm elections, making it  harder for a Democratic president to work with Congress.  Presidents and Congress o Popular presidents are much more likely to get their policies enacted through  Congress than unpopular presidents. o A critical factor that determines presidential success in Congress is which party  controls Congress. Presidents are much more likely to get their proposals through  Congress when the executive and legislative branches are affiliated with the same  party. o Policies will only get enacted in divided government when the electorate of both  parties demand the same change. For instance, the current Congress recently  passed a large bipartisan bill on opiate regulation because both Republicans and  Democrats recognize the need for change in the war on drugs. o Divided government is much more common now than before. o Mayhew, a renowned political scientist, proposes that even if presidents do not  have respectable total success rates with Congress, those rates do not affect the  enactment of significant legislation.  Parties in the Executive Branch o One concern of presidents’ is getting their policies promoted through the  executive branch’s bureaucracy. o Bureaucracy exists because one person (the president) cannot implement  congressional policies by himself/herself. o Factors That Work Against Presidential Control of Bureaucracy 1. Staggered terms for top­level bureaucrats, especially when those terms  differ from the president’s term. For example, Colin Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for part of President Bill Clinton’s term,  opposed LBGT people in the military and forced Clinton’s initial reform  into a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. 2. Bipartisan control of executive agencies and departments. 3. Civil service protections for bureaucrats make it hard to fire employees. 4. Cabinet members and new judges must be confirmed by Senate. 5. Bureaucrats are experts in their fields of study and have access to private  information regarding their respective fields of expertise. Those experts  can then use that private information to oppose the president’s policies.  This would most likely occur when the bureaucrat is in the  opposite party of the president.  Principle­Agent Problem: the problem of bureaucrats using their  private information to oppose the president’s agenda.  This problem is concerning for bureaucracies because people  depend on the president to enact policies, and the president  depends on bureaucrats to help him carry out those policies; this  problem defeats popular sovereignty and creates a lack of  accountability. 6. Self­preservation: bureaucrats have incentives to overstate the importance  of their respective department’s policies and then ask for larger budgets.  This instinct ensures that their departments remain relevant and important  to the president and his agenda.


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