The American Political Party System

The American Political Party System: Continuity and Change Over Ten Presidential Elections

John S. Jackson
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 225
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  • Book Info
    The American Political Party System
    Book Description:

    From party polarization, elections, and internal party politics, to the evolution of the U.S. presidency, John S. Jackson's new book has something for everyone interested in American politics. Beginning with a discussion of the creation of the U.S. government to the formation of today's political powerhouses, Jackson provides a narrative sweep of American party history like none other.

    Unique to this book is a detailed breakdown of the evolution of political parties from 1832 to the current era. Jackson explains how the reform era came to be, as well as how it produced the polarized party era we have today. In doing so, he guides the reader to an appreciation of where U.S. party politics originated and the aspirations of those who helped create the current system.

    Jackson also examines the internal mechanisms and personalities of the Democratic and Republican parties. He compares multiple presidential elections, thus telling a broader story of the unfolding of today's party polarization and gridlock. He also explores the theoretical meaning of the changes observed in the parties from the responsible party model perspective.

    The themes of continuity and change are set in the context of group-think versus rational decisionmaking. Specific focus is given to political elites who are sophisticated about politics and who make strategic decisions, but are also bound by their humanity and occasionally fail to see the right deci-sion due to their own personal biases.

    This book will be particularly useful for those who want to explore polarization, the responsible parties model, the rational actor model, and anyone who wants to better understand elections, party politics, and the evolution of the presidency.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2638-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 The Evolving American Political Party System
    (pp. 1-20)

    Documenting and explaining continuity and change is a crucial challenge in the study of American political parties and politics (Schattschneider, 1960; Campbell and others, 1960). This work takes up that challenge with respect to the party system over the last quarter of the twentieth century. The chapter also presents a stocktaking of the condition of the party system at the midpoint of the second decade of the twenty-first century.

    It is now commonplace to observe that the nation and the parties are deeply polarized, divided into ideologically different and warring camps. That polarization happened over the four decades covered in...

  5. 2 Party Politics in the Reform Era
    (pp. 21-46)

    The research in this book began in the early 1970s during the era of the McGovern-Fraser reforms and the writing of the first-ever national charter, or constitution, for the Democratic Party. These changes were initiated by the disruptions of the highly contentious 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and continued after the disastrously divided convention in 1972 in Miami. This was an era in which the basic concept of what a political party should be, who it should serve, and how a party should be organized to respond to external forces and demands was being debated and was very much...

  6. 3 The Era of Party Reform
    (pp. 47-61)

    The empirical research project that undergirds this book grew out of a specific interest in documenting the important changes taking place in the parties during the early stages of the reform movement. This movement was stimulated by an urge for survival and a commitment to being relevant to the political conflicts of the day on the part of both parties, but especially the Democrats, who had the most internal problems at the time. This movement wound up profoundly transforming the way presidential nominations were made and, in the end, also played a major role in transforming the parties themselves (Shafer,...

  7. 4 On Representation
    (pp. 62-90)

    This chapter explores the meaning of the termrepresentationand how this theoretical concept has played out over the past four decades in real-world debates surrounding the selection of delegates to the two national political conventions. There is, of course, a commonsense understanding of what it means to be a representative. The major point of free elections is that some people are elected to go to Washington or to the state capital to represent the rest of us; it is the rationale for free elections. It is also the meaning of a republican form of government, the form set out...

  8. 5 On Political Values
    (pp. 91-115)

    This chapter examines the political values of Democratic and Republican elites who have led their party organizations through the past four decades. As noted in the previous chapter, it is relatively easy to ascertain the level of demographic representation in a legislative body or in the national conventions. Race, gender, socioeconomic class, religion, and occupation are familiar categories of what Hannah Pitkin (1987) terms “descriptive” or “standing-for” dimensions of representation. These are important components of representation in both a symbolic and a substantive sense of the word. Those social groups that have felt excluded, and that have in fact been...

  9. 6 Party Elites and Party Identifiers
    (pp. 116-147)

    Chapter 4 reviews Hannah Pitkin’s (1987) concept of substantive representation, which points to the importance of attitudes and political values as they influence the behavior of the political decisionmakers. These long-term attitudinal and value commitments on the part of political elites influence their behavior in the political arena as they “act for” the people they represent. The theory of representation holds that the more closely aligned elites’ values are with the values of their constituents, the greater the likelihood that there will be congruence between the political and public policy decisions of the elites and the wishes of the voters....

  10. 7 Party and Political History of the Delegates
    (pp. 148-170)

    we already know something about the political attitudes and values of the delegates as well as their socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds. The next question addresses their party and political histories. How did they attain the status of political elites? What paths did they take to these positions of prominence? What party and political experiences shaped their views? What are their views on the future of their party and how can they ensure that their party prospers in a competitive environment? This chapter examines their responses to these questions.

    It is clear from other research that political elites go through political...

  11. 8 The Candidate and Party Factions
    (pp. 171-188)

    It has been recognized at least since Jeane Kirkpatrick’s study (1976) of the 1972 conventions that candidates and their staffs play an increasingly important role in the organizing and conduct of the national conventions and especially in attracting state and local party activists to their banner as convention delegates. Indeed, one could go all the way back to 1960 and John F. Kennedy’s very personal campaign organization and appeal to the party activists of that day to see the roots of this phenomenon in modern presidential politics (White, 1962). A primary, of course, is essentially candidate centered rather than party...

  12. 9 Summary and Conclusions
    (pp. 189-214)

    In this chapter I sum up the findings and draw some conclusions about the American presidential nominations system and the party activists who are so central to the party organizations. In addition, this chapter offers some proposals for possible changes, as the parties and the American government face the challenges of the coming decades.

    The essence of this study is the documentation of how political parties have evolved in the last quarter of the twentieth century and what the party organization base looks like for Democrats and Republicans at the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century. The...

  13. APPENDIX A. About the Book Sources
    (pp. 215-218)
  14. References
    (pp. 219-228)
  15. Index
    (pp. 229-243)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 244-244)