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PSC 311: Voters, Parties & Elections

Student Outlines for

Schaffner (formerly Bibby), Politics, Parties, and Elections in America

Notes from Schaffner 7th edition, 2014.
Page compiled by Jeremy Lewis, revised 22 July. 2015.

1. Parties and Politics in America (2015)
2. The Party Battle in America (2015)
3. Characteristics of the American Party System (2015)
4. Party Organizations (2015)
5. Nominations for State and Congressional Offices
6. Presidential Nominating Politics (2014)
7. Political Parties and the Voters (2015)
8. The General Election: Campaign Finance and Campaign Strategy (2015)
9. Parties in the Government (2015)
10. A Concluding Note: American Parties-Distinctive, Durable, Adaptive, and Useful

  1. Parties and Politics in America
Notes by V Katy Garren, summer 2015

Politics can be seen as a basic social process involving:

1) the acquisition and exercise of power;
2) the expression and management of conflicts; and
3) the collective action.
Parties help determine who governs/ wins or loses
V.O. Key Jr. urges students of parties to recognize these social structures with 3 elements:
 1) The party in the electorate: voters with a sense of loyalty to identification with the party
 2) The party organization: party officials, committees, volunteer workers, and paid staff
3) The party in government: party candidates for governmental office and public office holders at the local, state, and national levels
The Functions of Parties:
 -Serving as intermediate between citizens and government
  Must compete with other institutions; linkage with interest groups; includes media
 -Nominating candidates for election
  Narrowing of voter’s choice; effects seen in House and Senate
 -Contesting elections
  Channeling the vote; affected by mass of country and people, as well as interest groups
 Organizing government
Requires leadership, division of labor, and rules; executive branch organized on a partisan basis
 -Providing accountability
Holds public official accountable for gov’t actions; Parties contribute to citizen control of government because they are forced to advocate policies to retain support
-Managing conflict
 Mechanisms for compromise
Parties vs. Interest Groups
Parties run candidate sunder own labels; have broad issue concerns; gives priority to controlling the personnel of government; are quasi-public org
21st Century State of Parties
 Americans have not embraced them, but they are a stable part or political history

  2. The Party Battle in America.
Notes by V. Katy Garren, summer 2015
Party Realignments in American History
Signifincanct changes occur in electorate: a minority party becomes a majority (1890, 1932); one party achieves an infusion of strength that enables to be dominate (1896); significant changes in partision loyalty of voters (1860, 1932)
5 Attributes of realignment:
1) regional support for partis change;
2) social groups supporting parties change;
3) new groups of citizens are mobilized and become part of electorate;
4) Voters change not just which party they vote for, but also which they identify with;
5 ) realignments are caused by issues that divide citizens
The First Party System 1788-1824
 Jeffersonian Democratic Republicans supported elite elements of society, fearful of strong national gov, protectors of agricultural interests: vs:  Hamilton’s Federalists supported British and established leadership strata in most states
 Federalists lost support in 1800, after 1816 they were no more. Ushered in “Era of Good Feelings”: period of partyless politics characterized by factionalilism with “Republicans”. In 1824, congressional Caucus was 4-way tie, HR chose Adams whose admin was charterized by intraparty conflict
The Second Party System 1828-1854
 Came into being during a period when American political life was being democratized: slates of presidential elctors were popularly elected; property qualifications for voting were droped; and electoral participation increased dramatically. Whigs and Democrats engaged in popularized campaigning, both used party organized state and local parties. Absence of highly salient issues that might have divided the nation along sectional lines.
The Third Party System 1856-1896
 Civil war caused a demonstration of compelling moral opposition. North had wealth and abolition, South had agriculture and slavery. Democrats dominated by Southerners. Faction within Whigs became Republicans, and dominated b/n 1864-1874.  By imposing Reconstruction, Republicans could use black vote to control Dems. Reps were good at growth in the West and mobilizing party. Era of Austrailian Ballot: ballot paid for by gov, and secret vote
The Fourth Party System 1896-1928
 Growht in manufacturing, rail lines, and corporations led to conflicts within communities and a burst of agrarian and third party movements formed. Movements reflected major economic dislocations. Democrats promoted free and unlimited coinage of silver; low protective tariff; attracted Populists. Republicans advocated gold standard and opposing inflationary coinage of silver; high protective tariff. Era of diminished interparty competition. Affected by Progressive reforms movement. Direct primary instituted as principal method of nominating candidates.
The Fifth Party System, 1932-1968
 Beginning of Great Depression. Republican changed to Democratic majority. New Deal Coalition formed. Blacks, Catholics, Jews, and White supremisits = Democrats. New Deal brought on social welfare programs, social insurance programs

3. Characteristics of the American Party System.

4. Party Organizations

5. Nominations for State and Congressional Offices

6. Presidential Nominating Politics
Week 5: Discussion notes by M. Blair Casebere, Fall 2014

Distinguish primaries from caucuses:

In caucuses, those attending consist of party members and activist who have enough knowledge to choose delegates, they are a smaller portion of the electorate. Because the caucus system is an internal party process, it places a premium on a candidate having dedicated supporters—the type of people who will spend weekends taking part in lengthy party meetings. It is essential that a presidential candidate’s organization have intimate knowledge of the state laws and party rules for delegate selection and of intraparty politics. The caucus/convention process an intraparty affair that requires an efficient organization, whereas presidential primaries are more media-oriented in order to appeal to a mass electorate. Primaries Broadcast; Caucuses/conventions Narrowcast. The primaries also have a participatory nature, giving it widespread appeal.
Are media-oriented.
Caucuses are smaller, they are more based around party activist, while Primaries are bigger, are in bigger states, and are more based on finding a candidate who is already well-recognized to run for the party; thus, it is more likely for a candidate to become known by their strategic recognition through the primaries, at least before Obama.
Why did candidate Obama in 2008 take a caucus strategy?
Because he didn’t have the money or the name-recognition to win it big in the Primaries.
Why did his campaign abandon public funding?
 Because he was taking in so many $20 private funds, that he needn’t have public funding and obtaining or accepting it would have hindered his campaign because it would limit the amount of funds he could take in.
Schaffner 6: notes by M. Blair Casebere, Fall 2014
 Nomination Politics was once party-centered, as in the case of President Humphrey in 1968.
 However, in todays case, the nomination process is Candidate-centered, primary-focused, participatory, and media-intensive.
Methods of Delegate Selection
The national nominating conventions held in the summer of presidential election years are the culmination (highest climatic point) of a long season of campaigning to select national convention delegates.
Thus, the processes of delegate selection are critical to the outcomes of the convention.
 Delegate selection methods:
• The Presidential Primary – used by Republicans & Democrats
• The Party caucus/Convention process – Republicans & Dem.
o Involves a relatively small proportion of the voters
o Consist of party members and activist who normally have the interest, motivation, and knowledge to participate in the party meetings and state party meetings to choose delegates.
• Automatic selection by virtue of the party or by the Elected position the candidate holds – ONLY Democrats
The various states are free to devise their own delegate selection methods as long as those methods conform the National Party Rules (the rules of the national Reb. and Dem.ic parties).
Because each state legislature and/or state party organization is involved in devising the delegate selection processes, practices followed within the state vary widely.
State Delegate Selection Procedures Must Conform to National Party Rules
-Although the states have some latitude in determining how their delegates to national convention will be chosen, the procedures they devise must be in strict conformity with national party rules.
The national party rules take precedence over the guidelines set forth by state statutes and state party rules in matters of delegate selection.
A state delegating that is not chosen in the conformity with the national party rules runs the risk of not having its delegation seated at the national convention—a severe sanction that the national party can impose.
The most celebrated instance of conflict between a state party and its national organization over the delegate selection procedures took place in Wisconsin.
After 1974, the Dem national party rules forbade selecting delegates through open primary procedures, and thus Wisconsin’s law was out of conformity with national party rules.
While the Dem National Committee agreed to permit states with open primary traditions (Wisconsin and Montana) to use open presidential primaries in 1986 to put this bitter controversy behind them and prepare for the 1988 elections, the Dem National Committee (DNC) continued to assert its power to regulate delegate selection procedures.
Presidential Primaries
The largest share of convention delegates is chosen through procedures that involve presidential primaries.
The presidential primaries determine the allocation of over 2/3 of the delegates selected to either (party?) convention.
However, the number of primaries held in any presidential election year has been subjected to considerable variations depending on political conditions(, such as financial shortfalls, or a republican delegate being unopposed like George W. Bush).
Most presidential primaries are funded and operated by the state governments.
“With the largest share of the delegates selected through procedures that involve presidential primaries, it has become imperative for presidential candidates to enter virtually all of the primaries in order to win sufficient delegates to gain a convention majority.” –President Obama proved this wrong
Primaries are an indicator of a candidate’s ability to win the election, and thus are particularly important because of the image they can convey of a candidate’s popularity, electability, and momentum.
-The mechanics of the presidential primaries vary from state to state depending upon applicable state laws and party rules.
There is normally a contest for delegates in each congressional district and an additional contest to determine how the delegates who will represent the state at large will be allocated among the presidential candidates.
Therefore, a presidential candidate can lose the statewide vote, and still pick up delegates by making a strong showing in the primaries of congressional districts within a state.
Depending upon state laws and party rules, the states also vary in terms of which voters are allowed to participate in the primaries by determining if the primaries are closed (only registered Dem can vote in the primary), simi-open (only those registered as Dem or independents can vote in the primary), or open (any registered voter can vote in the primary).
Closed—National Democratic Rules & NR Rules
Simi-open –National Democratic Rules & NR Rules
Open –Only National Repub Rules
State Party Caucuses and Conventions
Until the 1972 convention, a majority of the states used state party caucuses and conventions to select delegates.
In caucus/convention states, the delegation selection process of delegate selection involves a progression of party meetings starting at the local level (local caucuses), running through the congressional district (congressional district caucuses), and culminating in a party convention.
At congressional district caucuses, representatives chosen by the various local caucuses meet up to:
• Register their preference for the party’s presidential nominee
• Elect delegates to the national convention to represent the congressional district
• Elect delegates to the state party convention.
The national convention delegates selected to represent the congressional district at the national convention are chosen to reflect what extent that presidential candidates have support among the congressional district caucus participants.
Delegates from the various congressional districts in a state then meet in a state party convention to elect national convention delegates to represent the state at large
Because the caucus system is an internal party process, it places a premium on a candidate having dedicated supporters—the type of people who will spend weekends taking part in lengthy party meetings.
Whereas presidential primaries are media-oriented (broadcast) in order to appeal to a mass electorate, the caucus/convention process is more of an intraparty affair that requires an efficient organization.
Combination Presidential Primary and Caucus Systems
Some states use a combination of the presidential primary and party caucus to choose their national convention delegate.
Occasionally, states hold presidential primaries that are purely popularity contest that have no binding effect on the delegate selection, because in these cases the delegates are actually chosen in the party caucuses and conventions
Automatic Unpledged Delegates
-The Democrats are the only party that allows Automatic Delegates.
In an effort to increase convention participation by party leaders and elected officials, the Democrats (for their 1984 convention) made provisions in their national rules for granting automatic delegates status to major party leaders and elected officials.
Republican Party leaders and elected officials must go through the regular primary and caucus procedures in order to become delegates.
Phases of the Nomination Process
Today the nomination process is a lengthy, time and money consuming task, often taking up to four years.
 There are 4 main phases to the Nomination Process
• Phase 1: Laying the Groundwork…: The “Invisible Primary”
o During the period following a presidential elections, prospective candidates begin the planning and preparations for their campaigns.
o The pace of presidential campaigns intensifies during the year of the midterm elections, as candidates seek to play a prominent role in assisting their parties in congressional, senatorial, and state elections.
o Much like machines, the strategy is to create a sense of obligation among officeholders that can be later converted into commitment of support for presidential nomination.
o During the year preceding the presidential election, the pace of campaigning accelerates.
o A year before the presidential primaries it is essential for a candidate to rais some serious money for their nomination campaign.
• Phase 2: Delegate Selection: The Early Contests…
o The early contests for delegates are important, not only because of the number of delegates at stake but also because of the benefits that are attached to doing well in these events.
o Those who falter in the early contests find that their poll ratings, and support from prominent leaders all diminish, and many have to drop out.
o This phase is the “media fishbowl” phase
o What matters most in the early contests is how the results of the primaries are interpreted.
o The concentration of primaries and caucuses resulting from front-loading means that candidates must be equipped to in quick succession in a series of multistate primaries across the country after the New Hampshire primary.
o Instead of predicting the winner of a nomination, the New Hampshire primary, as well as other early primaries, has played a role in winnowing the number of candidates in the race; those who do poorly drop out for lack of support.
• Phase 3: Delegate Selection: The Later Primaries and Caucuses
o This stage in the nominating process can have crucial and long-term implications for the outcome of the general election.
o Lengthy, controversial, angry and bitter primary campaigns cost the eventual nominee valuable time and money needed for intraparty peace-making, media advertising.
• Phase 4: The Convention: Ratifying the Decision of the Primaries and Kicking Off the General Election Campaign
o National Conventions are no longer deliberate bodies whose delegates weigh the competing claims of rival candidates for the nomination.
o (In other words,) the convention has become largely just a formality after a hard fought battle with the primaries and caucuses.
o Even through the actual nomination may have been decided well in advance of the convention, what happens at the convention and how it is presented in the news media can have implications for the campaign.
The Ongoing Process of Party Reform
The immediate causes of the latest surge of nomination reforms were the divisive 1968 and 1972 Democratic conventions and the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. These attempts, plus attempts to remedy problems in the nominating process that were perceived to have contributed to the Democrats losing five to six presidential election between 1968 and 1988, created a powerful impetus for an ongoing process of reform within the Democratic Party.
The Reformed Democrats
The 1968 Democratic Convention was widely seen as having been unrepresentative of the Democratic voters
In 1972, party regulars readily agreed to the demands for a commission to overhaul Democratic rules of delegate selection.
This commission was known as the McGovern-Fraser Commission; it proceeded to propose a series of major changes in the Democrats’ nomination process that were put into effect in 1972.
Among the most salient features of these reformed rules enforced by the DNC are:
• Openness:
o State primaries must have written rules of delegate selection, give public notice of all meetings, and have uniform statewide times and dates for meetings.
• Proportional Representation:
o Delegates must be chosen through presidential primaries, and party caucuses must be allocated among the candidates based upon their share of the vote
o A minimum threshold 15% of the vote in a primary or caucus is required before a candidate can be awarded delegates.
o All types of winner-takes-all primaries are banned.
• Ban on Open Primaries:
o Open presidential primaries are banned, with special exemptions granted to Wisconsin and Montana b/c of their open primary tradition.
• Automatic (Super) Delegates:
o Automatic/uncommitted delegate status is granted to the president and vice president; members of the House and Senate; members of the Democratic National Committee; Democratic governors; and former presidents, speakers, of the House, Senate majority leaders, and former DNC chairs.
• Affirmative Action:
o State parties are required to encourage participation and representation of minorities and traditionally underrepresented groups.
• Equal Division:
o State delegations must be composed of an equal number of men and women.
• 3/4ths of a state’s delegate must be selected through either primaries or caucuses at the congressional district level:
o In other words, A state’s delegates cannot all be selected on the basis of a statewide primary.
These changes have transformed the nomination process most significantly by reducing the ability of party leaders to influence or control the delegate selection process.
These changes have put party officeholders at “an active disadvantage.” Aka, “the guaranteed role of the regular party has been discarded.”
These changes also encouraged the proliferation of presidential primaries. Aka they made –the nomination process highly participatory, candidate-centered and media-oriented.
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7. Political Parties and the Voters
By Heith Brown, 2015
Voter turnout
• Who Votes
-The two personal characteristics that are most closely related to voter turnout are age and education. As age increases, so does turnout. The higher the level educational attainment the greater the likelihood of voting.
• The Role of Personal Attitudes
- Legal impediments, such as restrictive registration laws, can hold down participation in elections. Nonvoters are more likely to believe that elections do not make a difference. Likely voters have a greater sense of confidence in their ability to understand politics.
• Political Parties and Turnout
- Voters are more apt to be better-educated, middle aged, and white, meaning the Republicans turn out more to vote. An important role that parties play in the political system is to mobilize voters and increase turnout.
• Is Nonvoting a Social Problem?
- There is no compelling evidence to indicate that America’s relatively low rate of turnout results in distortions of the citizenry’s will. Nonvoting in America
Party Identification
• Characteristics of Party Identifiers
- Citizens who affiliate with political parties tend to be more interested in and knowledgeable about politics and more politically active than others. Partisans are also more likely to see important differences between the parties and to care more about electoral outcomes.
• Partisanship as a Political Filter
- Once a citizen has an attachment to a particular party that attachment tends to influence how that person makes sense of politics. Partisans tend to seek political information from sources that share their opinions, and they are more likely to believe information received from fellow partisans. Even when partisans do encounter those with opposing views, they tend to discount them to the greatest extent.
• Partisanship and Vote Choice
- The strength of party identification is related to both voters’ patterns of turnout and loyalty to their parties. As the strength of commitment to a party increases, so does the likelihood that a person will turn out and vote.
• Dealignment or Polarization?
- In studying the shifts in party identification that occurred during and after presidential campaigns, it was found that voters were shifting their party identification to bring it into harmony with their vote preference. With voters becoming less than permanently wedded to a particular party, the electorate has become increasingly susceptible to mobilization by both party and the subject to the impact of short-term influence like candidate appeal and issues.
Parties, Citizens, and Issues
• Candidate Image
- Candidate images are especially important when the candidates’ personalities, political styles, backgrounds, and physical appearances are given a high level of media coverage. In some elections, a candidate gains a major advantage over an opponent because the opponent has a particularly unfavorable image with the voters.
• Impact of the Issues
- The impact of issues on voter choice varies depending upon conditions and candidates. The conditions for issue voting are most likely to be met when voters are suffering or perceive a threat.
Social and Economic Bases of Partisanship and Voting
-Economic and Class Differences, Religious Differences, Gender Differences, Regional Differences, Racial Differences

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8. The General Election: Campaign Finance and Campaign Strategy
By Heith Brown, 2015
• Financing Elections
- The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) requires that all contributions of 200$or more must be identified and reported. Candidate committees and parties must also file periodic pre election reports and a final postelection report with Federal Election Commission (FEC). Candidates for federal office may raise money from individuals, political action committees (PACs), and party committees. Party committees are also authorized to make coordinated expenditures on behalf of the party and its candidates. Although political parties are restricted in terms of how much they may spend to support congressional and senatorial candidates, there are no overall limits on how the amount the candidates’ organization may spend. The most important part of the BCRA was the ban on soft money. By giving money to candidates, not parties, the FECA reinforced the decentralized qualities of the American party system and confirmed the conception of the party as a candidate-dominated structure. PACS and the newer 527 committees compete with and complement the parties in the campaign process. The FECA authorizes public funding of general election campaigns for the presidential candidates who qualify and wish to accept the federal subsidy. In addition to public funding of presidential campaigns, approximately half of the states have public-funding statutes for state elections.
• The Electoral College
- Each state’s allocation of electoral votes is determined by its representation in the Congress. In every state but Maine and Nebraska, the allocation of a state’s electoral votes among the presidential candidates is on the basis of a winner-take-all system. To be elected president, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in the Electoral College. Most public discussion of the Electoral College has focused upon the possibility that the popular-vote winner is not assured of an Electoral College majority and election to the presidency.
• The General Election Campaign
- Campaigns differ depending upon who the contending candidates are, the nature of office being sought, the level of government, the applicable campaign finance and election regulatory statutes, and the campaign resources. Most voters in presidential elections make up their minds about the candidate for whom they will vote before or during the nominating conventions. Incumbency comes with major advantages during the election process. Debates have now become a standard part of presidential campaigns. Although the party organizations are seldom involve in the day-to-day management of campaigns, they can provide essential and timely financial support among other things.
• Election Outcomes
-Elections are the culmination of candidates’ campaigns and voters’ decisions, and they are played out as contests for specific offices, in different constituencies, at various times. The same regional patterns that are discernable in presidential elections are also present in congressional elections. After the decennial census, state governments are obligated to redraw congressional district lines to assure that districts maintain approximately equal populations. With the exception of Democrats in the South from 1960 until 1994, there has been no consistent pattern of regional party dominance of governorships. The increased professionalization od legislatures also appears to have increased the incumbency advantage in state legislatures.

9. Parties in the Government

10. A Concluding Note: American Parties-Distinctive, Durable, Adaptive, and Useful