Why are US parties often described as ‘organisationally weak’?
US parties are often described as organisationally weak because they are essentially ‘broad coalitions’. For example they contain moderates like McCain republican) and Obama democrat), while also having a more conservative wing. Therefore stronger party organisation would give parties a narrower appeal and potentially alienate large ‘voting blocs’ or proportions of the electorate. This is a reason why it is argued that having ‘organisationally weak’ parties is a necessity in the US political system. It has therefore been argued that symptoms of weak organisation e.g issue centred or candidate-centered election campaigns are deliberate as parties attempt to gain a maximum number of voters.
Another reason why US parties may be seen as ‘organisationally weak’ is because Historically the American parties have always encompassed a range of diverse groups spanning the entire country e.g The New Deal. Consequently , it can be argued that parties seem organisationally weak yet it woud be impossible to perceive otherwise considering the nature of the US political system (separation of powers) and the previous success of parties acting as ‘broad coalitions’.
Consider the reasons of the strength of the two party system and how insignificant third parties are
The US has a two party system, like the UK. One of the main reasons for this is because they both have a First-past-the-post voting system which is unlikely to change. Using this system, it enables two strong parties to be always competing with each other which can be argued as a good thing although it is also argued that it is unfair as it doesn’t give other parties an equal opportunity. A reason why these two parties are so dominant could be because they have ‘catch all’ policies so they attract a wider audience whereas third parties tend to have policies on specific issues such as the Green party which focus’ on environmental issues. One of the main factors in proving it s a two party system is that the last president elected from outside of the two main parties was Martin Fillmore in 1850.
One of the strengths of the two party system is that they are both ‘catch all’ parties. They offer a wide range of policies to attract more people which could be said that it makes things fairer as they are seen more central. It is also argued that having too much diversity in a party could lead to tension as people are all wanting different things from there party. Although, having these two main parties it leads to a dominance in the legislature as they typically hold a majority so it makes getting legislation through a lot easier. That is in theory, in practice it is extremely different as the US have a separation of powers so ‘grid lock’ is a typical occurrence.
One of the main reasons third parties are so insignificant is there lack of media coverage. The media tends to focus on the two main parties leaving people with very little knowledge of the third parties which can reduce ballot access for these. Another reason for there insignificance is there lack of funding. The two main parties tend to have a lot of funding and raise a lot of money so they have the opportunity to go campaigning whereas it is a completely different story for the third parties with their lack of funding. Third parties find it difficult to secure media attention and coverage of their issues, and consequently struggle to achieve name recognition or national awareness. They are usually excluded from debates and lack electoral machines to persuade their supporters to turn out to vote.
However, their have been some significant third parties and independent candidates in US elections. Some argue that Ralph Nader’s candidacy in 2000, when he gained 2.7% of the vote, was a factor in Gore’s defeat, as he took away votes in key states such as Florida which basically handed the election to Bush. Ross Perot’s 19% of the vote in 1992 was...
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