Political Parties and the Electoral Process
Conducting of elections is not the aim of political parties and do not have a role to play in conducting elections and are mainly contestants in the electoral process. There is a difference between parties and electoral administration bodies. It is essential to evade a clash of interest between the parties and the candidates and the regulators, the electoral management bodies; and thus it is very essential for the political parties to build a promise to and assurance in the simplicity and justice of the elections. Transparency, confidence, and efficiency are better performed when parties are there in all phases of the process than when the conduct of the elections is provided to election management bodies with less or virtually no contact at all with political parties. The political parties must have knowledge of all matters of the policies and procedures that disturb them directly or indirectly and must have participation in the decision process. (Political parties and the electoral process)
In the American political system, the political parties are the base. Strangely, the Constitution neither makes conditions for political parties nor for their activity as the means by which candidates for public office are recommended to the voters. The United States has a two-party system at the national level and it has continued throughout the nation’s history, although some opponent national parties have emerged and vanished from the political scene. As of today, the Democratic Party, which began at the time of the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, and the Republican Party which was started in 1854, carries on to govern politics at the federal, state and local levels. (Fundamentals of American Government)
Ideological basis of the Republican Party:
person who evaded change was conservative and chooses to stick on to the tried and true. The Right political point-of-view is identical with being conservative. The Republican Party sticks to a more traditionalist stand. The present philosophies of the Republican Party are: relieve rule and keep government out of business; slash taxes; reduce or maintain social spending; enhance defense spending; minimize the government size and use more capitalistic policies. With regard to world peace to perform with world bodies and use conciliation, but take independent preventive action if essential to safe guard America. In case of crime to give utmost punishment and to safe guard the rights of the victim first and foremost. With regard to social security it calls for privatization; that is to permit people to control their own money and to permit stock investments. With regard to personal responsibility, people should be accountable and be held responsible for their own deeds; launch more religion in schools and allow government initiatives which are faith-based; to support Pro-life abortion; continue death penalty; prohibit same sex marriage; prohibit race-based favoritism; avoid doctor-assisted suicide; follow missile defense program; lesser or abolish smallest salary; With regard to health care, deregulate and set up free market development and with regard to misconduct lawsuits it calls for cap punitive & pain/suffering damage amounts. (Political ideology definitions)
Ideological basis of the Democratic Party:
The actual meaning of a liberal is a person, who supported change, new viewpoints, and new thoughts. To agree with the Left political point-of-view or to be a leftist is similar to being liberal. The Democratic Party sticks to a more liberal platform. The present philosophies of the Democratic Party are: to raise rule and worker security in business; to raise taxes; to raise social spending; to reduce or to preserve defense spending; to raise the government size and employ more socialistic policies; With regard to world peace, initially discuss and then take military action if approved by the U.N. And other world organizations; in case of crime, to safeguard the rights of the accused first and foremost; to raise the age of starting eligibility like 68 or 70 with regard to social security; to raise the salary limits subject to tax. With regard to personal responsibility, the government must defend the people from themselves. In matters of religion to preserve division of church and state and to avoid faith-based government plans. In social issues it stands for Pro-choice abortion, Further it forbids death penalty; permit same sex marriage; preserve race-based preferences; sanction doctor-assisted suicide; Cancel missile defense program and to raise minimum wage. With regard to health care, it calls to make it 100% Government controlled and with regard to misconduct lawsuits, it states not to not restrict disciplinary & pain/suffering damage amounts. (Political ideology definitions)
The role of Political Parties in the legislative process:
The authority to legislate is vested in the United States Congress, under the United States Constitution, in Article I, section 1. The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are the two bodies that make up the Congress. To pass a law, the accord of both is required. but, each chamber has an exclusive task, separate rules of procedure, and different customs. The bicameralism of the U.S. Congress is in consonance with the basic principle of government followed by the framers of our Constitution which means separating government into units, which must allocate power with one another and offers a natural check against oppression and misuse. Since the Congress does not act as a competent, homogenous unit, but as two different bodies frequently in variance with one another, adds to the problems in processing bills from the stage of introduction till the passage of the bill into law. As only a small portion of the bills presented are passed as law, the U.S. legislative process can perfectly be portrayed as legislative Darwinism, or survival of the fittest. The partiality developed into the U.S. legislative process makes it tricky to pass a law but easier to obstruct its course. The framers viewed the House as a chamber, which is representative of, accountable to and closely linked with the American people, in forming a bicameral legislature. (the Legislative Process)
Due to repeated elections, Representatives are seen as more prone to be responsive to alterations in popular sentiment. Representatives are well familiar with their constituencies and are likely to exactly reveal the ideas of the local citizenry and promote the requirements of their districts. The Senate is a lifelong body, only one-third of its membership proceeds for election at any one time. Each Senator contests for election only every six years. The House is intended to replicate the desires of the mass of the American people in the lawmaking process, and the Senate is intended to compel the consideration required to methodically observe the popular opinion. Deliberation necessitates the postponement of suggestions until sufficient arguments have taken place. Therefore the Senate’s rules and traditions give benefits to the minority, like unrestricted debate, so that they can prevent the majority from acting too swiftly. But the rules and customs of the House support the majority to make sure that the people’s view exists and that no minority may hinder them.
When legislation is thought to be critical to the agenda in naming a political party, the party leadership in Congress has often taken power over its progress. Both legislative plans circumvent the conventional committee system of initial consideration by a team of issue specialists, and have ended in more and more measures being taken on the floor among a wider membership with a broader range of motives. This has seriously made Law making difficult. A presidential rejection of an omnibus bill can end in grave political costs for both the Congress and the White House, like the blackout of the federal government in the face of breakdown to pass an omnibus appropriations bill. but, in other cases, signing such a measure into law can end in praise for both the President and the Congress for obliging to form complete results in spite of grave political and policy clash. Both movements make it more problematic to hold the Congress responsible for the legislation it forms. It becomes tricky to identify when and where the vital decisions confirming legislative language were done, when the traditional legislative process is evaded or short-circuited. Consecutively, this makes it trickier for the electorate to find exactly whom to recompense for policy achievement or whom to penalize for policy breakdown. (the Legislative Process)
The Electoral System:
The electoral process was worked out from the American Constitution, which was written in 1785. The framers of the Constitution discussed and discarded a direct popular vote. They supposed most Americans were inadequately educated and incapable of making sensible political decisions. The framers were worried that the public would vote for an enigmatic president instead of a competent and smart president. Hence, the Electoral College was formed. The number of a state’s electoral votes is equivalent to the number of senators and representatives it has in Congress. An elector cannot be a Federal government employee or work for the government in any power. This rule was made to avoid senators and representatives from becoming electors and to preserve partition between the legislative and executive wings of the government. Over the years, the electoral process has changed a lot. As per the original rules, each state legislature selected its electors. The electors would then assemble at a given time and vote for two people. The person with the majority of votes became the president and the runner-up became the vice-president. This system was in practice until the 1800 election. (the Presidential Electoral Process)
By 1800, American politics were dominated by political parties. Under the rules which were prevalent at that time, in the occurrence of a tie, the House of Representatives voted to sever the tie. The electors after 1800 voted individually for the president and the vice- president. Also, presidents and vice-presidents from the same party contested in the election. Between the years 1840 and 1900 the electoral system was focused toward the common people. The electoral system was again altered so that people, as different to state legislators, selected the electors. At present, each state has its own elector selection laws, but the systems normally fall into two types: the caucus or popular election system. In a caucus, people in a community or district assembles at a selected place and vote for electors that signify the candidates whom they want to be president and vice-president. The caucus votes are then collected statewide. At last, all the electors in each state assemble together and vote for the president and the vice-president respectively. (the Presidential Electoral Process)
The present mechanism of the Electoral College is the result of design and experience. Each State is given a number of Electors which is equivalent to the number of its U.S. Senators in addition to its U.S. Representatives, which could have changes as per the size of population of each State as decided in the Census. The political parties with the inclusion of independent candidates in each State present to the State’s chief election official a roll of persons assured to their candidate for president and equivalent in number to the State’s voting capacity allotted. Generally, the major political parties choose the persons either in their State party meetings or by appointment by their State party leaders while third parties and independent candidates simply choose theirs. Members of the Congress and Federal government employees are banned from serving as an Elector to preserve the equilibrium between the legislative and executive wings of the government at the national level. (How the Electoral College works)
The names of the suitably chosen candidates are then formally presented to each State’s chief election officer so that they could appear on the general election ballot. Whichever party line up succeeds in attaining the most popular votes in the State becomes that State’s Electors-so that, as a result, whichever presidential ticket gets the most accepted votes in a State gains all the Electors of that State. The two exceptions to this are Maine and Nebraska where two Electors are selected by statewide popular vote and the rest by the popular vote within each Congressional district. Each State’s Electors assemble in their particular State capitals and cast their electoral votes-one for president and one for vice president.
To put off electors from selecting people of their home State, not less than one of their votes must be for a person from outside their State, though this is problematic as the parties have constantly chosen presidential and vice presidential candidates from different States. The electoral votes are then preserved and passed on from each State to the President of the Senate who, unwraps and reads them before both houses of the Congress. The candidate for president with the maximum votes, and if that is a total majority is affirmed president. Likewise, the vice presidential candidate with the absolute majority of votes is confirmed vice president. If no one gets an absolute majority of votes for president, the U.S. House of Representatives decides the president from among the top three candidates with each State having only one vote and a complete majority of the States being essential to choose. Likewise, if none gets a complete majority for vice president, then the U.S. Senate makes the choice from among the top two candidates for that office. Thus the chosen president and vice president take oath into office on January 20. (How the Electoral College works) description of voting behavior
Voting behavioral patterns in U.S. are been analyzed by researchers and party officials. Only few political processes have been researched widely in comparison to the individual voting preference. (Attitudes towards the new media and voting behavior) Voting behaviors have caught the attention of both the political parties in U.S.. Most of the research has been concentrated on understanding voting behavior in previous elections at national, state or local levels and so on. (Voting Behavior) the study of voting was the center of focus of some of the initial research using survey and has since then been analyzed using a wide range of methodologies. Even though a commonly accepted, descriptive model of the voting process is still elusive, several empirical regularities are well researched. (Attitudes towards the new media and voting behavior)
It is an established truth that the common citizen does not follow a majority of the political issues which take place at the national level, and make their participation by means of identifying themselves with local level political groups, or with professional organizations, or through racial or religious associations, or by means of symbols of identification of either personalized or institutional, like a political icon or a political party. At times the process of identification would take place occurs at small community levels, at times at state levels and in others at the national level directly. This process can take place at the international level, though this level of identification has not been ever considered significant in numerical terms. (Voting Behavior and Elections) However the most forceful power influencing the voting preference of an individual in a presidential or congressional election is his/her identification with the party. This means that voters in America have solid psychological bending toward the two major political parties. (Attitudes towards the new media and voting behavior)
These party identifications are stable over a period of time and strongly influence the voting preferences of individuals. But it should also be understood that in spite of the strong influences of the party, voters can tend to vote against their identification if valid reasons are being provided to them. When individuals are confronted with a new or a voting preference with which they are not familiar, they would tend to fall back on their initial standing preference among the parties. In this manner, the process of identification with party serves as a heuristic, making individuals to take decisions about candidates when they have other less information to give them guidance. Even though new additional information about the relative advantages of the candidates does not avoid the effects of identification with the party, it might influence certain voters to surpass their standing decision and to prefer another candidate. (Attitudes towards the new media and voting behavior) Next if the individual voter is not a professional politician, an increased level of political influence is likely to be an identification of a personal curiosity which is translated into the political arena. (Voting Behavior and Elections)
Even though voting is the formalized activity by means of which a citizen undertakes his civic function, in a representative form of political system, the activity of voting is at a lower level in any empirical scale of political participation. (Voting patterns in America) Historically, some groups which have been provided the right to vote have taken a long time to exercise this right. The 19th Amendment in the year 1920 permitted women their right to vote but this exercise of their voting rights took time to be a reality. Further the 26th Amendment brought down the age of voting to 18 years; but conventionally we have witnessed less than 50% voter turn out from these age groups at general elections and much lesser for other elections. Does this imply that the young voters think that they are not given prominence in the political process and hence do not feel inclined to vote? If this apathy towards voting exist in the younger voters then it is leaving the hard core of voters as those who have a self-interest in voting and maintaining the political status-quo- i.e. those belonging to the white middle or upper class voters who are white-skinned. This definitely brings into focus the political representation of these groups in America. (Voting patterns in America)
Another focus of debate is that those who have registered to vote at times do not exercise their voting rights. (Voting patterns in America) American Citizens who were born in Europe, Latin America, and Asia have less interest to register themselves to vote and those who are born in Europe and Asia are have the less inclination to exercise their voting rights than those born in America. Among the naturalized citizens of America, those voters who have been staying for a longer period who have a longer length of time of residence have greater chances to register and to vote. Also those who are older, have more education and better incomes have greater preference for excercising their voting rights. (Are There Differences in Registration and Voting Behavior Between Naturalized and Native-born Americans?)
Now we shall look at the voters turn out over the years at the general election. Certainly the year of 1960 might seem to be at a distant now, but we may still take a look at the voting turn out then. In the year 1960 there was a voting turn out of 62.8% at the general election and it was considered high. This might have been due to what is known as the ‘Kennedy factor’ which might have given the encouragement for the voters to exercise their voting rights. In the year 1996 the voter turnout was 49% at the general elections and this was the lowest turn out ever since the year 1924. Such a low voter turn out was in spite of a record of 13 million new voters who had registered to vote in the year 1992. The election results of the year 2000 was a follow up of the 1996 election on the basis of voter turn out with only about 50% of registered voters exercising their voting rights. This was also in a campaign where there was no preconceived conclusion regarding the candidates who were Al Gore and George. W. Bush. Also the year 2000 election was considered in recent years to be one of the most open elections. (Voting patterns in America)
Personal observation: Vidal’s observation: “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party and it has two wings: Republican and Democrat”
When the novelist and essayist Gore Vidal stated that “there is only one party in the United States, the Property Party and it has two wings: Republican and Democrat” it tends to symbolize that he was arguing from an anti-capitalist point-of-view. I cannot agree to his argument that the Republicans and Democrats are wings of one single party which is the Property Party. As we have seen from the section on the ideological base of both the parties, we could understand that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party have different ideological leanings. The Republican Party takes a more traditionalist stand whereas the Democratic Party stands for liberal thinking. From a business stand point while the Republican Party argues that the government should be kept out of business and favors privatization, reduce or maintain social spending and taxation, the Democratic Party argues that Government should take a pro-active role to raise taxes; to raise social spending and provide for the security of the workers. Again when we look at social issues, while the Republican Party argues for same sex marriage, supports pro-life abortion, supports death penalty, argues to prohibit race-based favoritism and to avoid doctor-assisted suicide, the Democratic Party on the other hand argues for Pro-choice abortion, to permit same sex marriage, preserve race-based preferences and permit doctor-assisted suicide. Thus we may understand that Republicans and Democrats have a great ideological division between them and cannot be considered as two wings of the same Property Party.
Adams, John. Fundamentals of American Government. Retrieved at http://usinfo.org/facts/gov/oag-pt7.htm. Accessed on 27 February 2005
Bass, Loretta E; Casper, Lynne M. 1999. Are There Differences in Registration and Voting Behavior Between Naturalized and Native-born Americans? Population Division: U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Division Working Paper. No: 28. February. Retrieved at http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0028/twps0028.html. Accessed on 28 February 2005
How the Electoral College works. Retrieved at http://www.fec.gov/pages/ecworks.htm. Accessed on 27 February 2005
Ladd, Jonathan. Attitudes towards the new media and voting behavior. 2004. September. Retrieved at http://www.princeton.edu/~jladd/Chapter3.pdf. Accessed on 28 February 2005
Pinto-Duschinsky, Michael; Laanela, Therese. 1998. Political parties and the electoral process. 06 January. Retrieved at http://www.aceproject.org/main/english/pc/pcb.htm. Accessed on 27 February 2005
Political ideology definitions. Retrieved at http://www.balancedpolitics.org/ideology.htm. Accessed on 27 February 2005
Recent Voting Behavior of Citizens. Eagleton Institute of Politics. Retrieved at http://www.eagleton.rutgers.edu/News-Research/NewVoters/VotingBehavior.html. Accessed on 28 February 2005
Schwartzman, Simon. 1968. Voting Behavior and Elections. University of California, Berkeley. Winter. Retrieved at http://www.schwartzman.org.br/simon/pdfs/voting.pdf. Accessed on 28 February 2005
The Legislative Process. The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Retrieved at http://congress.indiana.edu/backgrounders/the_legislative_process.php. Accessed on 27 February 2005
Voting Behavior. 2002. July. Retrieved at http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/voting_behaviour_in_america.htm. Accessed on 28 February 2005
Voting patterns in America. 2002. August. Retrieved at http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/voting_patterns_in_america.htm. Accessed on 28 February 2005
Wayne, Stephen. The Presidential Electoral Process. Georgetown University. Retrieved at http://www.iwa.org/Publications/lectures/wayne.htm. Accessed on 27 February 2005
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