Why are US parties often described as ‘organisationally weak’?

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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. 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.

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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. % 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 a factor in George. H. W. Bush’s defeat, and his platform of deficit reduction influenced both parties to adopt this position in the 1996 election. George Wallace’s 1968 candidacy, when he won 46 electoral college votes from 5 southern states, could have deadlocked the Electoral College Another reason for the insignificance of third parties and the reason for the wo party system is the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system. Unfortunately for third parties, the two main parties always tend to come out with the majority even if they don’t win the popular vote. An example of the unfairness of this voting system is in 2008 the independent party of America managed to get 1 in every 5 votes but still didn’t manage to gain seats. Having said that, FPTP in theory allows for a strong stable government with a hefty majority providing they dominate congress and the legislature.

To conclude, the evidence suggests that the US have a prominent two party system but third parties are not completely insignificant as we have seen examples of them making an impact, so they do have their importance. It is likely to stay a two party system forever as the republicans and democrats are never going to vote for a change in the voting system as then they would be handing their own power over which they are unlikely to do. ‘The ideological identity of the Democratic party is now clearly Liberal, whilst that of the republican party is now clearly conservative’ to what extent do you agree with this statement.

Some say the Democrats believe in Liberalism which was first used in the 1930’s to describe support for the New Deal and voters and politicians who are more politically progressive, supporting change and intervention and the political and economic system to improve citizens’ lives, and creating greater equality and social justice. It has been argued that the Democrats and Republicans have the same ideologies and were once labelled ‘two empty bottles with different labels’. One of the distinguishing changes was ‘the rise of the new democrats’ in the 1980’s which has said to have shown a distinct change between the parties.

Some say that after 9/11 they came back as similar again but then reverted back to be different after the Iraq war. This could be due to their ‘dovish’ and ‘hawkish’ approach to foreign policy. The Democrats could be seen as the more liberal party because they have equal rights programmes such as civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights. They also have a commitment to federal rather than state government action. The democrats also have a more ‘dovish’ approach to foreign policy and they are a more ‘pro choice’ party that is in favour of gun control, immigration, environmental protection and ending the death penalty.

However, when the democrats lost some of its voting support to the Republicans from southern white voters in the 1960’s because of its commitment to civil rights and some northern blue collar voters in the 70’s and 80’s alienated by its perceived liberalism, they became a more cohesive and coherent ideologically liberal party. It can also be argued that they have a more conservative wing, especially in the south. Traditionally, Democrats elected from southern states holding conservative views on all issues, economic, social and foreign.

These are known as the blue dog democrats and were named DINOS (democrats in name only) by the liberal democrats because they voted against the public option in Obama’s healthcare reforms, which he was forced to abandon. These voters are more fiscally and/or socially conservative democrats, representing more conservative districts. The Republicans could be seen as the more conservative party as they opposed to the New deal and today are more likely to accept the status quo without seeking to create artificial changes to society and its institutions through government intervention or regulation.

They are referred to as the GOP (grand old party) as they like to stick to traditional values. They are the more ideologically conservative party because they are fiscally conservative, committed to lower taxes, lower spending (except on defence) and balanced budgets. They believe private rather than public sector should provide employment. They don’t believe in interventionist programmes to increase the rights of minority groups and they support traditional family values and social and cultural conservatism. They have a more ‘hawkish’ approach to foreign policy

However, although there isn’t a completely liberal wing to the Republicans, there are moderate republicans. These are more fiscally conservative but socially liberal republicans. These are mainly in north-eastern states who represent business and corporate interests. These are known as RINOS (republican in name only). The typical credentials of a moderate republican reject far right policies and are culturally liberal. They typically oppose socialism and the redistribution of wealth while supporting some pragmatic regulation of business and federal social programs in matters pertaining to the public good.

They represent a diversity of views on foreign policy, but historically were most considered ‘hawks’ against communism which is understandable as they are typically wealthy businessmen. It appears that there is now a clear separation between the Democrats and the Republicans as they both portray extremely Liberal and conservative wings however there also seems to be a clash between the parties in some aspects where they become similar such as the moderate Republicans and the Conservative wing on the Democrats as they both have quite centralised ideologies.

In some events, both parties seem to centralise such as after the 9/11 attack. Then when the Iraq war came about there then seemed to be a distinct gap between the parties. Neither party is completely liberal or conservative as they both have separate wings. Consider the importance of the ‘tea party’ in US politics. The importance of the Tea party in US politics can be significant but it is argued that they don’t make a difference in US politics. It can be said that the tea party can have a massive influence in getting the Republicans into power.

The majority of the Tea party supporters and activists are currently angry about Washington and overwhelmingly disapprove of the job of Barack Obama is doing as president. The majority of the activists think that the American economy is getting worse. They want a smaller, more modest, more limited federal government. They seek to influence candidates to vote for the republicans especially in the south where they have a larger impact and influence over people. They are said to be Republican by another name as they share the same fiscal beliefs.

They only differ slightly in their views of federal government debt and the size of power of the federal government. So they also try to influence republicans on these views. However, the Tea party only represent a small minority so their influence is not as great. They only represent roughly 20% on the US so it is questionable that they can have a massive influence. In 2012 their influence could improve massively and could be the deciding factor of the outcome in the election.

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Why are US parties often described as ‘organisationally weak’?. (2017, Jan 23). Retrieved from


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