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Evolution of political parties in picking candidates and voter mobilization

Political parties play key roles in picking candidates and mobilizing voters. Over time, the process has evolved from party leadership handpicking candidates to direct primaries. Voter mobilization and campaign management have also changed, becoming more sophisticated with the use of mass media and targeted messaging.

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  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Steve
    Hey...Is the United States the first country to actually have political parties? Was this system invented here? I suppose that because the US was the first major Democracy that political parties couldn't have existed elsewhere, but is this true? Where there are actually other 'systems' that really came close to what we know are the two parties we have now? I can only think back to perhaps Rome or Greece that may have had a similiar idea, but obviously no where near as robust?
    (12 votes)
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    • winston baby style avatar for user HandsomeSalmon
      The United States actually got their ideas about political parties from England. I don't know if England was the first place to have political parties, I just know that the United States borrowed the idea from England.

      For example:

      Before the American Revolution, England had two parties: the Whigs, and the Tories.(The Whigs where the middle-class people and the Tories were in the highest class of people.) After this, the Whigs came to the United States (along with a few Tories) and decided to separate from England. Now-a-days the Whigs and the Tories are called the Federalist Party.

      Hope this helped!
      (8 votes)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] In the video on linkage institutions, we talk a lot about political parties and the various roles that they play in the political system. In particular, we talk about how they are involved in recruiting candidates. And as we will talk about in this video, we'll think about how candidates are actually chosen to represent a political party. And we also talk about, in that video on linkage institutions, how political parties are involved in voter mobilization, which is a fancy way of saying, hey getting people to vote, getting people energized about the election, to actually get to the polls. Sometimes going as far as getting buses, transporting them to the polling stations. And campaign management. Campaign management. And one thing that is really interesting to appreciate and it's really the focus of this video, is that both of these things have evolved over time. So for example, George Washington, the first President of the United States, he was not affiliated with any party and our first two presidential elections had no party association. But as soon as we get to the election of 1796, we start to see the development of faction. You have Hamilton on one side, becomes head of the Federalist Party and on the other side, headed by Madison, you have the Democratic-Republican Party. Democratic- Republican. And there's a nice irony to this because it was exactly those two gentlemen that not too far before 1796, if we go to the late 1780s, and their attempt to get the Constitution ratified in the Federalist Papers, they argue against faction. How faction can be bad for a government, for a nation. But they were the ones that led the split into faction and the split into parties. And from that time for over 100 years, all the way until we get to the early 1900s, early 1900s, you have some situations where the party leadership might pick candidates and some situation where the party members pick candidates and conventions. And so you have party leadership, leadership slash members who gets a hand pick. Hand pick candidates. So this part of the process was not so broadly democratic. Especially when we get to the second half of the 1800s. You have very strong party leaders, often called party bosses. Who almost had the individual power to pick candidates to represent one party or another. But in the early 1900s, there was a movement to say hey, you know what? This is not so democratic to handpick the candidates that people have to choose from. And so this is when you start to have the direct primary system. Where to choose the candidates that represent one party or another, you will hold elections. And those elections could be closed primaries where you have to be a registered Republican to vote for who represents Republican party. Or registered Democrat to see who represents the Democratic party. But they also have open primaries where anyone could vote in the Democratic primary or anyone could vote in the Republican primary. And this is happening to this day. Now, this change that has happened over roughly the last 100 years, you could imagine this has changed the power dynamic between the parties and the candidates. For this first over 100 years, the party is where a lot of the power was. But once you start having the direct primary, it becomes a lot more about candidate centered campaigns. Where things become much more about the position and the personality of the candidate than maybe as much about the party platform. And because of that, it has become more common in the last 100 or so years where even if someone is a registered Republican, they might vote the other way. Or if someone is a registered Democrat, they might vote the other way if a candidate is particularly appealing. For example, John F. Kennedy was the Democratic candidate for President in 1960. But many Republican Irish Catholics voted for him. Similarly, there's a group of folks known as the Reagan Democrats. Who are famous for despite their party affiliation with the Democrats, voted for President Reagan. And that was all around this idea that it was more about the candidate, especially at the presidential level than it is about the party. Now just as how the candidate picking process has evolved over time, so has the voter mobilization and the campaign management. In the early days, a lot of the voter mobilization, in fact, if we think about the late 1800s where you have this party boss structure, you had people sometimes going so far as even giving people things in order to go and vote for one candidate or another. Or exerting some type of pressure. The late 1800s, or the second half of the 1800s, especially in places like Chicago and New York were sometimes infamous for not, the necessarily cleanest elections. But as you get into the 20th century, especially the second half of the 20th century, and now the 21st century, things have become much, much more sophisticated. So if we go to the 20th century, you have significant use of mass media, mass media. And as you go into TV and newspaper, radio, and newspaper has always been a factor in political elections going all the way back to the founding of the United States. And then as you go into the 21st century, things have gotten a lot more targeted. Obviously you can have email campaigns. You can start to leverage social media. And the 21st century in particular, things like email campaigns and social media has allowed for very specific targeting to voters. What do I mean by targeting? Well, let's say you really care about economic issues while your cousin who lives across town really cares about social issues. The same candidate, instead of sending both of you the same email, might send you a targeted message that speaks to what you care about. And this has actually become very, very sophisticated in the last few years. I'll leave you there. But the big takeaway here is political parties have been around for a while in the United States. But they have been evolving. In this video, I'm not even talking about how their platforms have evolved. And how their associations have evolved. But this is talking about how they have evolved in terms of picking candidates. And how that has changed the nature of campaigns. And also, how primarily through the changes in culture and the changes in technology, how they can go about mobilizing and managing campaigns has also changed.