Two Parties - Or More?: The American Party System

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Although the Democrats and Republicans have dominated American politics for nearly 150 years, many Americans today have doubts about the two-party system. In 1992, nearly 30 percent of those polled felt that “the two-party system is seriously broken and the country needs a third party.” In fact, in three of the five most recent presidential elections, candidates from outside the two parties have attracted serious media and voter attention.Students of American government are thus faced with an enduring dilemma: ...

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Overview

Although the Democrats and Republicans have dominated American politics for nearly 150 years, many Americans today have doubts about the two-party system. In 1992, nearly 30 percent of those polled felt that “the two-party system is seriously broken and the country needs a third party.” In fact, in three of the five most recent presidential elections, candidates from outside the two parties have attracted serious media and voter attention.Students of American government are thus faced with an enduring dilemma: Why two parties? Why has this system remained largely intact while around the world democracies support multiparty systems? Should our two-party system continue as we enter the new millennium?Two Parties—Or More? answers these questions by first placing the dilemma in the context of recent elections—at both the state and federal level—and by defining the types of minor parties and of the roles they play. The authors then provide a historical overview of minor parties—including such transient groups as the Know Nothings and the Greenbacks—and the roles they played in moving major parties on issue spectrums.As the discussion turns to the context in which all political parties must function, topics include the role of the party in an election, the impact of a direct primary system, the role of legislatures and courts, and questions regarding ballot access and campaign financing. By focusing on Perot’s Reform party’s efforts in 1992 and 1996, the text lays out the current dilemma regarding third parties and explores the extent and cause of the current dissatisfaction with the two major parties. Two Parties—Or More? concludes with predictions about the future of third-party politics in the states and the nation.The text is enhanced with a glossary, discussion questions, and an appendix of important third parties in presidential elections and recent officeholders who were neither Democrat nor Republican.In courses on American government or parties and elections, Two Parties—Or More? will entice students to debate one of the most pressing (and enduring) issues with respect to the American electoral system.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Recommended.
Annals of the American Academy
Praise for the previous edition: Lucid and engaging. One could hardly ask for a more appropriate undergraduate supplement.
Booknews
The authors discuss varieties and definitions of third parties in American politics; a historical perspective on minor parties in a two-party system; the difficult environment faced by third parties in the context of American politics; the public's demand for alternatives; and the future of political parties. Includes a glossary, discussion questions, and an appendix of significant third parties. Paper edition (unseen), $16.00. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

John F. Bibby is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and the author of Politics, Parties, and Elections in America, Governing by Consent: An Introduction to American Politics, and the co-author of Party Organizations in American Politics. He was the 2001 recipient of the Samuel J. Eldersveld Lifetime Award from the Political Organizations and Parties Section of the American Political Science Association. In addition to being a specialist in the study of political parties, he has held leadership positions in national, state, and local party organizations. L. Sandy Maisel is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government and director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College. Former president of the New England Political Science Association and former chair of the Legislative Studies and the Political Organizations and Parties sections of the American Political Science Association, Maisel is the general editor of Political Parties and Elections in the United States: An Encyclopedia and of Jews in American Politics; he is editor of The Parties Respond: Changes in American Parties and Campaigning, now in its fourth edition with Westview, co-author of Parties and Elections in America, also now in its fourth edition, and author or co-author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters.

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Table of Contents

Tables and Figures
Preface and Acknowledgments
1 Third Parties in American Politics 1
2 Minor Parties in a Two-Party System: Historical Perspectives 19
3 Third Parties in the American Context: A Less Than Friendly Environment 55
4 The Public Demand for Alternatives 79
5 Political Parties in the Twenty-First Century 105
Discussion Questions 125
Glossary 127
Appendix 131
Notes 137
References 141
Index 147
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