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Modern Political Parties

Page history last edited by Zach Mulder 14 years, 5 months ago

Previous Section: History of Political Parties


The Political Spectrum


The political spectrum at its most basic version is split into a single line, with two opposing extremes, the left and the right. The left is defined as being the more liberal and progressive side of the spectrum, while the right is more conservative and traditional. Check out this image to give you a brief overview of the two sides.


Click on the link if the image is too small to read!




However, this image has to be taken with a grain of salt. Just because somebody considers them self to be a rightist does not mean that they must be a strict parent. The image takes the idea of left vs right a little too far by extending it to families as well as giving a stereotypical adult for each side. Also, the right does sometimes interfere with society and social issues, for example on the issues of gay marriage and abortion. However, this image gives a brief overview of the spectrum, with the right generally being more conservative with less government regulation and more freedom, and the left being more liberal with more government regulation to try to create equality. On this spectrum, Democrats usually are more leftist while the Republicans are usually more rightist. Let’s look at some of the key issues to give you a little more idea where they fall on the spectrum:
















"Jumpstart the Economy and Provide Middle Class Americans Immediate Relief"

  • Spend $50 billion to get the economy going again
  • Build infrastructure
  • Stop the loss of manufacturing jobs


Essentially, Democrats want to stimluate the middle class through government spending, to revamp the economy.

The Economy

"Using Tax Relief to Grow the Economy"

  • Lower taxes for individuals and families
  • Promote business, both large and small.
  • Free and fair trade


Republicans want to tax less so that Americans can have more money to spend, which promotes business, and in turn jumpstarts the economy.

"Affordable, Quality Health Care Coverage for All Americans"

  • Create a public health insurace plan that is affordable for all Americans through tax credits and other means.
  • Still have the option to keep private or employer health insurance.
  • End insurance discrimination
  • Comprehensive insurance plans "similar to what Members of Congress enjoy"
  • Modernize medicine to cut costs

"Drive Costs Down With Interstate Competition"

  • Competition between health insurance providers will lead to lower prices and give consumers different choices.
  • Prevent frivolous lawsuits against good health care providers
  • Reward good health care providers
  • Modernize medicine to cut costs
  • Reform Medicare and Medicaid

"New generation of teachers and principals"

  • Paying for college education of teachers and principals.
  • Better teacher pay to make teaching a desirable job
  • Fix No Child Left Behind by not "giving up" on schools labeled as failures

"Education Means a More Competitive America"

  • Mostly a state issue
  • Merit pay for good teachers
  • Discipline, and parental involvement in schools
  • School districts should be able to recruit, reward, and retain teachers
  • English First approach
  • Oppose the Defense of Marriage Act
  • Let states decide what they will recognize in their territory.
Gay Marriage
  • Preserving Traditional Marriage
  • Support Defense of Marriage Act which gives states the rights not to recognize same sex marriages from other states.
  • Woman has a right to choose what she does with her own body.
  • Unborn children have a fundamental right to life that cannot be taken away.


I bet you can already see one of the biggest hurdles in trying to classify yourself as either a Democrat or a Republican: There are simply so many issues and chances are you do not agree with either Republican or Democratic values for all of them. You may agree with the Republican approach to the economy, but favor the Democratic approach to education. You may not agree with either the Republican or the Democratic approach to an issue, or they both ignore an issue that you believe is incredibly important to America. Hence why third parties began to form because they were unhappy with the Democrats and the Republicans.


Third Parties are defined as any other party separate from the Democrats and Republicans. There are three main reasons that third parties form: Either they promote a stance on a single issue, are splinters from one of the major political parties, or form to back a popular individual who is running for President. These third parties often serve as "safety valves" for opposition to the major parties, and give people a chance to voice their differing opinions to the major parties. In turn, sometimes the major parties see the growth of a third party, and adjust their own stance on the issue to try to win over some of those voters. However, because of the winner take all system in America (which is discussed a little later in this chapter), third parties very rarely attain any power in the national government. For example, Ralph Nader ran in the election of 2000 under the Green Party to try to put more attention on environmental issues. He drew a small amount of liberal votes (.3 percent), but he ultimately cost Gore the presidency by taking away those liberal votes during an incredibly close election.


America is grounded in a two party system, and it is the challenge of voters to figure out where they fit into these two parties. Very rarely is a person clearly cut as a Democrat or a Republican, and often a person will have different values from both parties. It is up to them to decide which candidate represents their set of values best, and vote that person into power.


Now that we have the basis behind elections, let's dive a little deeper into how elections work, all the way from the local level to the Presidential elections.



Next Section: Local Elections


Image taken from:

"Politcal Spectrum" < http://images.vizworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/left-vs-right.jpg > (13 Novermber, 2009).


Democratic and Republican view points taken from respective parties platforms found on their websites:

"Democratic Party Platform" < http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html > (13 December, 2009).

"Republican Party Platform" < http://www.gop.com/2008platform/ > (13 December, 2009).


Other information taken from:

George C. Edwards, Marin P. Wattenberg, and Robert L. Lineberry, Government in America. 12th ed. Pearson Longman, 2006.

Comments (1)

mberry said

at 9:24 am on Nov 17, 2009

the image is interesting but some analysis of it would be a good idea. For example, the part that suggests the Right does not interfere with society or personal lives is a bit specious (think abortion and gay rights today and segregation/legal discrimination in the pre-Brown era). The part about "family" seems a bit much too...does it connote that people with strict parenting cannot be Leftist? Let's see some critical analysis of this -- do not let it stand on it's own as "truth."

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