MENU

Blog

American Political Parties: Not Truly National

Posted: July 1, 2015 | By: Dennis Goldford Tagged: About the Caucuses

By Dennis J. Goldford, Harkin Institute Flansburg Fellow

Professor of Political Science, Drake University

The essentially state-and-local character of the American electoral process creates the context for the operation of political parties and elections in general and the Iowa Caucuses in particular. Presumably, truly national elections would have given rise to truly national political parties, but that is not the system we have.

Here, I want to suggest that, as we might expect from the state-and-local character of the American electoral process, we do not have truly national political parties.

Over time, we have moved from a confederal to a federal form of union and governmental organization, but our political parties continue to exist in basically confederal form. The idea of a confederal form derives, in the American experience, from the nature of the union under the Articles of Confederation. According to Article II of that document: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress pilys assembled.” Indeed, the Preamble of the Articles refers to “we the undersigned Delegates of the States” rather than to “We the People.”

This language means that ultimate political authority in a confederation rests with the individual states rather than the national government. Despite the persistence of this notion in the Confederate Constitution and, at times, into the 20th century and beyond, the adoption of the Constitution changed the nature of our union into Image one in which ultimate political authority rests not with the states, and not with the federal government, but, as the Preamble to the Constitution states, with We the People.

Nevertheless, with no apparent awareness among the Founders that political parties would arise, ultimate authority over political parties in America continues to rest cheap nba jerseys in general with the individual states. For example, the Rules of the Republican Party illustrate the state-centered character of the party: “The members of the Republican National Committee shall consist of one (1) national committeeman and one (1) national committeewoman from and the chairman of the state Republican Party of, wholesale mlb jerseys each state,” and “Where the rules adopted by a state Republican Party provide a method of election of the national committeeman and the national committeewoman, they shall be elected pursuant to such method.”

Similarly, the Rules of the Democratic Party provide that “The Democratic National Committee shall be composed of: (a) the Chairperson and the highest ranking officer of the opposite sex of each recognized state Democratic Party and of the Democratic Parties of Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands . . ..” There are additional members of the DNC, but the point is its essentially state-based nature. шампунь? Likewise, while the Democratic rules centralize authority in the national convention somewhat more than the Republican rules, the presumption remains with the states: “State Party rules or state laws relating to the election of delegates to the National Convention shall be observed unless in conflict with this Charter and other provisions adopted pursuant to authority of the Charter, including the resolutions or other actions of the National Convention.”

If American political parties were truly national parties, they would be organizations with a top-down authority and chain of command. The state parties themselves would be subordinate to that highest authority. The national parties, presumably based in Washington, D.C., would determine who would run as the party’s candidates in all 435 House elections and the 100 Senate elections (one-third every two years), and they would determine who would run as their candidate for the presidency.

None of wholesale jerseys this is the case in American politics. The reason is that political parties are defined, organized, chartered, and regulated principally at the state level. Section 43.2 of the Iowa Code, for example, states: “The term “political party” shall mean a party which, at the last preceding general election, cast for its candidate for president of the United States or for governor, as the case may be, at least two percent of the total vote cast for all candidates for that office at that election.” Other examples of this may be found in the Ohio Revised Code, at the California Secretary of State’s website, and in the New York Code on Election Law. We further see this state-based character of American political parties whenever any minor or “third party” attempts to put forth a candidate for the presidency. Instead of simply going to Washington to request a position on every state’s ballot in the next election, a third-party candidate must petition to get on the ballot in each state on a state-by-state basis, which is time-consuming and expensive. Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign is an example.

Why is this distinction important, particularly with regard to the Iowa Caucuses? The choice as to whether state parties would hold presidential primaries, when they would hold them, and in what order they would hold them, rests principally with the state parties. The national party organizations—the DNC and the RNC—can suggest answers to these questions and ask the state parties to accept them, and they can threaten the state parties Meistritele with the exclusion of some or all of their delegates to the national conventions that nominate the presidential candidates (for the 2016 presidential election see Rules 16 and 17 of the Republican Party and Rule 20 wholesale nfl jerseys of the Democratic Party). Ultimately, however, the individual states decide whether and to what extent to follow the national party’s guidelines.

Thus, while the national party organizations can and do influence the presidential-nomination process, they do not wholesale jerseys control that process. State parties and state legislatures set the dates of primaries and caucuses. This is the reason why the dates of the Iowa Caucuses over the years, as well as the dates and order of primaries and caucuses in other states, have tended to vary to a greater or lesser extent. These are the dates on which the Iowa Caucuses have taken place during the modern, caucus-centered period:

  • 2016: February 01 (tentative)
  • 2012: January 03
  • 2008: January 03
  • 2004: January 19
  • 2000: January 24
  • 1996: February 12
  • 1992: February 10
  • 1988: February 08
  • 1984: February 20
  • 1980: January 21
  • 1976: January 19
  • 1972: Finance January 24

Section 43.4 of the Iowa Code provides that the state central committee of the political parties determine the date of the caucuses and that this date must be at least eight days prior to any other state’s or territory’s primary or caucus. This statute is why the Iowa Caucuses have always been at least eight days before the New Hampshire primary. There is some question, however, as to whether this eight-days provision is legally enforceable.

For an example of these shifting dates, see Florida in recent years. And, for a comprehensive overview of the changing presidential-primary calendar to from year to year, explore the maps on the website you can click here.

The upshot of the foregoing discussion, then, is that because we President: do not have truly national political parties in the United States, the role and importance of the Iowa Caucuses in the presidential nomination process have been highly contested matters even as they have been intensely covered matters by the media. If we had truly national political parties, a central party office, most likely in Washington, D.C., would determine who the party’s nominee would be in each state (Senators) and Congressional district (Representatives), and who the party’s nominee for President would be. Instead, American political practice leaves these determinations to the states and state parties themselves.