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Political Parties and Interest Groups
I've been teaching in public schools for many years. I belong to a union. I make mandatory monthly deductions and I'm represented at the local and state levels for that, unlike most teachers. I want good, working conditions, safe working conditions, a lot of benefits for my family. And most of all, I want a living wage, that I can afford own a modest house. I also belong to a political party, I can't say that my candidate was the nominee in this 2008 election, but I generally believe in the ideas of that party. And so I'm like many Americans who belong to one or more interest groups, who belong to a political party and I think these things help me represent the nation as best as they can.
In episode four, we're going to be talking about political parties, mostly Democratic party and the Republican party. What makes a Democrat? What makes a Republican? What do they look like? Where do they live? Which groups of people are more likely do be Democrats? Which groups of people are more likely to be Republicans? We're also going to talk about interest groups, both public and private and how the interest groups influence elections as well.
Let's start out this unit by just taking a quick tour of the American history. You remember back to the constitutional convention, the differences between the federalist and the anti-federalist. That was really the beginning of the political party system. In the constitution, there is absolutely no mention of political parties, yet it established very quickly and by tradition. Federalists formed the Federalist party, anti-federalists moved into the Democratic Republican party. You're going to need to know for your AP exam a term about realignments, occasionally you'll see that word.
Party realignments means when one party has a strong advantage, and it disappears and not only is becoming balanced, but it moves in the other direction. For example, the first party realignment occurred after the federalists lost power in the election of 1800. The first two presidents, Washington and Adams were federalists, but after that there was never another federalist party and the party in fact disappeared. It gave rise to the Democratic Republican party for a while, and then things go back and forth and back and forth.
If you've got an AP review book, you know that there have been five major realignments in the American political history. The last one occurred in 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt was elected. You recall that he served four times and was elected four times and it began a surge of Democratic party representation. People who had typically voted with the Republican party, shifted to the Democratic party, especially in the south east. Remember the Tennessee value authority from the new deal? These are people who typically had voted Republican, they benefited from the new deal programs, many of them shifted to the Democratic party. Now however, we're in a period of de-alignment whereas the Democrats had an advantage all the way through the 1960s up until the 1970s, it's even doubt and it's roughly 40 to 40 percent of people who identify themselves as Democrats, and people who identify themselves as Republicans.
Remember, the great majority of the people see themselves as moderates. So they are not either on the far left of the Democratic party or the far right of the Republican party.
Let's take the next step, who is it that belongs to the Democratic party? It's not always that easy to tell. You can't necessarily look at a person and say that's a Democrat or that's a Republican. You can't go to a particular state and say that's a Democrat or a Republican, even though many of the people are in blue states or Democratic states or red states, Republican states.