Goals of This Exercise
- Consider the interrelationship between party goals and the “institutional procedures” of campaigns and elections.
- Provide comparative evidence of the ideological distribution of the American public generally and party and campaign activists specifically.
- Explore the reasons why mounting an adequate campaign organization and competing in the overall electoral process might feed party polarization rather than ideological convergence.
The Goals of Political Parties
The Rationality Principle: all political behavior has a purpose.
What, then, are the goals of political parties? How do parties compete to achieve those goals?
In An Economic Theory of Democracy, political scientist Anthony Downs developed a logic of party competition. Downs claimed that most voters in American politics can be found in the middle of the ideological spectrum and that political parties compete to win the support of the pivotal “median voter.”
The Goals of Parties
Downs defined political parties in terms of their goals: “a political party is a team of men [and women] seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election” (p. 25).
The Logic of Party Convergence
Downs argued that, because voters (including the median voter) calculate the ideological distance between themselves and each of the parties, both parties will seek to move to the ideological middle to attract the most votes.
Answer the following questions: