United States’ politics are shaped by the country’s constitution. The constitution identifies the president as the leader of the country. The other pertinent arms of the government include the Judiciary and the Congress. The US government structure is quite unique from other government structures around the world.
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The political party structure of the United States is an example of an area that is different from that of other countries around the world. The US utilizes a two-dominant party structure with all the other parties being referred to as third parties. Other democracies also use this third-party element in their political structure. Nevertheless, there are major differences between third parties of the US and those of other democracies around the world.
Commonly, third parties in the US have less power as compared to third parties in other world democracies. Third parties feature in several democracies around the world including Canada and the United Kingdom. A third party is basically a party that comes after the two most dominant parties. Sometimes a third party might refer to the third oldest party in a certain country.
Some countries assign the term ‘third parties’ to all other political parties that exist concurrently with the two major political parties. On the other hand, some countries have only one dominant third party such as the Conservative Party of Scotland. Third parties are rarely successful because they usually lack some of the advantages that are accorded to the two major parties. Around the world, third parties have relatively less powers as compared to the main political parties.
The main difference between parties in the US and other democracies is the constitutional limitations that apply to US third parties. These constitutional-hindrances were designed by the framers of the constitution to ensure that the dominance of the two major parties was sustained. Under the US constitution, elections are conducted under the single-member-plurality system.
This system makes it hard for any emerging party to win any major seat because citizens usually doubt the survival of upcoming parties. Other democracies in the world usually provide upcoming parties with the same platform as the dominant parties. The US constitution also makes it hard for third parties to survive because of the Electoral College System. This means that even if a third party garners the popular vote, it will still have to appeal to the Electoral College that is usually dominated by the major parties.
Most democracies around the world only rely on the popular vote. Therefore, third parties only have to appeal to a single unit in order to be successful. The other difference between third parties in the US and other parts of the world is that the US usually excludes third parties from participation in presidential debates. Since 1960, only candidates from the two major political parties have had a chance to participate in a national debate.
The Supreme Court has upheld this system in several occasions. In other democracies such as the UK, third parties get a chance to participate in national presidential debates. In addition, third parties in the US have to meet stringent measures for them to have ballot access. Most times, third parties only manage to gain ballot access in a few states. Other democracies around the world rarely have strict ballot access requirements for third parties.
The most striking difference between third parties in the US and those in other countries is that there is no marginal or proportional representation of political parties in the US. The US political system is a winner-take-all system that disregards the efforts of third parties. When third parties in other democracies perform well in an election, they are usually rewarded with a few nomination slots in their houses of representation.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) is a law that was formulated in 1971 to facilitate regulation of campaign contributions. FECA only concentrates on federal elections and campaigns.
The law was amended in 1974 to include the formation of Federal Electoral Commission (FEC) and the regulation of campaign finances. The FEC works as an independent body whose role is to facilitate disclosure of campaign contributions and ensure all the regulations stipulated by FECA are followed. FECA also mandates FEC with overseeing the public funding of federal elections.
The first public figure to agitate for the formation of a law that governs campaign financing was Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s calls were followed by a series of legislations that were aimed at controlling the nature of federal campaign contributions. The main purpose of these legislations was to limit the dominance of the rich in federal elections, regulate campaign spending, and limit abuse of campaign contributions. All these concerns are addressed by FECA.
Apart from the 1974 amendment, FECA has been amended two more times. It was amended in 1976 as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in the matter of Buckley v. Valeo. In addition, a 1979 amendment allowed parties to spend as much money as possible when promoting voter registration. This law divided campaign finances into soft and hard money. The hard money is used in voter registration drives while soft money is viewed as a means of influencing federal elections.
Voting Patterns in the United States
Voting patterns in the United States are influenced by several internal and external factors. However, current statistics indicate that there are repetitive patterns that apply to US voting. For instance, the voter turnout in the US has been relatively low as compared to that of other democracies around the world. The issue of demographics also features in different election statistics. The Republican and Democratic Parties receive support from different portions of the population.
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The first aspect of voting patterns in the US is voter turnout. Most elections in the US have registered relatively low turnouts. For instance, some elections like the 1996 and 1994 elections have recorded a turnout of less than 50%. The rate of voter turnout is usually unpredictable.
The election that followed the enactment of the 19th amendment was expected to have a high turnout but that was not the case. It took a long time for the effects of this declaration to be realized. High voter turnouts are usually influenced by a single factor such as the ‘Kennedy factor’ that resulted in a 62.8% turnout in 1960.
The 26th amendment allowed youth as young as 18 years to vote. However, the voter turnout rate of this demographic has been below 50% in average since this amendment was passed. Most youth feel like outsiders in the US political system and they are not motivated to take part in national elections.
Voting in this country is dominated by the white, educated, middle class, and upper class voters. This dominance is mostly influenced by these demographics’ vested interests in the country’s political policies. The presence of ‘hot issues’ in an election has been thought to influence large voter turnouts. However, the 2000 election that featured no foregone conclusions indicated no major changes in the voter turnout.