As the most developed state in the world, the United States takes centre stage in shaping up any events that warrant attention on the international scene. Different political theories and concepts have been developed to help explain the interplay of politics on the global scene and the role of the United States in shaping global policy. These theories include Mercantilism, realism and idealism.
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Recent trends in the party politics in the United States denote the presence of a highly competitive political landscape in the country, where policy areas have taken centre stage in the competition between the two main prevailing political parties in the United States. While it is apparent that the democrat and the republican political parties thrive on different political ideologies, it has become apparent that these parties do not only thrive on ideologies.
However, they often compete over the choice of certain policy recommendations that affect the United States and the entire globe. This paper explores the developments in the United States over the last two decades. The paper begins with a historical overview of the US party politics in order to provide a basis on which to comprehend the political landscape in the US. This is followed by the discussion of issues that necessitate change in the recent and contemporary developments in the US political landscape.
Historical overview of the US party politics
The development of party politics in the United States is a complex process due to diversity of the state of politics in the country. The United States is a country that is marked with an extended history as far as party politics and the development of a political landscape are concerned. Most historians and political scientists trace the development of the US political landscape from the beginning of the 18th century after the United States gained independence from Great Britain.
However, the volatility of the political landscape in the United States can be traced from the 19th century into the 20th century where there were a lot of political developments across the world, resulting in the emergent of other nations and competing nationalisms. The ancient politics in the US was marked by the faction between people who supported federalism and people who did not fully support federalism; that is, anti-federalists (Hill & Leighley, 1996).
According to Chhibber and Kollman (2004), the existing political parties in the United States, the Republican and Democrat Party, came into existence in the 19th century and have gained strong grounds in the political footage of the US. Since their development, the parties have grounded their operations by basing on diverse ideologies.
The ideology of the Democrat Party was developed based on the focus on supporting the poor people in the north and the ethnic minorities in the country, as well as ending slavery and civil war. Democrats believe in change and embrace change in most aspects of governance. On the other hand, the Republican Party is pro-business in nature and is seen as being conservative in nature.
It is seen as a part of the middle class and the industrialists. The developments in the socio-political and economic realms in the 20th century, like the economic recession and the civil rights movement, resulted in a further twist in party ideologies between the democrats and the republicans. Competition became real as each party sought to identify with a given framework of dealing with the challenges then, with contests of ideologies between the parties coming out openly in the legislative houses.
The contemporary contest in party politics in the United States are rooted in the policy framework, where each party strives to attain its agenda as far as the development and enforcement of national and international policies is concerned. The interplay of party politics and the determinants of the party that gets into power in the United States in the contemporary times are based on the nature of policy goals that the party develops and the kind of social classes in which party ideologies thrive (Hill & Leighley, 1996).
Changes in party politics in the United States over the past two decades
According to Cakmak (2013), the past two decades have seen the interchange of political leadership or power between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The reason for the interchange and failure of dominance by any of the parties is a central question to a substantial number of political scientists, who keep excavating into the changes in the development of party politics.
The trend in political power in the United States over the past two decades denotes that each of the parties has been in power for two terms. The Democrat Party was in power from 1992 to 2000, while the Republican Party was in power from 2000 to 2008. From 2008, political power lies with the Democrat Party. This trend is attributed to the key policy areas that have been dominant in the given timelines within which each party has been in power.
While the two-party system in the US is a factor that plays a role in shaping the change in party and power in the United States, it is critical to observe that the political ground in the United States in the current times is highly influenced by other forces like third party influences, also known as third party politics.
The question that needs to be explored at this juncture is whether party political remains to be vital as far as the mobilization of political support by each party in the United States is concerned, or whether there are other forces that necessitate change in party politics in the United States (Lee 2008).
It is argued that party politics in the United States no longer revolve around party ideologies, but they based on the political agenda on the national and international scene and how each party crafts its policies on a given agenda. The challenges in the social and economic spheres of the United States necessitate the devise of measures that are critical in addressing them.
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Peltzman (1998) opined that the political environment has become more rational in the sense that the citizenry weighs between decisions that are made by each party and choose to support a party that seeks to present the views and demands of the electorate depending on a given agenda.
For example, the election of the democrat candidate into power in the 2008 elections was based on the fact that the party had presented a policy framework on dealing with terrorism, which seemed to be more rational than the policy framework that had been pursued by the Republican Party.
This is an indicator of how the emergent policy issues are critical in the politics of the United States. Parties are compelled to come out of their ideological shields and present better policy goals that can aid in dealing with emerging issues like economic problems, issues of security, and health issues, among others. Competition is, thus, inevitable as each party seeks to develop policy goals and lobby for the support of these goals in the legislative houses (Cakmak 2013).
Cakmak (2013) observed that the most profound competition and friction between parties and party ideologies for the past two decades have centred on passing of policies and legislations to address the issues that are considered to be of a top priority in the national agenda of the US. Parties’ stage contests in the Senate and House of Commons as far as lobbying for and support of policies and legislative agenda concerning main policy areas are concerned.
The 1990s and the early 2000s saw a contest between the Democrat Party under the leadership of Bill Clinton and the Republic party under the leadership of George Bush over the priorities of the nation on national and international security matters. This contest resulted in ascending of the Republican Party into power in 2000.
A substantial number of researchers have noted that the volatile nature of debating and legislation on national issues in the recent times often results in political vices like boycotts and refusal by parties to support desirable political agenda. The aspect of political responsibility has become a major area on which the conflict and competition between parties are enhanced.
It should be noted that competition must prevail between the parties that prevail in a national system in order for parties to gain a political mileage. However, the nature of competition is important since it dictates the pace at which national development is attained through setting and enforcing political agenda by political parties. Factions within political parties have also become more eminent, with regionalization of support being witnessed across the US (Peltzman, 1998; Chhibber & Kollman, 2004).
The policy environment in the United States is mostly dominated by certain subjects that range from the political to economic and social scenes. Each of the policy issues comes with its forces that necessitate adjustment of the political framework by each party in order to deal with the issue sufficiently and gain political control.
Changes in the economic environment in the 1900s necessitated the democrat party under the leadership of Bill Clinton to focus on business and labour issues through pursuance and support of policies that inclined on these issues. Shift in policy issues in the late 1990s resulted in the loss of power by the Democrat party as the main policy agenda shifted to security issues.
However, the last half of the 2000 millennium witnessed the deterioration of the economy of the United States and the resultant decline in economic and social security of the Americans. Therefore, the main policy issue shifted to the need for bettering the socio-economic state of Americans through enactment of relevant legislation (Hill & Leighley, 1996).
The health and the economic stimulus bills have formed the key debatable bills that have been developed by the Obama administration under the Democrat Party. These bills have raised the political temperature in the United States, with the republicans looking at these bills from a pessimistic point of view and driven by their party interests.
As observed earlier, the interplay of third parties in the politics of the United States has re-emerged. The only difference that prevails in the contemporary third party politics in the United States in the recent years is the explicit influence of third party players in the US politics. The third parties are indeed a force to reckon with in the US politics.
This comes from the fact that third party players often represent the majority of the citizenry, which in turn support the political parties. Moreover, third party players thrive on issues that are often sensitive and draw a lot of interest and concern from the public. This means that parties can no longer afford to ignore the issues that are presented by these groups.
Avoidance of these concerns becomes a ticket for failure for parties as far as enforcement of policies is concerned (Lee 2008). Third parties entail the different interest groups pursuing diverse agenda and whose activities exert pressure on the political parties to embrace certain agenda in their policies.
Among the interest groups that influence political party politics in the United States to include human rights groups, economic lobby groups and religious groups. Third-party groups also include the action and reaction of other states over policy goals of political leadership of the United States (Lee, 2008).
The political landscape in the United States has become quite turbulent in the recent times due to dynamism of issues that face the country. The last two centuries have seen an increase in economic pressures, whose effects have escalated into other areas. Security has also remained to be a vital area of policy that invites debates and factions in legislation between the two parties. The other thing that increases the level of volatility in party politics in the United States is the increasing role of third parties in shaping the political course in the country.
Cakmak, C 2013, ‘The role of the political party in the United States: Is the party becoming obsolete?’ The Journal of Turkish Weekly. Web.
Chhibber, P & Kollman, K 2004, The formation of national party systems: Federalism and party competition in Canada, Great Britain, India, and the United States, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Hill, KQ & Leighley, JE 1996, ‘Political parties and class mobilization in contemporary United States elections’, American Journal of Political Science, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 787-804.
Lee, DJ 2008, Life of the party or just a third wheel? Effects of third parties in US House elections, ProQuest Information and Learning Company, Costa Mesa, CA.
Peltzman, S 1998, Political participation and government regulation, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.