Parties, Elections, and Democratic Politics

John H. Aldrich and John D. Griffin

in The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780199235476
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 Parties, Elections, and Democratic Politics

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The claim of this article that party competition is a necessary precondition for democracy may not strike all readers as particularly innovative. It starts by defining what is meant by a political party, by a party system, and by a competitive party system. Then, it describes how both citizens and politicians benefit from the construction of and adherence to clear party labels in a self-enforcing equilibrium. Meaningful party labels allow voters to play a substantial role in selecting the direction of policy and holding politicians accountable; ambitious politicians affiliate with parties that create meaningful and popular labels; a party will be competitive when its label attracts a sufficient number of voters and ambitious candidates; and a competitive party system consists of two or more parties each of which is in equilibrium.

Keywords: party competition; democracy; elections; political party; party system; citizens; politicians

Article.  7428 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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