Comprehension of U.S. electorate, campaigns, and political parties is essential, as it helps citizens to make informed decisions. Presidential elections in the United States can appear complicated due to various practices and steps involved. However, distinguishing between different types of procedures, and learning more about different ways voters can contribute to the process is vital. Overall, knowing the most critical processes during the elections can help one to start comprehending the system. Therefore, the presentation will reveal the information about political parties in the United States, and ways U.S. citizens can participate in elections. Moreover, the presentation will explore what caucuses, primary, national political party conventions, and general election campaign process are, as well as how they function. Lastly, it will focus on the influence that media and money have on modern political campaigns.
The Purpose and Functions of Political Parties
Not long after the United States was established from the Revolutionary War, a split started to appear between two groups with different views about how the U.S. should move forward politically. At the time, people following the two leading philosophies were Federalists and Anti-Federalists (Krutz, 2019). Currently, the Democratic and Republican parties have prevailed as two dominant opponents in the U.S. party system since the Civil War. However, political parties that are designed as alternatives to the Republican and Democratic parties are perceived as third parties or minor parties (Krutz, 2019). Political parties formulate and implement policies by obtaining authority over the state through winning democratic elections.
Moreover, they shape public policies by distinguishing and developing sets of problems relevant to voters to gain support during the period of elections. Their views on these crucial matters are usually presented in documents and reports known as a party platform (Krutz, 2019). If a party is successful, it can generate a considerable electoral coalition to dominate the government. Some of their primary functions include the guidance of Congress members in drafting legislation. Additionally, parties lead suggested laws through Congress and notify party members how they should vote on major matters. Political parties also choose nominees to run for state government, Congress, and the presidency (Krutz, 2019). Lastly, they organize various political campaigns and mobilize voters.
Participation in Elections
To participate in elections, the citizen must follow the voter registration of his or her state. In all states except North Dakota, a citizen wishing to vote must complete an application (Krutz, 2019). Overall, different states have different requirements regarding issues such as residency requirements and felony convictions. Voters must also be aware of registrations timelines, as state requirements vary. In most cases, citizens must register at least thirty days before the election. Fourteen states and the district of Columbia now allow registration on election day. If the citizen is registered as a member of one party, there is often a waiting period between when they can change party affiliation, which varies from state to state.
Participation in Campaigns
Citizens can also donate to congressional and presidential campaigns. A citizen can donate 2700$ for a candidate’s campaign to be nominated as a runner in the presidential campaign and an additional 2700$ if the candidate wins and runs for president. Citizens can also give up to $5,000 to political action committees and $33,400 to a national party committee (Krutz, 2019). These amounts are assessed every two years and adjusted to inflation. At the local level, voters may also participate in referendums, where the popular vote can overturn government decisions. Citizens may even put forth initiatives or propositions, in which members of the public suggest laws. Lastly, voters may participate in petitions, which detail issues the public wants local or state government to address.
Function and Purpose of Caucuses
At least five states, including Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Colorado, and Iowa, frequently use caucuses for presidential nominations. Caucuses are not particularly costly because they solely depend on voting practices such as “dropping marbles in a jar, placing names in a hat, standing under a sign bearing the candidate’s name, or taking a voice vote” (Krutz, 2019, p. 261). Moreover, there is no need for specially trained poll workers, as simple volunteers are qualified to register the votes. The Iowa Democratic Caucus is especially known for its active nature. The party’s voters are required to arrange themselves into special groups based on a personal preference, which often implies standing in a room or a part of it that has been assigned for the nominee of choice.
Function and Purpose of Primary Elections
However, the most popular way of selecting a party candidate for the presidential contest is in the primary elections. Party members use a ballot with the main purpose of choosing an individual they want to be their party candidate. The election process in a closed primary occurs only among members of the particular political party determining their candidates. For instance, a registered Democrat cannot vote in the Republican primary. Overall, parties favor this system because it assures the candidate is selected by voters who genuinely support the party. On the other hand, an open primary enables all citizens to vote (Krutz, 2019). Overall, primary elections have a significantly lower turnout than the nationwide general election.
National Political Party Conventions
When it becomes apparent who the parties’ candidates are going to be, presidential campaigns become quieter. At that time, national parties host national conventions. Such conventions are typically held between June and September. Conventions usually last four to five days, with specific days dedicated explicitly to platform discussion and preparation, whereas nights are devoted to speeches (Krutz, 2019). The candidate’s family and essential members of the party commonly give speeches throughout the first days of a national convention. After that, the vice-presidential candidate is speaking, and the presidential candidate’s statement is reserved for the final night. One of the rules is for a party with the incumbent president to hold their convention later. For example, in 2016, the Democratic Party had its convention after the Republican party.
The Role of Conventions
Generally, due to the party rules, each party’s candidate is apparent when conventions are held. Even if a presidential candidate attempts to keep their position a secret, the media frequently leaks out the news before the convention or an official statement is made. However, there are still reasons to host such events. For presidential candidates, a successful convention often goes hand in hand with the rise in popularity, which allows them to get some increase in public support. Suppose an individual candidate does not get the anticipated growth. In that case, the campaign manager and other people involved have to accurately assess whether the person has a healthy connection with the voters or specific changes need to be made.
General Election Campaign Process
The general election campaign period happens between mid-August and the beginning of November. The process is easier to comprehend and follow than primaries and conventions as it usually has only two main candidates. Candidates generally understand that half of the American population will vote for a member of their party (Krutz, 2019). Thus, they tend to focus on influencing independent voters and making visits to states where the election date is close. For example, in 2016, both candidates understood the possible changes in the voters’ preferences, which led them to visit different states. Trump was campaigning in some Democratic states, specifically Michigan and Wisconsin. Eventually, President Trump won in both of these states, which enabled him to achieve a sufficient majority in the Electoral College.
The Second Stage
Personal visits and candidates’ campaigns are essential during the election period; however, presidential debates are also exceptionally valuable. Debates allow voters to view candidates in action, as they are answering questions on future policy ideas and prior political and personal decisions. Furthermore, public debates allow seeing candidates in contrast to one another and observing how they hold up in stressful situations. Due to the rapid development of the Internet and television, the footage of the debates is streamed online or published within hours, making it easier for the general public to access. Thus, contemporary campaign managers comprehend the importance of debate season. Debates are usually hosted over by the end of October, particularly close to Election Day.
Media in Modern Political Campaigns
Media has always played an essential role in political campaigns. The presidential elections of 2008 indicated the start of the “new media, new politics 2.0.” phase of media campaigning (Owen, 2018). This specific period is characterized by modification in electronic election communication, as it promotes networking, active engagement, and community building. Thus, campaign websites started to be presented as multimedia platforms that citizens can utilize to find information about the candidates, access video files, share opinions, donate, and find ways to participate as volunteers. However, one of the most significant developments of the new era of campaigning was the extensive use of social media platforms, including Facebook and Youtube. Moreover, traditional media companies tried to follow emerging trends by incorporating various posting and video sharing features into the digital versions of their platforms.
Development of Media
The innovations in political campaigning were elevated in midterm elections in 2010, as such Platforms as Twitter and other forms of microblogging started to appear more prominently. Another essential development is the use of “big data” by campaign managers. This term is referred to as the process during which large data sets are collected from “voter files, social media analytics, and consumer data” (Owen, 2018, p. 5). This tool is used to target potential voters with certain political information based on the preferences discovered in these data sets. It is also used to forecast voters’ attitudes and election results. However, conventional media remains relevant, especially for nominees that are not well-known. More contemporary voters become more and more skeptical about information from the candidate’s website, as it might represent only the positive side of an individual. Thus, media outlets tend to be less biased; therefore, candidates try to get featured in newspapers, which is also cheaper than the advertisement.
The Populist Narrative of Media
Contemporary media coverage of campaigns focuses on the most sensational moments instead of providing reports about the nominees. Thus, eccentric characters, unusual remarks, factual errors, and embarrassing exposures tend to get more air time than people’s position on various vital issues (Owen, 2018). Donald Trump’s campaign is an example of a new era of press coverage of the election. Moreover, scientists that analyzed 2012 elections discovered that sixty-four percent of media articles concentrated on campaign tactics. Whereas only nine percent reported on national problem positions, six percent covered the nominees’ public accounts, and one percent included their perception of foreign policy strategies.
The Role and Influence of Money
Early fundraising is essential for presidential candidates, as a thoroughly organized campaign will not succeed without it. Money is particularly important because they help candidates win, and the capacity to accumulate funds distinguishes those nominees that are viable. Moreover, if a candidate can raise a significant amount of money in the beginning, they will continue raising even more (Owen, 2018). For example, during the 2016 elections, different candidates received more donations than their opponents. Thus, the top fundraizers in 2015 were Clinton, Bush, and Cruz. On the other hand, Jindal and Pataki got visibly less monetary support and consequently dropped out from the race early on.
The Affects of Fundraising
Another example of money influencing positive media coverage is when Bush reported more contributions than any other Republican candidate, which allowed news to focus on his impressive abilities to gain financial support. On the contrary, the media was extensively covering the lack of money of his opponents. Moreover, Trump’s financial independence has affected his success during the elections. Therefore, both public support and personal wealth can positively contribute to the election narrative. However, long before the contemporary elections, numerous citizens were concerned about the amount of money that can go into presidential campaigns. Thus, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) to positively contribute to the fight against corruption in politics.
FECA inflicted boundaries on the amount a person could donate to a political campaign. Moreover, the Act restricted the amount that could be contributed to different independent payments, which are not formally linked to any political campaign but can be used to pay for statements that promote or oppose specific nominees. Therefore, certain measures were taken in the past to avoid massive campaign spending and to shift the focus away from financial networking. For instance, the recent enormous campaign spending did not positively contribute to the image of a Democratic candidate Bloomberg due to his reputation. Therefore, donations and fundraisers are essential; however, they are not the only decisive factor in contemporary political campaigning.
The contemporary political system evolves around the two most predominant political parties, such as Democratic and Republican. Some of the primary functions of the parties are the choice of candidates, the organization of political campaigns, and the mobilization of voters. Moreover, voters can participate in several elections, including local, presidential, and congressional. Some essential procedures before the official elections are caucus and primary elections. They enable people to choose a candidate they believe should represent their party. After that, the national conventions occur, where candidates for president and vice-president can give speeches, and their parties can be represented. Moreover, the general election campaign begins, where candidates visit voters personally and have public debates. The media and fundraising also play an essential role during the period of elections.