Discussion 5 California Propositions 2020
Visit https://ballotpedia.org/California_2020_ballot_propositions (Links to an external site.).
Each student should choose ONE proposition from the November 2020 California ballot and explore the organizations that supported and opposed the proposition. What does your research say about direct democracy? Explain and tie your discussion into course material.
Discussion 6 Political Parties
Read the excerpt below. Discuss if you think political parties are necessary to the workings of American democracy and explain why using the information below as well as related course materials.
The Founding Fathers were very skeptical of political parties, calling them factions. In fact, James Madison, the moving force behind the US Constitution, believed that the key to a successful republic was tamping down the impulse to form factions. Nevertheless, within a few years of the ratification of the Constitution, two political parties quickly formed — the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. And Madison himself by 1808 was the leader of the Democratic-Republicans, becoming president under its banner.
Today, 42 percent of Americans register themselves as Independents. Pollsters are a little skeptical about the idea that Independents are rejecting politics. The vast majority of Independents actually vote rather consistently for one party or the other and have clear political values. But it is also clear that they do not want to associate themselves with the two major political parties, perhaps feeling that they are sullying the political process. Polls have found that the two major political parties — Democratic and Republican — have lost a great deal of approval in the last two decades, falling about 20 percentage points from the mid-50 percent approval in the 1990s to mid-30s today.
The dislike of the two parties may explain why two outsiders were so successful in the 2016 presidential election process. Bernie Sanders was a long-time Independent but came close to winning the Democratic nomination. Donald Trump had been a Democrat and then switched party allegiance to the Republicans and went on to win the Republican nomination.
But this begs an even larger question about the necessity of political parties generally. After all, both Sanders and Trump chose to work within the two major parties in the electoral process. While many have argued that they should embrace their outsider roles, forget the major parties, and form third parties, that only suggests that political parties are still relevant and even necessary.
Sean Wilentz Argument
The noted political historian Sean Wilentz, in his article The Politicians and the Egalitarians (2016), argues not only are the political parties necessary, they are essential, indeed they are good. He maintains that, just as the Founding Fathers quickly discovered, parties and partisanship are needed in order to make lasting political change. The wrangling and fighting between parties leads to social progress, especially as a counterweight to wealth and power accumulation. The disenfranchised, the less wealthy, and the less powerful need an effective and strong mechanism to fight the natural tendencies in a society to put more money and power into the same hands. Political parties are that powerful institution. Major social changes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 happened because of the dynamics of political parties, not because of outsiders who put forward ideas but are too weak to create big change.