Posted by acsenray:
Actually, the Liberal Party disbanded recently – this year, I think.
If you’re interested in political parties in America, go to http://www.politics1.com. There is a “Political Parties” page which lists almost every party active in the U.S., even the really little ones. There’s also a “The 50 States” page which can give you access to information about politics and government in a given state, including a list of all the political parties in that state, some of which exist at the state level only.
As for what the Democratic and Republican labels really mean, let’s look at the beliefs of their supporters. The problem is, each is a “big tent” party encompassing several different factions with very different beliefs and values. These factions are forced to huddle under one big tent because we use the winner-take-all, single-member-district system for electing Congress and all the state legislatures. This system is naturally bipolar. That is, in elections it grants victory to the two strongest parties and marginalizes the rest. Each party becomes a “big tent” of several very different factions in an uneasy alliance, because none of those factions sees any realistic hope of going it alone. E.g., the African-Americans mostly vote Democrat, because why would they vote Republican? The religious conservatives stick with the Republican Party because they have significant influence in it – even if they’re mostly working-class people and not entirely comfortable with the plutocrats who are actually running the party. The result is that each party has its outer flanks pretty much sewn up, most of the time (the Green insurgency in 2000 was an exception), and the only turf left for them to fight over is the center. That is – most seats in Congress are “safe seats” for one party or the other. There are a few “swing” districts, which could go either way, depending on how the few voters at the center of the spectrum within that district decide to vote on election day. Those few centrist voters in those few swing districts are the only Americans who have a real, effective vote in congressional elections; the rest of us might as well have stayed home, for all the difference we make. And that situation artificially inflates the importance of the political center.
When we look at the range of opinions among the people, we find they are not clustered at the center, but distributed all over the map in clusters of roughly equal size. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has developed a typology (http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=98) which divides the American body politic into the following ten groups (they revise and refine the model every election cycle or two, but the model retains its basic outlines). Note that almost every group shows a certain level of support for the Dems, the Reps, or both, which allows us to gather some idea of what the party labels really “mean”:
STAUNCH CONSERVATIVES: 10% of adult population, 12% of registered voters. 72% Republican; 24% independent, lean Republican. Pro-business, pro-military, pro-life, anti-gay and anti-social welfare with a strong faith in America. Anti-environmental. Self-defined patriot. Distrustful of government. Little concern for the poor. Unsupportive of the women’s movement. Predominately white (95%), male (65%) and older. Married (70%). Extremely satisfied financially (47% make at least $50,000). Almost two-thirds (63%) are white Protestant.
MODERATE REPUBLICANS: 11% of general population, 12% of registered voters. 76% Republican; 22% independent, lean Republican. Pro-business, pro-military, but also pro-government. Strong environmentalists. Highly religious. Self-defined patriots. Little compassion for poor. More satisfied than Staunch Conservatives with state of the union. White, relatively well educated and very satisfied financially. Largest percent of Catholics across all groups.
POPULIST REPUBLICANS: 9% of general population, 10% of registered voters. 72% Republican, 25% independent, lean Republican. Religious, xenophobic and pro-life. Negative attitudes toward gays and elected officials. Sympathetic toward the poor. Most think corporations have too much power and money. Tend to favor environmental protection. Almost two-thirds are dissatisfied with the state of the nation. Heavily female (60%) and less educated. Fully 42% are white evangelical Protestants.
NEW PROSPERITY INDEPENDENTS: 10% of general population, 11% of registered voters. 69% independent, 21% Republican, 5% Democrat. Pro-business, pro-environment and many are pro-choice. Sympathetic toward immigrants, but not as understanding toward black Americans and the poor. Somewhat critical of government. Tolerant on social issues. Well educated (38% have a college degree), affluent (almost one-fourth earn at least $75,000) and young (70% less than age 50). Slightly more men than women (55% to 45%, respectively). Less religious (only 13% go to church weekly).
DISAFFECTEDS: 9% of general population, 10% of registered voters. 73% independent, 8% Democrat, 6% Republican. Distrustful of government, politicians, and business corporations. Favor third major political party. Also, anti-immigrant and intolerant of homosexuality. Very unsatisfied financially. Less educated (only 8% have a college degree) and lower-income (73% make less than $50,000). More than one-quarter (28%) describe themselves as poor. Half are between the ages of 30-49. Second only to Partisan Poor in number of single moms. One-fifth (20%) work in manufacturing.
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS: 9% of general population, 10% of registered voters. 56% Democrat; 41% independent, lean Democrat. Pro-choice and support civil rights, gay rights, and the environment. Critical of big business. Very low expression of religious faith. Most sympathetic of any group to the poor, African-Americans and immigrants. Highly supportive of the women’s movement. Most highly educated group (50% have a college degree). Least religious of all typology groups. One-third never married.
SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRATS: 13% of general population, 14% of registered voters. 70% Democrat; 27% independent, lean Democrat. Pro-U.S., yet disenchanted with the government. Intolerant on social issues. Positive attitude toward military. Think big business has too much power and money. Highly religious. Not affluent but satisfied financially. Slightly less educated, older group (27% are women over age 50). Labor union supporters. Higher than average number (62%) are married.
NEW DEMOCRATS: 9% of general population, 10% of registered voters. 75% Democrat; 21% independent, lean Democrat. Favorable view of government. Pro-business, yet think government regulation is necessary. Concerned about environmental issues and think government should take strong measures in this area. Accepting of gays. Somewhat less sympathetic toward the poor, black Americans and immigrants than Liberal Democrats. Many are reasonably well educated and fall into the middle-income bracket. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) are women and 21% are black. Numerous are self-described union supporters.
PARTISAN POOR: 9% of general population, 11% of registered voters. 85% Democrat; 12% independent, lean Democrat. Xenophobic and anti-big business. Disenchanted with government. Think the government should do even more to help the poor. Very religious. Support civil rights and the women’s movement. Have very low incomes (40% make under $20,000), and two-thirds (66%) are female. Nearly four-in-ten are African-American and 14% are Hispanic. Not very well educated. Pro-labor union. Largest group of single mothers.
BYSTANDERS: 11% of general population, 0% of registered voters. 54% independent, 25% Democrat, 10% Republican. These Americans choose not to participate in politics, or are not eligible to do so (noncitizens). Somewhat sympathetic toward poor. Uninterested in what goes on in politics. Rarely vote. Young (49% under 30), less educated and not very religious. Work in manufacturing, construction and restaurant/retail industries.