A new report released today by the American Political Science Association (APSA) and Protect Democracy, More than Red and Blue: Political Parties and American Democracy, identifies how today’s political parties are exacerbating many of the country’s central political problems. Skepticism of political parties is a central feature of American political culture and only about 11% of Americans express high confidence in political parties – igniting APSA’s desire to identify why. Ultimately, the research supports a surprising conclusion: there’s a near-consensus among scholars that healthy political parties are essential to a stable democracy, and without change our politics will likely continue to deteriorate.
The gravity of democracy challenges in the U.S. spurred APSA to establish a task force of 13 of America’s leading scholars on political parties and partisanship, chaired by David Lublin (American University) and Lilliana Mason (Johns Hopkins University). The task force’s report synthesizes decades of expert research on political parties: what they do in democracies, why American parties are failing to behave responsibly, and what evidence tells us about their future.
Key insights from the report include:
- Features of the current campaign environment, from campaign finance regulations to changes in media, have made it harder for political parties to fulfill their roles.
- American political parties are easy to join, opening them to new voices and interests but also leaving them vulnerable to capture by those with authoritarian objectives.
- Racial realignment between the major parties has been growing for decades, changing the way the parties see the political landscape and their incentives for action. In the 2016 presidential election, non-White voters comprised roughly 45% of the Democratic vote, compared with less than 15% of Republican voters.
- Political parties are vital to modern democracy and reform efforts should take their essential roles seriously.