Putting It Together


Political parties are an essential component of democracy. Two parties dominate American politics: the Republicans and the Democrats. These major parties are ideologically ambiguous in that they take middle-of-the-road rather than extreme positions on issues.

Societal groups that gravitate toward particular political parties can form partisan coalitions. The weight of these coalitions can shift during critical elections, resulting in an emergent majority that dominates the system for as long as the new coalition holds together.

Third parties offer an alternative to the dominant Republican and Democratic parties, but they have difficulty surviving. They arise to challenge the two major parties when people feel that their interests are not being met. There are numerous challenges faced by third parties in American politics, including winner-take-all elections, legal obstacles, lack of resources, and limited media coverage.

Interest groups are another important component in the political system. Interests groups use lobbyists to influence public officials in all government branches.

Numerous factors determine the success or failure of interest groups in achieving their policy objectives. These include their assets, objectives, alliances, visibility of their involvement in policy decisions, responses to political change and crises, and depictions in the media.

Relatedly, there is a hierarchy of interest groups’ relations with policy makers. Pluralists regard interest groups as essential to American democracy; critics, however, believe that business interest groups are too dominant. Business interest groups have several advantages that enable them to achieve their policy objectives but also several disadvantages, including negative media depictions.