Big tent

For the big top tent, see Big Top.

In politics, a big tent or catch-all party is a political party seeking to attract people with diverse viewpoints and thus appeal to more of the electorate. This is accomplished by appealing to a very limited number of issues, characteristics and/or goals, yet, capable enough to create the degree of unity necessary to fulfill said objectives. The big tent approach is opposed to ideological cohesiveness, conversely advocating multiple ideologies and views within a party.


United States

In the United States, during the latter half of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, the Republican Party boasted membership of big business interests, laborers (both of whom supported the GOP's tariff strategy) as well as many African Americans, due to Republican Abraham Lincoln's abolition of slavery and the party's stance on civil rights.

Another example of the big tent approach was the New Deal coalition led by the Democratic Party, which formed in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies from 1930s until 1960s. This coalition brought together labor unions, southern Dixiecrats, progressives, and others in support of FDR's economic program, even though these groups strongly disagreed on other issues.

The Libertarian Party, following the 1974 Dallas Accord, embraced the big tent idea to the extent it ensured that the anarchist-capitalist views would not be excluded from the majority minarchist party.[1][2][3] The Republican Liberty Caucus and similar groups aim to shift the US Republican Party's "center of the tent" towards Goldwater-Reagan ideals and those of libertarian Ron Paul.

Historically in the United States, political parties adopting a big tent approach have often performed well at the polls. Parties promoting only one narrow ideology have attracted marginal support at best, or have seen their issues adopted by one or both of the major parties in a big tent effort, effectively co-opting the issues and dramatically limiting the viability of the minor party; this happened to the Prohibition Party and the Populist Party.


The Indian National Congress attracted support from Indians of all classes, castes and religions opposed to the British Empire.[4]


Italian populist party Five Star Movement, founded in 2009 by former TV comedian and actor Beppe Grillo, has no official ideological stance; its major aim is a moralization of Italian political status, the fight against corruption and opposition to the European Union.

United Kingdom

When Gordon Brown became British Prime Minister in 2007, he invited several members from outside the Labour Party into his government. These included former CBI Director-General Digby Jones who became a Minister of State, and former Liberal Democrats leader Paddy Ashdown who was offered the position of Northern Ireland Secretary (Ashdown turned down the offer).[5][6] The media often refer to Brown's Ministry as "a government of all the talents" or simply "Brown's big tent".[7]


The Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), formed in early 2000 was a conglomerate of parties which united as an electoral list in order to oust president Slobodan Milošević and his ruling Socialist party. This objective was accomplished in the presidential election of September of the same year. In December, the list also participated in the parliamentary election, gathering a total of 176 seats, more than two-thirds of the National Assembly. The DOS was subsequently disbanded on November 2003, months after the assassination of Zoran Đinđić.

Other examples

See also


  1. Mike Hihn, "The Dallas Accord, Minarchists, and why our members sign a pledge", Washington State Libertarian Party, August 2009.
  2. Paul Gottfried, The conservative movement: Social movements past and present , Twayne Publishers, 1993, p. 46.
  3. Less Antman, The Dallas Accord is Dead, Lew, May 12, 2008.
  4. Meyer, Karl Ernest; Brysac, Shareen Blair (2012). Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds. PublicAffairs. pp. 64–. ISBN 9781610390484. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  5. "In full: Brown's government". BBC News. June 29, 2007.
  6. "The fallout from Brown's job offer". BBC News. June 21, 2007.
  7. "First 100 days: Gordon Brown". BBC News. October 5, 2007.
  8. Hroník, Jiří. "Známe tajemství velkého úspěchu Andreje Babiše". Parlamentní listy. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  9. Mlejnek, Josef. "Marketing jako kingmaker aneb Kam směřují české politické strany?". Revue Politika. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  10. 1 2 Sarah Elise Wiliarty (16 August 2010). The CDU and the Politics of Gender in Germany: Bringing Women to the Party. Cambridge University Press. pp. 218–221. ISBN 978-1-139-49116-7.
  11. 1 2 Wilfried Swenden (2004). Federalism and Second Chambers: Regional Representation in Parliamentary Federations: the Australian Senate and German Bundesrat Compared. Peter Lang. p. 60. ISBN 978-90-5201-211-7.
  12. James L. Newell; James Newell (28 January 2010). The Politics of Italy: Governance in a Normal Country. Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-521-84070-5.
  13. Maria Maguire (1986). "Ireland". In Peter Flora. Growth to Limits: Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy. Walter de Gruyter. p. 333. ISBN 978-3-11-011131-6.
  14. Eoin O'Malley (2011). Contemporary Ireland. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-230-34382-5.
  15. Lowell Barrington (2009). Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices. Cengage Learning. p. 379. ISBN 0-618-49319-0.
  16. Mohammadighalehtaki, Ariabarzan (2012). Organisational Change in Political Parties in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. With Special Reference to the Islamic Republic Party (IRP) and the Islamic Iran Participation Front Party (Mosharekat) (Ph.D. thesis). Durham University. p. 176.
  17. Glenn D. Hook; Julie Gilson; Christopher W. Hughes; Hugo Dobson (2001). Japan's International Relations: Politics, Economics and Security. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-134-32806-2.
  18. Sigrid Baringhorst; Veronika Kneip; Johanna Niesyto (2009). Political Campaigning on the Web. transcript Verlag. p. 236. ISBN 978-3-8376-1047-5.
  19. William Cross (2015). "Party Membership in Quebec". In Emilie van Haute; Anika Gauja. Party Members and Activists. Routledge. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-317-52432-8.
  20. Tom Gallagher; Allan M. Williams (1989). "Southern European socialism in the 1990s". In Tom Gallagher; Allan M. Williams. Southern European Socialism: Parties, Elections, and the Challenge of Government. Manchester University Press. pp. 271–. ISBN 978-0-7190-2500-6.. Page 271.
  21. Günther Pallaver (2008). "South Tyrol's Consociational Democracy: Between Political Claim and Social Reality". In Jens Woelk; Francesco Palermo; Joseph Marko. Tolerance Through Law: Self Governance and Group Rights In South Tyrol. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 305, 309. ISBN 978-90-04-16302-7.
  22. David Lublin (2014). Minority Rules: Electoral Systems, Decentralization, and Ethnoregional Party Success. Oxford University Press. p. 229. ISBN 978-0-19-994884-0.
  23. Academic thesis on the factions within DPP
  24. Sventlana S. Bodrunova; Anna A. Litvinenko (2013). "New media and political protest: the formation of a public counter-sphere in Russia, 2008–2012". In Andrey Makarychev; Andre Mommen. Russia’s Changing Economic and Political Regimes: The Putin Years and Afterwards. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-135-00695-2.
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