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.
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. 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.
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.
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). The media often refer to Brown's Ministry as "a government of all the talents" or simply "Brown's big tent".
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.
- All Progressives Congress, Nigeria
- ANO 2011, Czech Republic
- Austrian People's Party
- Australian Labor Party
- Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, Brazil
- Coalition for Change (Philippines)
- Christian Democracy, Italy (1943–1994)
- Christian Democratic Union of Germany
- Democratic Unity Roundtable, Venezuela
- Fianna Fáil, Republic of Ireland
- Indian National Congress
- Institutional Revolutionary Party, Mexico
- Islamic Iran Participation Front
- Justicialist Party, Argentina
- Liberal Democratic Party, Japan
- Liberal Party of Australia
- Liberal Party of Canada
- March 8 Alliance, Lebanon
- Nur Otan, Kazakhstan
- People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), Eritrea
- Progressive Conservative Party of Canada
- Social Democratic Party, Romania
- Social Democratic Party, Portugal
- Social Democratic Party, Sweden (formerly)
- South Tyrolean People's Party
- Together for Yes, Catalonia
- Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan
- United Russia, Russia
- Human Shield, Croatia
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