Big tent

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In politics, a big tent or catch-all party is a type of political party that seeks to attract voters from different points of view and ideologies. This is in contrast to other parties that defend a determined ideology and seek voters who adhere to that ideology and convince people towards it.



The centre-right National Coalition Party has been described as catch-all party supporting the interests of the urban middle classes.[1]


The La République En Marche! party founded by President Emmanuel Macron has been described as a centrist party with a catch-all nature.[2]


Both the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) are considered big tent or catch-all parties, known in German as Volksparteien ("people's parties").[3]


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


Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are considered catch-all parties, both being supported by people from different social classes and political ideologies.[5] Both parties are however usually described as being on the centre-right and liberal conservative.


In Italy, the Five Star Movement led by comedian and actor Beppe Grillo has been described as a catch-all, protest party and "post-ideological big tent" because its supporters do not share similar policy preferences, are split on major economic and social issues and are united largely based on "anti-establishment" sentiments.[6] The Five Star Movement's "successful campaign formula combined anti-establishment sentiments with an economic and political protest which extends beyond the boundaries of traditional political orientations", yet its "'catch-all' formula" has limited its ability to become "a mature, functional, effective and coherent contender for government".[6] Forza Italia and its predecessor on the centre-right and the Democratic Party on the centre-left are considered catch-all parties, both having been formed from mergers of political parties with numerous ideological backgrounds.


The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which held power in Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years from 1929 to 2000 was founded following the Mexican Revolution. Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles founded the PRI, then known as the National Revolutionary Party, in 1929 with the intent of providing a political space in which all the surviving leaders and combatants of the Mexican Revolution could participate, and to solve the grave political crisis caused by the assassination of president-elect Álvaro Obregón in 1928. Throughout its nine-decade existence, the PRI has adopted a very wide array of ideologies (often determined by the President of the Republic in turn). It nationalized the petroleum industry in the 1940s and the banking industry in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the party went through reforms that shaped its current incarnation, with policies characterized as centre-right, such as the privatization of State-run companies, closer relations with the Catholic church, and embracing free-market capitalism and neoliberal policies.[7][8][9]

The National Regeneration Movement, founded by the current president of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has often been described as a big tent party due to its various constituents that joined its ranks during the 2018 general elections.[10][11]


The centre-left Socialist Party (PS) and centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) have been described as catch-all parties.[12]

United Kingdom[edit]

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).[13][14] The media often referred to Brown's ministry as "a government of all the talents" or simply "Brown's big tent".[15]

United States[edit]

The Democratic Party during the New Deal coalition, formed in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies from 1930s until 1960s, was a "big-tent" party.[16] This coalition brought together labor unions, working-class voters, farm organizations, liberals, Southern Democrats, African Americans, urban voters and immigrants.[17][18]

The Blue Dog Coalition is a big-tent caucus of centrist and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives, some being socially conservative and fiscally and economically progressive or vice versa.[citation needed] For a brief period following the 2006 and 2008 elections, when Democrats held a majority in the House, this caucus wielded increased influence over the party, but its power declined again after a large majority of its members were defeated or retired in the 2010 election. Its Republican counterpart is the Republican Main Street Partnership.

In counter to the New Deal coalition, the Republican Party was for much of its history a "big tent" party that encompassed a wide range of right-wing and center-right causes, including a wide range of politicians who were fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal and vice versa. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Republican party attracted support from wealthy suburban voters in the South and Midwest, Northeastern moderates, Western libertarians, and rural conservatives across the country. From 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six presidential elections, with the only exception being a narrow loss to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. The culture wars of the 1990s and the growing influence of the Christian right within the party prompted the socially moderate and liberal sections of the Republican base, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, to begin slowly leaving the party in favor of moderate Democrats or independents.[citation needed] As a result, Republicans have lost the national popular vote in six out of seven presidential elections since 1992, while winning narrow Electoral College victories three times. However, moderate Republicans continued to thrive at the state level until the dawn of the 21st century.

Following the 1974 Dallas Accord, the Libertarian Party embraced the big tent idea to the extent it ensured that the anarchist-capitalist views would not be excluded from the majority minarchist party.[19]

Other examples[edit]

See also[edit]


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