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. The big tent approach is opposed to single-issue litmus tests and ideological rigidity, 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.
Also, in the United States, a very good example of this approach was the New Deal coalition, which formed in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies since 1930s. 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.
In Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada is not strongly ideological or regional, but is instead open to members with a wide range of views. While some criticize the party for lacking in conviction, supporters argue that compromise is an essential feature of democracy.
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".
There are also those within each party who would like to make certain issues litmus tests for party membership even though there is substantial disagreement on those issues within the parties themselves. Tax cuts, abortion, and gun policy are three examples. For example, Grover Norquist chaired the Republican National Committee session presenting the candidates for Chairman. Norquist gave the candidates a catechism on these issues before they spoke.
The Libertarian Party of the United States, 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 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 putting an end to the minor party; this happened to the Prohibition Party and the Populist Party.
- Austrian People's Party
- Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, Brazil
- Democratic Party, Italy
- Christian Democracy, Italy (1943–1994)
- South Tyrolean People's Party
- Christian Democratic Union of Germany
- Institutional Revolutionary Party, Mexico
- Justicialist Party, Argentina
- Fianna Fail, Republic of Ireland
- Fatah, Palestine
- Indian National Congress
- Nur Otan, Kazakhstan
- All Progressives Congress, Nigeria
- Social Democratic Party, Portugal
- United Russia, Russia
- Social Democratic Party, Sweden (formerly)
- Democratic Unity Roundtable, Venezuela
- Together for Yes, Catalonia
- Liberal Democratic Party, Japan
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