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Political parties in the U.S. are highly decentralized and "weak" (according to most political scientists). This is likely because of the primary system combined with a first-past-the-post electoral system, in which voters from individual districts choose the nominee for each party. This allows voters to choose who most reflect their values (like pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrats in the South).

In the UK, where the parties are much stronger and more centralized, the leadership of the parties choose the nominees for each district -- the voters get no say. This lends itself to party members falling in line with the wants of the party leaders much more.

John McCain and Arlen Specter are basically impossible in the UK.

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Q: Are American political parties highly centralized or highly decentralized?
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