Are Political Parties Really Necessary?

College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  Government/Political Philosophy/2010 Election

Lecture #6

This is a re-post of an article from my idle blog called “Revolutionary Independent”….I thought that it was somehow appropriate in this season of party politics and elections and campaigns……

I was asked this in one of my lecture on political philosophy, these days it is called political theory, by a student who said that he did not know what or why we have them in the system……a good question in these times of political chaos in the US……there are movements and then there are what we call parties……most of these are just a meeting place for politicians….

Enough beating around the bush……political parties?

The origins of political parties in the United States of American can be traced to the debates about the ratification of the Constitution. The Federalists, who supported ratification, and the Antifederalists, who opposed ratification, became the first two major political parties in the United States.  Basically, it is two camps on a political issue.

One of the most common–and practical–definitions of a political party is “a team of political office seekers.” Securing elective office for its members is, in fact, one of the most important objectives of a political party. Toward this end, political parties actively recruit candidates to run for office, organize volunteers, hold party conventions and other meetings and raise and spend money to support the party and its candidates.

Parties also represent the broad values or goals stated in their party platforms. While not all of the members of a party adhere to every “plank” in their party’s platform, people who affiliate with a political party usually support most of the party’s positions–at least more than they support the positions of the other party.

But there is a rub here…..American political parties do NOT have an ideology or a set of “real” principles…..that is because of several issues within each of the major parties….1–wide array of opinions….trying to be all inclusive, 2–they are interests based….patronage and special interests control the parties, 3–there is an absence of any form of party government–there is no true leader but many spokespersons, and finally, there is NO third party that will help form a cohesion within the two major parties…….basically, both major parties suffer from massive internal strife, thus making these parties tend toward centrists thinking…….

The American political system has, with a few brief exceptions, always had two major political parties. Third parties, such as the Reform Party today, arise from time to time and win a few votes. Sometimes a third party member is even elected to a significant political office, such as Jesse Ventura, who was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1998. But the American system of elections tends to work against third parties. Because votes are cast for members of Congress in single-member districts on a winner-take-all basis, third party candidates are almost never elected to the House or Senate.

Before a third party can be considered a legitimate party, it must at least “contest” elections at every level, meaning it must field candidates for every office from President to city council (or at least Congress). More importantly, its candidates must win a handful of these elections. While it is not impossible for a third party to transform the political party system through its own electoral success, history is not on its side. More often than not, third parties that experience some initial success end up fading after one (or both) of the two major parties “steals” its issues.

Now with that under our belt….are political parties necessary?

The simplest answer is that….they are NOT necessary but that they are needed….why would I say that?  They are needed because most Americans use them to decide where to put their votes…..they do not attempt to focus their attention on the whole picture just on a single issue….like guns or marriage or yada yada……

Americans for the most part are independent politically….however with that said, they are single issue voters and because of that they look for the candidate that most is in line with their thinking….and that means political parties.  Americans seem to do very little research into the issues…they will check out a candidate but they are looking more at his/her personality and not specific stands on issues….the Political Wire had a good report on a recent poll that illustrates what I am saying……

A Bloomberg National Poll finds that by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered.

The facts: The Obama administration cut taxes for middle-class Americans, has overseen an economy that has grown for the past four quarters and expects to make a profit on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to rescue Wall Street banks.

Said pollster Ann Selzer: “The public view of the economy is at odds with the facts, and the blame has to go to the Democrats. It does not matter much if you make change, if you do not communicate change.”

The American people need to spend a little more time researching the issues so they can make a valid and accurate statement with their vote….this cannot be accomplished watching reality TV or the World of Poker contest or the UFC…I am probably talking to myself….but nothing ventured…nothing gained….

Note:  I would like to thank for excerpts in this post……

14 thoughts on “Are Political Parties Really Necessary?

  1. I understand and I agree in principle, but I have a real problem with what you suggest for the voter…

    Whilst I do most certainly agree that voters owe it to THEMSELVES to learn more and become more politically astute – in fact they owe it to themselves to educate themselves and become more astute about life itself, instead of expecting the government to do everything for them (the old maxim of: if it seems too good to be true it probably IS, comes to mind) – I don’t think it’s right to demand, or even expect, that of them, particularly for purely political reasons.

    It has ALWAYS seemed to me that politicians and most specifically political parties have an ongoing DUTY before, during and after elections to explain themselves endlessly to the public whom they claim to represent and to continually seek feedback on their actions – so gaining approval, or otherwise – they are supposed to be servants, NOT masters!

    If those who have been elected and are therefore charged with doing a particular job cannot be bothered (or are too bloody arrogant) to explain their actions and their aims and desires for the country, how the hell can we reasonably expect voters to understand when they have installed these people to do the job because they presumably feel they can’t do it themselves, or they don’t want to?

    It seems to me very like being asked to keep a dog and then having to bark oneself!

    Most people I believe, whatever they finally settle for in these days of TV and sound bite politics, accept what they end up with because there is damn all offered that is seriously better.

    1. Politicians will NOT do the right thing by the voter……campaigns should be under the scrutiny of the “truth in advertising” sort of thing…..(crap! yet another post!)… me parties are for identification not goverance…IMO, the more they pretend the more they become unnecessary……if they were about principles then I would be less likely to abandon them…..but here they are all about the next election…not the next generation…….

      1. I fear you are absolutely right… but then, isn’t that precisely the scenario that is automatically pre-ordained by the whole system of Representative Democracy?

      2. Pretty much and that is why we can get NO traction on that field…politicians do NOT want us to participate…sad indictment of a system that could be the best thing ever…..

      3. You know I was thinking about the Constitution and what I would write into one, if I was asked to do so…..(oh crap! I just forced myself into another post…oh well….lol)

      4. But are politicians capable of KISS? It would seem that their allegiance to special interests would preclude simple……

      5. This is one spot I want to change first…..we need to find and elect people that will be statesmen and not yes men for the corporations….a difficult jib but they are there….unfortunately few of them will run for office….

      6. There is NO way to change that unless, as I have said here many times, you change the system! It is currently designed SPECIFICALLY to keep big money in power – a 5 year old can figure that, but Americans with their love of the almighty (well, once upon a time almighty) dollar will never see that.

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