A political party is a political association that aims at influencing the government policies by nominating a candidate to run for a political office (Duverger 18). Political parties normally take part in campaigns for general elections. The parties also engage in creating awareness to the members of the public about their democratic voting rights and the importance of taking part in voting process. Besides that, political parties are involved in organizing for peaceful demonstrations with the members of the public so as to protest against bad leadership or mismanagement of public funds .Each political party has a written manifesto which entails the visions and the programs that it has for the country (Duverger 19).
In the United States, there are two main dominant political parties that the citizens identify with. These parties are the Republican Party and the Democratic Party (Ware 8). These two parties add to the concept that America has a two-party system. These parties emerged as a result of the need for equal representation and also as a result of the need and urgency to acquire power so as to control the people. The need to have a political party started way back in the early 1790s when the followers of Alexander Hamilton, who regarded themselves as federalists clashed with the followers of Thomas Jefferson, who considered themselves to be democratic republicans. The issue of slavery also necessitated the need to have a political party that would stand for the rights of the slaves and defend them when necessary (Duverger 10).
Political parties take part in a large role in the country in terms of contributing to democratic maturity and protecting the human rights and values in the country. The current president of the United States, President Barrack Obama belongs to the Democratic Party and the principles of his reign are based on the fundamentals of the Democratic Party. Actually there is a possibility that the government would have taken another dimension if the Republican Party would have clinched the presidency. Over the years, there has been a consistent debate whether the political parties are truly beneficial to the country or they just exist just for the sake (Neumann 17).
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Political Parties in the United States
Lately, the political party structure in the United States is regarded as a two-party system. This system has entirely been taken over by the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Since 1852, these two parties have alternately been the victors of the United States presidential elections and at the same time gained control of the United States Congress (McDonnell and Newell 34). At one time or another, several other small parties have achieved very minimal representation at the national level. The Republican Party provides great support to the American traditional ways while the Democratic Party is known for its support of American freedom (McDonnell and Newell 35).
Roles of Political Parties in the United States
Political parties play a major role in unifying people in order to take control of the government. The political parties normally construct policies which are deemed to be of assistance to the party supporters or followers. The policies of the political parties are normally in accordance with the country’s constitution in order to avert many crises. The main aim of any political party is to put in as much effort as possible so as to make sure that at least all the candidates who have been nominated to run for a public office are elected. Automatically, a political party with many elected members in the public offices has an upper hand in the law making process. The elected party members will always strive to achieve the objectives of the party by initiating programs or by legislations. A person automatically becomes a member of a political party through registration, thus, the person can opt to either register to be a Democrat or a Republican. Everybody registers at his or her will; no one is forced or coerced. It is the intention of the political parties to have as many members as possible as this will give them advantage during election process. Political parties have both active and inactive members. The most active members often avail themselves to take up roles within the party or vie for any nomination position in the party. On the other hand, the inactive members of the party mostly take part in the voting process only. They always come out in large numbers so as to support the nominated leader so as to win the public office. There exists a great deal of democratic maturity within the political parties; if a person feels that he or she is not convinced with the management of his political party, he or she is free to disagree with the party or move to another party that serves him or her right (Smith 25). Political parties in the United States are helpful as they play a major role of representing groups of interest, simplifying choices, and policy making. These roles are discussed in-depth below.
Representing Groups of Interest
When a nominated member of the party goes ahead and succeeds in the election, he or she will have the mandate to stand for his or her constituents. The constituents are derived from a given political region and it is imperative for the elected leader to not only meet the needs of members of his or her own political party but also to meet the needs of other constituents who do not belong to his political party. This is beneficial in gaining the confidence of the people from all areas, thus, when the person decides to seek for a re-election, he or she will be judged based on the development track record for the period he or she was in the office (Gunther and Larry 15).
An elected member of a party who represent constituents will try as much as possible to catch the attention of constituency members who are supporters of the other political party. The official can get this support by standing for issues that cut across political parties (bipartisan issues) and issues that do not touch on party loyalty. The constituents who are represented by the political parties have different needs, and these needs vary from one person to the other. The constituents compose of different groups of interest which include teachers, business owners, black Americans, farm workers, among others (Gunther and Larry 15). These people all need serious representation and when a leader delivers to them according to their expectation, then they will be very willing to re-elect the official back to the office.
The United States has two main parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. All these parties aim to attract a lot of followers as possible in order to have an added advantage during the general election. The parties separately provide their manifestos to the people with the aim of appealing to them to provide their support. Actually, the Republicans are notorious for advocating for a smaller size of the government, supporting traditionalist points with regard to social issues and also the Republicans support small medium and large business owners. On the other hand, the democrats are known for their support of the minority, laborers, and their notion that the government is very capable of solving all the people’s problems. The constituents, therefore, have a huge task to elect someone whom they believe has an excellent record in terms of development, regardless of his/her party affiliation. The main notion of sorting out these party officials is based on the philosophies that the party stands for. Strong philosophies attract support, but weak philosophies draw criticisms from all over the political region (Smith 33).
Political parties do not engage directly in making policies, instead, the political parties play a part on several issues which lean towards policy making. They also pay particular attention to the issues that have been ignored by whichever party is in power. In any case, when a given political party assumes power, the philosophies that are outlined in the party’s manifesto will be put in practice. This idea stems out from the fact that the winning political party has many voters; all these voters have therefore offered the winning candidate the permission to carry on with the political party’s philosophies stipulated clearly on the party’s manifesto. Past Presidents such as President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush had failed to win the greater part of the popular vote, and due to this, they were considered not to have a clear term of office with regard to policy making or implementing ideologies. Policy making is a very strong function of a political party since the policies spell out the outlines over which the governance of the country is based upon (Smith 33).
Nature of the Political Parties
The American political parties are organized and managed in a somewhat different manner from other political parties all over the world. Both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party do not have any official organization that regulates membership, designs policies, or organizes party activities at the national level. Membership is not restricted and it is very common to have a person who belongs to the Democratic Party but votes for a candidate who has been sponsored by the Republican Party. The parties play a distinctive role in ensuring that the candidates who have been lined up for elective positions satisfy the party requirements and meet the criteria that has been stipulated thereon (Ware 25).
In a nutshell, the two dominating parties in the United States have a fragile central control. The voters have more say than the party officials because the party belongs to them, thus, the party officials have no mandate to stop any party member who goes against the wishes of the party unless the voters do so by themselves. The presidential elections are normally considered as a national marathon between the Republican and the Democratic parties. When a party member has been nominated and cleared to run for the presidential position, he/she automatically becomes the de facto leader of the party. The candidate will then solicit for supporters who not only support him, but also support the other party candidates who have been cleared to run for other available public offices (Ware 25).
Benefits of the Political Parties in the United States
The two political parties have a task of appealing to the electorates and gathering them up together in order to engage in the political process. Before anyone is actively involved in politics, there has to be a major reason explaining as to why the person has chosen the line of politics. Some of these reasons include the existence of a reward. This reward can either be financial, employment or achieving a position of power. In addition, a person will become active in politics when he or she has the resources or capabilities to support him/her. Another reason to explain a person’s involvement in politics is the people asking him/her to do so; political parties on the other hand have a task of educating the public about the essentials of electoral process in a country. The party does this by providing civic education and also by supporting or sponsoring the potential leaders in their bids to seek for public offices (Duverger 25).
Political parties take part in voter registration exercises so as to ensure that a proper record of voters is in place. With regard to this, the parties carry out campaigns to entice people to register as voters and further encourage them to take part in the voting process, since voting is one of the fundamental rights to the citizens. They achieve this through advertisements on TVs, radios or billboards; they create awareness through personal contact with the people or by sending mails to some targeted people. During the voting or election period, the parties offer their supporters a trademark that identifies with the party’s flag bearer. This aims at reducing the cost of passing on information to the people, thus, the voters will be able to know the information regarding the candidate at first hand. The voting process is made easier by political parties since they limit and regulate the number of candidates that are appointed to run for a public office during an election process. This helps in avoiding wastage of time during the process of voting and also improves accuracy and precision of the voters during the election process (Gunther and Larry 20).
The voting process is a very costly affair, however, political parties help to lower this cost by taking part in preparation for elections. They bear part of the cost of registering new voters; they too bear part of the cost of training the electorates, and creating awareness on the importance of the voting process to a country. With all these done, the cost of voting will have been partly subsidized by the political parties. The most essential role of any political party is to make sure that democracy and good governance prevail in the country regardless of whichever party is in power. The opposition will always be at the forefront to ensure that no mismanagement of the public office takes place. The people entitled to vote greatly benefit from this as there is a proper check up on the ruling political party. With all these in place, the exercise of democracy and good governance will be the order of the day (Gunther and Larry 20).
In the United States, there are two main conflicting ideologies: federalism and separation of powers .These conflicting ideologies do not provide a favorable atmosphere for the collective work of officers drawn from the various sectors of the government as a result of continuous clash of principles and moral obligations. The existence of the two main political parties, the Republican and the Democrats, is viewed as a lease of hope to help in solving this problem. Various researches have found out that had there been no existence of these two parties, the government would only have provided for the interests of the elites at the expense of the locals. The existence of two competing parties within a democracy raises the level of awareness of the citizens in terms of democracy and efficient governance. The electorate will in turn get to know whom to hold accountable, when their democratic needs have been shortchanged. Political parties with this regard, therefore, play an important role to act as link between the electorate and the elected party officials in the government. The political parties too have the capability to gather together those who feel oppressed to demonstrate against their oppressors (Gunther and Larry 25).
Political parties are beneficial since they ensure that all the elected party officials to the public offices are really accountable for their actions while they still occupy those offices. The main reason behind this is that no political party would wish to have any of its elected official spoil its name and status in the country. The elected official should exercise his/her authority with regard to the principles outlined in the party’s structure. Any deviations from the party’s principles and morals will lead to the elected party official being put to task, to explain why this has happened. Through the leadership of the party, a disciplinary action can be taken against the rogue leader, or in some instances, a re-election can be called by the party. Therefore, without the existence of political parties, leaders would just rule as they wish, even if their reigns do not observe the principles of democracy and good governance (McDonnell and Newell 23).
The congress members who resort to follow their own self interest at the expense of the others can result to the existence of a Pareto inferior result (where everybody loses and nobody gains). However, the existence of political parties helps to construct highly regarded institutions that foster trust, confidence, and efficient synchronization among the congressmen. This contributes toward achieving a Pareto superior result (where some people gain but none loses). This Pareto superior result is beneficial particularly when important bills are required to be passed by the members of the congress (Smith 16). When the political parties cease from engaging in this role, then each member of the congress will have no other option other than following his or her self interest. Therefore, political parties greatly play a major role in causing the members of the congress stick to the principles and visions of the party in order to foster political and democratic maturity among the electorate.
Americans’ Reservations about Political Parties
Despite the fact that political parties play a huge positive role in the society, several Americans still have their doubts and misgivings with regard to the political parties. During the early 20th century, the political parties implemented a primary system for nominating candidates to an elective position and lately the political parties have resorted to a large number of presidential primaries as a determinant to presidential nominations. The citizens view this as excessive power by the party leaders toward the control of the government. Various opinion polls have alluded to the fact that parties create confusion rather than clarity with regard to issues pertaining to the elections and due to this, majority of Americans are disappointed and have lost faith in political parties (Duverger 24).
The political parties do not provide the necessary environment that is greatly hospitable to the Americans, instead, the in-fighting among the party officials have resulted to lack of faith from the party followers; thus, a large number of party members resort to splitting the party’s votes by voting for candidates of the opponent party (Neumann 22). The existence of partisan members of the party has contributed heavily to eroding the principles and morals that the parties stand for, in the society, thus many Americans have the notion that the politics in America is centered so much on the candidates rather than on the political parties (Neumann 23).
Political parties play a greater role in terms of shaping the leadership structure and maintaining the democratic principles in America. The common notion that parties have more short comings than benefits has necessitated various stakeholders to come up and shape the political dimension of the country by establishing credible organs or institutions that are entirely focused on promoting unity, transparency, and accountability of the elected party members. The political parties also lay down the frame work upon which the leadership is based. An elected leader will have to stick to the principles of leadership that are stipulated in the party’s manifesto. In a nutshell, the political parties provide more benefits to the electorate rather than much harm.