A first we will discuss the several functions that Political Parties provide for the American Political System.
According to the book, “Parties, and Elections in America” there are mainly six functions of the parties:
- To act as link between the government and the public.
- To nominate the candidate
- To contest the elections.
- To organize the government
- Responsible for the public accountability towards the government
- To manage conflicts
To act as an intermediate between government and citizens
As we, all know a party playa a very critical role in any democratic society. The party who brings all the sectors of people together and form a strong base for any government formation. The parties work towards the betterment of the society and help the government to achieve their policies. The parties also work towards the various social causes of the society by nominating good candidate, contesting elections, fulfilling the demands of the people and organizing the government. In 1800 America became the first nation which had the modern political parties and which underwent elections. Many political scientists also believed that political parties act as an intermediate between the government and the people. They act as an important link between the people and the government. In order to retain this link the parties must share the responsibilities with several interests groups and mass media. The interest group includes all the business and trade unions, all the religious and cultural groups etc.
The nomination of the candidate
As we, all know the nomination of the candidate is the most crucial phase of any electoral process. In America, the political party decides the nomination of the candidate whether at national or state levels. Without a proper party nomination it just not possible to be elected to any major office. There are very few exceptions of independent candidates entering the US representative house. All the senators are either republican or democrats. The nomination is very important because it largely influence the election process. A party can win election or loose it if the nomination is not up to the mark or not up to the people’s expectations. After the voting right of 1956 the blacks became eligible for voting, As the blacks are more inclined towards democrats, the south became the major competition between the republican and democratic party. The Democratic Party’s nomination becomes more liberal while the Republican Party’s nomination becomes more conservative. Since 1920 the nomination of the congressional and state offices are decided by the first primary. In first primary, the party voters directly select the nominations. Similarly, in the presidential election it is the first primary who selects the candidate.
To contest elections and gather the votes
In a vast country like America it is very difficult for any political party to channelise its vote bank. But it is a very important function of any party. Moreover, the two parties namely republican and democratic largely depend on their vote banks for their victory. The parties take helps of the several interest groups, organizations, consultant, technicians, and volunteers during elections.The parties largely rely on their respective vote banks and their commitments for the party. The parties also devise ways to motivate people come out and vote for them and even the people supporting the opposition are wooed.
To organize the government
The government will run efficiently and properly only when there is proper division of labour and power. The parties play a very important role in organizing the government. It is the winning party who holds the seat for the speaker for the congress and other important offices. It is the president’s party who holds all the major offices and all the appointments at all the levels prior to the nominations must be cleared by the party. Thus the executive branch is largely based on the party basis. The party plays an very important role in the coordination between the legislature and the executive. As the presidents works towards the fulfillment of the policies of the party. So the organization of the government largely depend on the party.
To provide public accountability
In democratic system, the people hold the power. Thus, the parties give the voters right to ask the government questions for their actions. Parties make government accountable for their actions towards the public. In America, political power is divided among legislative, executive, and judiciary. It is the role of the party, which is important in deciding the course of election. The voters decide to whom he wants to cast his vote according to the party. There are two major parties in the US and the people participates in the formation of the government at local ,state and national level by giving votes to their choice. Parties decide the policies and works towards the fulfillment of the policies and to retain their vote banks. The parties contribute in the citizen control of the government but not directly. Parties and candidates try to find the particular public sentiments before any election and it is the public who decides the course of the election.
Every four years the public gives its verdict in the favor of any party on its performance.
To manage conflict
As conflicts are a common fixture of any society, it is also very common in the US political system. As the American system broadly divided between two parties, the parties work on the system of broader coalitions. Now it is entirely on to the parties to manage conflicts between the government and the coalitions. After the victory of any party, the expectations from the government become higher. In addition, the demand to deliver within the short time frame arises. To avoid conflicts arising from such situations, party has to play an important role such that all the differences are sorted out between the party and the alliances itself.
The second question is that How are American political parties organized? Mention differences between the nation party, state parties, and local parties.
First, we will try to tell how the political parties are organized:
In America, the political system is broadly divided between two major parties namely democratic and republican. People accept these two parties to contest the elections and they cast their votes according to the choice of their party. However, the organization of the political parties is not somewhat planned. There had been several instances of parties being organized and realigned throughout the American political history. The realignment takes place only when there is an impending crisis going on. The situational crisis includes the economic and political changes such as change in support of the institutional groups, interest groups, the support of the people, addition of the new groups of voters and development of new issues, which affects the party, and the people. All these changes lead to the six major realignments of political parties in the America namely first party system(1728-1824 ), the second party system ( 1828-1854), the third party system ( 1856-1896), the fourth party system ( 1896-1928), the fifth party system (1932-1968 ), and the present system ( 1968-present).
Here in this essay we will emphasize more on the present party system and how the parties are organized in the present party system. The present party system of American politics is broadly divided between the democratic and the republicans. Nowadays the parties do not perform the functions such as the nomination process, infact they act like a bridge between the government and the people. Today the American politics are not party centric but leader centric. In addition, the people generally tend to vote for a candidate than for a party. The party loyalties have changed. After the blacks become eligible to vote and showed their inclination towards the democrats, the south played an important role in deciding any election future. Change in the vote banks of the parties and support of several interests groups and institutional groups has lead to the weakening of the party system. Now the people don’t associate themselves with the party but with the candidates. all these has lead to the development of the new parties at the national , state and the local level. Although there is a grassroots’ level differences between these three types of the parties but basically all these parties works towards the welfare of the people and the system.
Differences between the nation party, state party and the local parties
- Nation party – Due the weakening of the party ties and the elections becoming more and more candidate centric, there is a rise in the third national parties. The emergence of the third parties tells us that America does not have a pure two party system but the third parties also play a crucial role in the elections. Some of these third parties are very old also like socialist and prohibition parties. There are several new parties also, but not all these parties play a very active role at the national level or in the main politics. They somehow play a very isolated role. These parties generally become active during elections and the formation of these parties shows the inability of the two major parties to meet the expectations of the people. These parties also try to deals with certain social issues, which the two parties are unable to make it on their agenda. The most common example of these is the issues of free soilers and slavery issues. There had been numerous formations of third parties during elections and many instances of independent candidates of running for the election, but all these parties are always in the side and the two major parties play the central role.
- State party – The emergence of the state level parties is generally the same as the national level. With people voting for the two main parties, there is an increase in the emergence of the third party at the state levels during the election. These parties however deal with the state level issues and their major concern is to win the election of the state offices. These parties work on the line of the national parties. They mainly deals with the issues that of the welfare of the citizens.
- Local party – The history of the American politics have shown that the some of the local parties have done exceptionally well at the grass root level without loosing it identity or merging with the big parties. Therefore, the local party plays a very important role in the elections.
Thus, we see that although there is emergence of the third parties during elections the two party systems is generally prevalent in the United States. The two party systems is working because of the huge support from the people, even if one party wins the election there is a large support for the other party as well. The election of the president requires a large support and votes and the two party systems help it to achieve that. In addition, the candidate running for the election gets the brand of that party and the party provides him with the funds, he can access to the huge database of voters as well as the mass media. Thus, we can say that these two parties are the permanent fixture of American politics and an important part of it.
Bibby, John F. Politics, Parties, and Elections in America. Belmont, CA. Cengage Learning, 2008. chapter1,pg.5-13.
Bibby, John F. Politics, Parties, and Elections in America. Belmont, CA. Cengage Learning, 2008. chapter2,pg.19-45.