Lesson Objectives:- Political parties and their functions
- Organization of political parties
- National committees
- State party organization
- Local party machinery
One main question polls ask is, "Do you consider yourself to be a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent?" Responses had been fairly evenly distributed among the three groups until recently, when more than 40% started to identify as independent.
An Independent is a voter or candidate who does not identify with a political party.
While special interest groups are formed to influence government, political parties have the ultimate goal of running it.
The functions of the political parties are pretty straightforward: Recruit candidates, organize and run elections, present alternative policies, accept responsibility for running the government, and act as the opposition to the party in power.
Party Organization is the formal structure and leadership of a political party, including election committees; local, state, and national executives; and paid professional staff. While some people think it is hierarchical, in reality, it is not. Local units actually have independence from the national party.
To explore National Party Organization, it all begins with the National Convention. That is the meeting held every four years by each major party to select presidential and vice-presidential candidates, write a platform, choose a national committee, and conduct party business.
The Party Platform is a document drawn up at each national convention outlining the policies, positions, and principles of the party. Often, the party platform gets discarded after the convention as party candidates continue their campaign, but sometimes, those policies become law.
There is a difference between ordinary party members and delegates. Delegates are often far more extreme to the right or the left compared to the ordinary members. That makes sense since delegates are either chosen by party leaders or are voted on in a primary, and voters in the primary are often the most committed to the party.
The National Committee is a standing committee of a political party established to direct and coordinate party activities during the four years between national party conventions.
The national committee ratifies the choice of chairperson who acts as the spokesperson for the entire party. The chairperson and the committee then start planning the next convention as well as raising funds and publicizing the party.
State parties share some features with the national party, even though they are unique in their own ways. Features they have in common include having a chairperson, a committee, and local organizations.
The State Central Committee is the principal organized structure for each political party within each state. This committee is responsible for carrying out policy decisions made at the party's state convention.
They also have control of the party funds since their main job is to get their party's candidates elected. After that, they have little to do with the candidate.
Supported by district leaders, ward captains, and party workers, the local organization is the lowest layer of the party machinery called the Grassroots.
At the local level, patronage is the practice that holds it all together. Patronage is the practice of rewarding faithful party workers and followers with government employment and contracts.
People who identify with a party but are not in a formal organization and are not an elected official themselves are known as the Party-in-the-Electorate. They include not just ordinary Americans, but also elite people such as media personalities, celebrities, and other prominent figures.
Policy Demanders play a big role in their party. They are individuals or interest group members who participate in political parties with the intent to see that certain policies are adopted or specific groups favored.
After the vote, the shift changes from getting into office to what to do now that they are in office. The president has a number of seats to fill and normally, he chooses from a pool of applicants provided by the political party. Appointing judges is also a great opportunity for the party that wins.
A party can really take control and often does, but checks and balances are in place to keep that control from ever going completely in one direction. This is why most Americans favor a divided government.
A Divided Government is a situation in which one major political party controls the presidency and the other controls one or more chambers of Congress. Or, it could be where one party controls a state governorship and the other controls the state legislature. Voters who are for a divided government might participate in Ticket Splitting. That is voting for candidates of two or more parties for different offices. For example, a voter splits her ticket if she votes for a Republican candidate for President and a Democratic candidate for Congress.