The main function of political parties is to provide
a means for the organization and direction of the struggle for political
power. Issues are promulgated and candidates are nominated through
political parties. After an election, the victorious party takes
control of the government, while the minority party helps to keep
the public informed about governmental actions. In this way, it
serves as the guardian of public interest against arbitrary assumption
of power. In conducting the government in the United States, the
party also minimizes separation of powers by bridging the gaps between
the three organs of the body. However, divided control of the government
by different parties, is also permitted by the American electoral
9.1a Representing groups of interests
Elected officials are the representatives of the
people who form constituents. The representatives have to
deal with the issues of their own political party but also of those
of people belonging to the other party, in their districts or states.
Thus bipartisan issues relating to matters crossing party
lines, as well as nonpartisan issues concerning matters unrelated
to party allegiance, have to be supported by the elected officials.
Groups such as farm workers on small business operators,
as well as individuals like teachers, are represented by the political
9.1b Simplifying choices
In order to gain votes both the parties (that are
the only parties) the Republicans and the Democrats simplify the
alternatives. They generally present the voters with two relatively
different sets of alternatives to major problems. They also limit
the choice of candidates to enable voters to choose between a few
alternatives, rather than a confusing variety of candidates and
therefore even views. Thus voters are attracted to a broad party
philosophy without the problem of dealing with specific issues.
For example, the Democrats support labor and minorities as also
the belief in governmentís ability to solve most of the nationís
problems, while the Republicans support business and hold a conservative
position regarding social issues.
9.1c Making policy
Politician parties are not actual policymakers.
However they define the political issues of the day and sharpen
the choice between the alternative paths to be followed by the government.
If he has to secure the most votes, the elected official has to
ensure that the desires of the electorate are reflected to some
extent in the legislative measures. Candidates, who win by a large
majority, consider that they have received a mandate from
the voters, in order to put into practice the program proclaimed
during the campaign.
9.1d Enlightening and educating the Public
Parties help in stimulating interest in public
affairs. They explain their stand, policies and principles, as well
as their approach to the burning problems of the country. Thus they
indirectly shape public opinion through speeches from the platform
on radio, publication and distribution of literature, and by house-to-house
canvassing of the voters. They thus mobilize the public to participate
in public affairs, through the party machinery.