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9.1 The Functions of Political Parties

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 system.

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 parties.

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.

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9.0 - Introduction
9.1 - The Functions Of Political Parties
9.2 - The Development Of Political Parties
9.3 - Third Parties In American Politics
9.4 - The Structure Of Political Parties
9.5 - The Strength And Weaknesses Of Political Parties

Chapter 10

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