Political parties are a common feature in every country, directly influencing government activity since elected party officials propose, debate, and vote on policy. To politicians, a political party becomes a home to achieve their aims. But a political party is not a permanent home. That is why politicians and supporters feel free to change parties whenever they feel disgruntled or are attracted by another party.
What is a political party?
A political party is “an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country’s elections” [Source]. But it is not limited to candidates since some supporters and followers have no aspirations of holding government positions. A party constitutes persons with the same political views who aspire to have their political ideologies rule a country and become a lifestyle of the majority.
Some countries have rules about the formation of political parties, and only a few are recognized. Having vast political parties is sometimes regarded as a sign of democracy since everyone can have political views.
To avoid popular political parties, some candidates compete in the election under the ‘Independent Candidates’ banner. But a closer look at these so-called independent parties shows that they are similar to regular parties. They wish to break away from certain norms and values.
The purpose of political parties
A common view states that a political party is a route that delivers one’s political aspirations and can help a group of people instills their political ideology in a country. Parties are a collective of people with similar political beliefs. They can be a united movement of those who share certain worldviews.
During the colonial period, political parties were used to propel propaganda by both the ruling and the oppressed classes. During this period, a political party was regarded as dangerous and likened to a timing bomb because they united the oppressed people against colonizers.
In the contemporary world, political parties are still used to sell dreams and challenge the status quo. They are used by influential people who wish to join the government and become national leaders.
By forming a political party, a person can enter the political game and compete for any position they wish. Political parties are said to cater to voters’ needs [Source].
Are political parties necessary?
Such a question will draw an automatic “yes” answer from politicians and a “no” from some critics who believe that political parties are selfish.
A political party is necessary since it unites people with the same political ideas and helps to mobilize supporters. It also allows candidates to participate in general elections while representing their side.
In highlighting the need for political parties, Shapiro and Yale argued that “Political parties are the core institution of democratic accountability because parties, not the individuals who support or compromise them, can offer competing visions of the public good” [Source]. Harvard University political scientist Nancy Rosenblum noted that “People in politics often try to go around parties, to go directly to the people. But without the parties, we’d have chaos”.
They offer sanctuary for politicians and supporters while maintaining order rather than having aspiring leaders go to people directly and everyone competing as independents in elections.
The New York Times posited the positivity of political parties by saying, “Democracies, however, need political parties. We need permanent organizations that earn political power and governs, that are forced to articulate disparate interests and viewpoints, that can recruit and develop future government leaders and that monitor those already in power” [Source].
Animosity towards political parties arises because they limit people’s political views. For instance, one is forced to be either a republican or a democrat because those are the two major political worlds, and there is no liberty to be liberal. Also, influential individuals can sway a party’s vision to their agenda, just like how republicans despise Trump for deviating from the core Republican values.
And political parties are led by ‘vanguards’ who claim to possess the necessary skills to lead, so they do not allow participation from others or relinquish power. Elites have been known to takeover parties and betray the needs of the masses. Political parties can be described as ‘churches of political propaganda,’ selling selfish dreams to followers. For example, Trump manipulated Republican supporters to believe that Biden has cheated and then provoked them to protest, which is now landing some of them in jail. Some critics believe that political parties have strong propaganda, which people follow blindly and become sheeple by agreeing to everything their leaders preach.
Despite all these negatives, political parties do maintain order in a country’s political game instead of having unorganized people running around with diverse political ideas, so they are necessary.