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'Parties do not matter anymore.' Discuss.

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Introduction

'Parties do not matter anymore.' Discuss. Some, such as political commentator David Broder in his book The Party's Over: The Failure of Politics in America, would argue that parties certainly don't matter any more in American politics. Many of the parties' traditional roles or functions have been assumed by pressure groups or the mass media, and clear party loyalties are less apparent now than fifty years ago. However, others would argue that the decline of parties has been vastly exaggerated and that parties still have an important and significant role in American politics. This essay will consider these two arguments and in doing so, establish whether parties really do matter anymore. One aspect of American politics where it could certainly be argued that parties do not matter any more is in elections. The rise of primaries and caucuses, in the aftermath of the publication of the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate's report - Mandate for Change(1970), has put the power or selection in the hands of the people, and not in the hands of the party, thereby reducing the significance of the parties. Moreover, they have led to candidate-centred, rather than party-centred, forms of politics, because those who are electorally victorious owe their success to the campaign organisations that they established during the primaries rather than to the party apparatus. ...read more.

Middle

Despite dealignment, almost two-thirds of Americans still identify with one of the principal parties. Furthermore, although the proportion of 'independents' has grown, many of these 'independents' lean towards either the Democrats or the Republicans. This is reflected by the extent to which politics is still dominated by the two main parties. In 2000, only two seats in Congress and two state governorships were not controlled by the two main parties. Moreover, many would argue that voting loyalties in Congress - although weak in comparison with the UK - are stronger than ever If parties were declining in importance, a decline in partisanship could be anticipated. in 1995, recorded votes in the Senate and in the House showed the highest levels of partisanship since 1922 and 1920 respectively. The trial of President Clinton and Bush v. Gore (2000) have only served to further heighten this partisanship. One could perhaps credit this mini party revival with the modernisation of the party organisations over the last twenty years. In the Republican party, the Brock reforms (1977 - 1981) have strengthened the position of the Republican National Committee, which is the central party organisation. It gained a permanent head-quarters a block away from Capitol Hill, and by 1984 the number of staff it employed reached six hundred, a threefold increase from 1976. ...read more.

Conclusion

This means that what we really see in America is fifty Democratic and fifty Republican parties, and not two strong national party organisations. Similarly the dispersal of power in the US federal system makes it very difficult for parties to establish a consistent party platform. How can a central party organisation for example, ensure elected state officials in Kentucky vote the same as their counterparts in Massachusetts. The diminished role of the parties in election, the theories of regionalism, federalism and of the separation of powers means that party discipline in very weak in Congress. Candidates are not reliant on their parties for re-election, this is in the 'gift of the folks back home,' - with pressure group help - and the party leadership in Congress is unable to offer any significant promotion because the executive and legislative branches are not fused, and so, legislators are under less pressure to toe the party line, and thus more receptive to outside influence. Although the general trend has seen the traditional roles of the parties farmed out to other organisations, to say that parties do not mater anymore would a vast oversimplification. Parties do still matter in American politics, and many would argue that the extent to which they matter has somewhat increased over the past twenty years. What is perhaps a more accurate conclusion is that parties, because of regionalism, federalism and the separation of powers, always have, and probably always will be somewhat insignificant, particularly in comparison with their UK counterparts. ...read more.

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