Nature of Political Parties. A political party consists of a group of citizens, more or less organized, who am as a political unit and who, by the use of their voting power, aim to control the government and carry out their general policies. it is the most elaborate and comprehensive form in which public opinion is organized and made effective in government. A group interested in a particular reform or a single piece of legislation does not form a true political party.
While a party may be divided on some issues or contain factions within its organization, it is united by certain general policies and by the desire to control all the organs of government. Parties are held together by family traditions, by business and social connections, and by self interest. Emotion as well as intellectual conviction has much to do with the creation and the vitality of parties. The mere love of combat and the desire for victory are powerful factors in party contests.
To some extent party lines are formed according to psychological temperament, a natural division being between liberals and conservatives, the former being divided into radicals and moderate liberals, the latter into moderate conservatives and reactionaries. When in power, however, conservatives tend to become liberal in order to secure popular support, and liberals tend to become conservative, because sobered by responsibility.
Behind these apparent differences in temperament usually lie economic interests. Men of property are inclined to caution, dreading change because it threatens their security. Those who have no possessions welcome change because of the hope that it may improve their condition. The former group will welcome government action to protect or further their interests, such as tariffs or a vigorous foreign policy, but will oppose governmental regulations that interfere with their profits.
The latter group will welcome labor legislation and the use of public funds to further the social welfare of the masses, and will favor laws to restrict monopolies. In some countries national and religious issues divide parties. Questions of constitutional theory and social and economic issues are usually involved. While parties arose, and still exist to a considerable extent, outside the legal organization of the state, they form an important part of the actual machinery of government.
When the functions performed by political parties and the reasons or their existence are analyzed, the close connection between political parties and democracy is evident. In despotism, where the people have no legal voice in government, they can express disapproval or desire for changes only by assassination or violent rebellion. By such methods an obnoxious ruler may be removed, but through them there is little hope of establishing permanently a more tolerable form of government or of substituting a consciously formed general will for the arbitrary rule of those in power.
Gradually, however, the voluntary association of subjects to resist tyrannical rulers developed democracy. Large bodies of men became accustomed to forming and executing common purposes, the electorate was widened, and the principles of election and representation in selecting governing officials were introduced. In the democracies thus established some form of organization was necessary in order that the people might continue to formulate and execute their will and the voluntary associations through whose efforts democracy was secured were perpetuated in political parties, by means of which democracy is workable.
Rival political parties are found only in democracies political parties, of some degree of organization and influence, always exist in democracies. In the Greek cities and in the Roman Republic factions, or parties, controlled the government in the free cities of the Middle Ages similar groupings arose and in all modern democratic states parties exist in the form of associations, behind the government, into which the people are organized.
In democracies political parties arise, or new groupings are formed, in the presence of great issues. When difference of opinion exists on general questions of vital interest to the state, minor differences are forgotten and parties are formed as people take sides on the main questions, In the past such divisions were often created along racial lines, especially if one race Was an invader or conqueror, At the time of the Reformation religious differences divided the people and created rival groups in most of the states of Europe.
The contest between king and People gave birth to political parties in England and the later evolutionary movements on the Continent. The form of union to be established by the American states, and the extent of national powers, were questions on which the people of the United States disagreed. Later the slavery issue create a wide cleavage of Opinion. While important traces of the old contest between aristocracy and democracy still survive in modern political thought, most political issues at present are economic in nature, and parties usually represent different interests or attitudes on questions of economic policy and regulation.
Even in the absence of important issues or of natural lines of cleavage, political parties may retain their organization and strength. This will be the case in democratic states when the political party has become, legally or extra legally, a part of the actual government, performing important functions in crystallizing public policy and in making nominations and carrying on election campaigns. To a certain extent party lines are perpetuated by habit and tradition and by the fact that they furnish the machinery through which one group or another comes into power and secures control of the important offices of government.
This is often sufficient to prolong the life of a party long after the issues upon which it was based have ceased to be of importance. The party also acts as a unifying agency aiming to central and secure harmony of action among the various departments and divisions of government. In the United States, where the principles of separation and division of powers have been carried to greatest extremes, there is particular need for such a force. Executive, legislature, and judiciary are independent, and may work at cross purposes. National, commonwealth, and local governments have distinct functions, with few points of contact.
To bind these disconnected organs into a unity and secure the harmonious operation of the entire government of the United States, by controlling the officials and the policy of all departments in all areas, is the work of political parties and to do this Work they have been compelled to develop and maintain a complex and powerful organization. In England the party performs a similar function in a different way. The effectiveness of the cabinet system, by which the party in power controls the executive through its majority in the legislature, depends upon permanent, well organized parties, the one in power directing both legislation and administration, the one in opposition ready to take up this function at any time.
In both these states, then, and to a lesser degree in other modern states, political parties serve as the motive force in crystallizing public opinion, and the unifying agency that makes democracy workable over large areas. They are a constant protest against too great separation of administration from legislation and of local from central organization. Since the government of every state is a unit and must act as a unit, defects in organization, preventing unity, are made good by the growth of an extra legal party organization whose strength will depend upon the work that it must do. In those states with many parties, temporary coalitions will control the government, but the party organization and influence will be relatively weak. In those states with but a single party, such as Russia, the party organization will be closely knit and its power over the government will be absolute.
A general summary of the functions of political parties may be stated as follows: In democracies they furnish the organization through which policies are formulated and political propaganda is carried on for the purpose of creating and influencing public opinion. When great issues arise they furnish a means by which citizens may subordinate lesser differences of opinion and decide questions of vital concern. Through their control over nominations and elections they become a part of the governmental machinery of the state, sometimes legally recognized, sometimes outside the legal organization of the state.
To some extent they exist merely as the organization through which men attain to political power, and their contests are carried on by rival groups seeking public office. Once in office, political leaders are often more concerned with retaining their Power man they are with carrying Out the announced policies of the Party. The party system also tends to insure that the government at any given time will be subject to steady, Organized criticism, the effect of which is usually wholesome.
Where considerable separation or division of powers exists, parties serve as a unifying force, which by controlling the various organs of government secure harmonious and consistent policy and administration. Accordingly, other things being equal, political parties will be best organized and most powerful in the most democratic states, in states where the most critical issues are found, and in states where extensive separation and division of powers require an extra legal unifying organization.
Like other associations, political parties are made up of diverse factors. Conflicting social and economic interests of individuals and groups, differences of opinion on questions of governmental organization or policy, racial and religious cleavages, party habits, prejudices and traditions, the influence of great leaders who are followed with blind worship, the interests of those Who control the party machinery, all these enter into the composition of the party.
Sometimes one of these elements predominates, sometimes another. Even at the same time some persons may be influenced in their party allegiance mainly by one consideration, others by quite different motives. The party thus becomes the focus for various groups who aim to control the government, to secure power for themselves, or to carry out certain polities.
History of Political Parties:
The present position of political parties, generally recognized as essential factors in political life and in some states made a legal part of the governmental system, is comparatively new. Even in the eighteenth century, party government was not foreseen, and parties, commonly called “factions,” were considered dangerous to public welfare. Party contests suggested disorder and Violence, the overturning of established governmental institutions, revolution, and the death or exile of defeated leaders.
Even in England, where party struggles were carried on earlier and with greater freedom than elsewhere, such conditions were found. The framers of the constitution of the United State, While creating a form of organization that made parties inevitable, made no provision for them in their plan, and hoped that factions would be unknown in America. The Federalist warned repeatedly against the development of parties and party Spirit, Washington, in his Farewell Address, uttered a solemn warning against the baneful effect of party spirit in democratic government. The theory of that period was that the people should select officials and representatives in Whom they had confidence, and that these men should exercise independent judgment on questions of public policy. According to this theory parties could be only sources of distraction and weakness.
Considerable grounds for the former distrust of political parties were furnished by the history of those early semi democratic states in which political parties were foreshadowed. The class struggles and factional quarrels in Athens and in republican Rome, the Guelph and Ghibelline contests that disturbed the Italian republics at the beginning of the modern period, the riots between the supporters of the House of orange and the republicans in the Netherlands, and the civil war between the supporters of the Stuart kings and those of Parliament in England seemed to show the inevitable tendency to form voluntary associations as soon as some degree of democracy existed, and seemed conclusive proof that such factions were dangerous to public peace and political stability.
1. In Great Britain:
In their modern form political parties originated in England, and it has been in English speaking countries that party organization and influence have reached their highest development. Some writers believe that as early as the time of Queen Elizabeth the Puritans, as a group with definite views on religious and political issues, formed a political party. At any rate, clear party lines were formed in the contest between king and Parliament during the Stuart period. The opponents of arbitrary government in church and state became known as Round heads, While the supporters of the king were called Cavaliers: and these soon formed the opposing factions of a civil war.
After the restoration of Charles II these function were known as Whigs and Tories, and represented two different theories of English constitutional relations. The Tones Were the up holders of absolute monarchy, the Whigs desired monarchy limited by Parliament. The Tories desired no change in the organization or functions of government the Whigs were interested in various proposals to extend democracy and to promote social welfare.
After the Revolution of 1688 the more extreme Tories became Jacobites and finally died out the remainder became the supporters of the new king and gradually came to recognize the rights of Parliament and of the people. With the accession of the House of Hanover, the Whigs, the opponents of royal prerogative, found themselves the supporters of the new dynasty, while the Tories, the upholders of royal power, were the Opposition. This destroyed the original issue, and party enmity and political violence subsided. For a time parties degenerated into personal factions among the ruling classes, but the way was prepared for new parties, based on modern issues and holding their present position in the government.
By the time of George III the present Liberal and Conservative parties had been formed. The Liberal party became the advocate of reform and progress. They favored the widening of the suffrage, the provision of a more equitable system of representation, the removal of religious disabilities and of restrictions on industry and trade, and extensive legislation for the benefit of the Working classes. The Conservative party emphasized order and Security and favored a vigorous foreign policy. They held to the old historic point of view of the constitution, and desired to safeguard vested interests and resist dangerous innovations. When in power, however, they carried out many reforms as concessions to public opinion.
The supporters of home rule in Ireland formed a minority party, always in Opposition to the party in power until the rectum creation of the Irish Free State. The most important recent development in English party history has been the creation of the Labor party, representing the Socialist point of view, and its rapid growth to a position of purity With the older parties. As the Labor party increased its strength the Liberal party declined, many of the members joining One or the other of the more extreme groups. At present party contests in Great Britain are mainly between the Conservative and the Labor group.
The growth of British parties was closely connected with the creation of responsible government and of the cabinet system, The essence of the cabinet system is the control of government by a group of persons who are in substantial agreement upon political principles and policies, and the continuance of this group in power only so long as they have the support of, a majority in the legislature. Experience has shown that the best way to secure a harmonious group of ministers is to select them from the same party, and that the only parliamentary majority with sufficient coherence and stability to make it dependable is a majority held together by ties of party. The cabinet system, therefore, arose out of the warfare of parties, and by historical growth and practical necessity is intimately connected With the party system.
In Great Britain the party works as a part of the governmental system, not, as in the United States, as an ,extra legal organization outside the regular government. Party leaders are also leaders in Parliament, as the heads of the government of as the heads of the opposition. The machinery of party and the machinery of government are practically the same thing. The cabinet system, bringing the two main departments of government into harmony, removes that burden from the political parties.
Because of this harmonious relation between government and party there is less need that the national parties maintain strong organization in local areas. Consequently England is spared many of the evils of party over organization prevalent in American local government. Besides, the area to be covered is comparatively small, and the number of elections and of offices filled by election is not extensive. The custom of frequent reelection and the fact that parliamentary candidates need not reside in the area from which they are elected diminish the importance of nominations. Accordingly a completely organized party machinery is unnecessary, and the policy of the party is controlled largely by its recognized leaders.
2. In the United States:
In the American colonies party alignment and party names were similar to those in the mother country, and in most of the clones a contest was carried on between the governor, representing the crown, and the assembly representing the colonists. The conservative group who supported the British interests were known as Tories the mom radical group, who demanded colonial home rule and mom democratic government, were called Whigs . AS the Revolution approached, the Whigs, or Patriots, as they were then called, secured possession of the government, and the outcome of the war destroyed the Tories as a political power, since those who did not migrate to Canada or England were compelled to accept the new state of affairs.
After independence was secured the form of union became the chief issue. Those who desired a strong central government and favored the adoption of the Constitution organized as Federalists their Opponents, as Anti Federalists. This political division was substantially, according to the interests affected, the financiers manufacturers, commercial men, traders, and public creditors, centering mainly in the seaboard towns, being the chief advocates of the Constitution, and the farmers and debtors, especially in the inland region, being its chief opponents.
After a bitter fight in every state the ratification of the Constitution destroyed the Anti Federalists as a party but the same general division has existed to this day. On the one hand are those that favor a liberal interpretation of the Constitution and general extension of national power. On the other are those that uphold a policy of strict construction and non expansion of governmental activities. In general, the party in power leans to the former attitude, and the party in opposition to the latter. Constitutional theory has often been used to attack or defend the particular interests and issues of the period, and has not been applied consistently by any party.
During Washington’s administration the opposing elements crystallized into the first parties under the Constitution. The Federalists, led by Hamilton, favored strong national government and protection of property interests. They were friendly to England in her great contest with France because of their commercial and financial relations with England and because they had no sympathy with the revolutionary doctrines of the French revelation.
Their chief Strength was found among the aristocratic commercial and manufacturing classes. They favored a financial policy that would strengthen the national government, .encourage manufactures and trade, and align the propertied classes on the side of the government. The Republicans, led by Jefferson, emphasized the rights of the individual and opposed extensive governmental authority. They attacked government by a privileged few and aroused the class consciousness of the masses. They were interested in agriculture, rather than in trade and manufacture and found their chief support among the debtor class, especially the farmers and laborers.
They were friendly to France, where the revolutionists were proclaiming similar principles, and were more interested in democratic local government than in a vigorous national system. In a general way this political alignment has been continued in the evolution of American parties. The Whig party of Webster and Clay and the Republican party of McKinley and Coolidge bear a family resemblance to the Federalist party of Hamilton, the Democratic party of Jackson, and later of Bryan and Wilson, had its origin in the Republican party of Jefferson.
A number of causes led to the disappearance of the Federalist party. Among these were the growing democratic spirit of the country, the unpopularity of John Adams and the rift between him and Hamilton, and the opposition to certain Federalist measures, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts. More important was the fact that the Republicans, who came into power in 1801, took over the strongest principles of the Federalists and were joined by many former Federalist leaders, especially among the large planters of the South.
Once in power, the Republicans were willing to strengthen and expand the powers of the national government and to protect the interests of the financial and commercial classes. The Federalist party was destroyed by the success of its own principles in the hands of its opponents. Deserted by its strongest leaders and discredited by its opposition to the War of 1812, the Federalist party ceased to be a factor in national politics after 1816. As a result, for a period of more than a decade there were no distinct issues and no strong parties. Men divided on personal grounds, and this So-called era of good feeling was really a period of bitter personal politics.
By 1830 new parties were being formed as a result of new issues and of significant Changes in American life. The Pioneer population of the Western Bands and the laborers in the growing industrial cities strengthened the democratic element, Who found their here in Andrew Jackson. His followers took the name of Democrats, extended Jefferson’s ideas concerning popular sovereignty, and applied the strict construction principles in the form of opposition to the tariff, the National Bank, and internal improvements.
The opposition movement, led by Clay finally took the name of Whigs and, like the earlier Whig party in England and the colonies, Opposed the alarming extension of executive power and prerogative, as developed by Jackson. Supported by the financial and industrial interests of the North and by the aristocratic planters of the South, this party, composed of divergent interests, favored the National Bank, the protection of domestic industries, and the building of roads and canals. Its various elements were held together mainly by opposition to the Democrats.
As the slavery controversy became critical, it split both parties and led to a sectionalization of issues. Western farmers who favored a homestead policy, Eastern manufacturers who desired a protective tariff, and those who opposed the extension of slavery into the territories or who aimed at its abolition combined to form the Republican party. The South, as usual in the case of a minority interest, fell back on the doctrine of states rights. A split of the Democratic party into Northern and Southern factions made possible the election of Lincoln and precipitated the Civil War.
Although this contest removed the most important issue, the Republican and Democratic parties retain their names and organization to this day. As a survival of the Civil War, the Democratic party remains firmly entrenched in the South, but it also draws much strength from x the laboring population of the large cities. These two discordant elements of the party differ on many issues especially on racial discrimination. The Republican party, usually in power, is also divided into conservative and progressive elements.
After the Civil War the chief issues concerned the regulation of trusts and railways, the tariff, and the currency. More recently questions of foreign policy have become important in American politics. At present no clear cut issues separate the parties. Most questions are raised for campaign purposes, and the party in power adapts its polices to circumstances and to public opinion. The real alignment of public opinion between city and country, between agriculture and industry, between conservative and radical, is not represented in the existing parties.
In addition to the main current of politics in the United States, numerous small parties, standing for particular or temporary interests, have arisen, but have never exerted a controlling interest in politics and have seldom been strong enough even to hold the balance of power. The Progressive party, under Theodore Roosevelt, came nearest to the proportions of a major party. Socialist and Labor parties maintain their organizations but have not as yet attained much strength.
At the present time it is in the United States that political parties show the most highly developed organization and exercise the greatest powers. A number of reasons for this condition may be given. Great extent of territory and a large population composed of various nationalities and including numerous interests and sections make it difficult for the majority, unless organized, to express its will.
The separation of executive and legislative departments and the division into national, common wealth, and local areas create a system of governmental decentralization necessitating some extra legal unifying agency to secure harmony in action. Moreover, the large number of elective officials and frequent elections have given strength to parties through their control of nominations and election campaigns. This is particularly true in the election of the president, around which political interest is centered.
In the actual working of the method provided by the Constitution, it soon became evident that the real selection would not depend upon the judgment of the electoral college. Since its members assemble by commonwealths, not meeting together for deliberation the electoral college became a mere machine for registering the popular vote as modified by electoral distribution. In the large electorate thus created for Choosing the national head, Some organization to control nomination and election was inevitable and, not provided for in the constitutional system Proper, it grew up outside the framework of the government, in the form of strong party organizations.
3. In continental Europe:
The history of political parties in the various states of continental Europe is a complex and confusing story. Arising during the various revolutions through which the existing degree of democracy has been evolved, they neither represent consistent lines of development nor are based on uniform political principles. In no European states have two permanent and well organized parties developed, nor do parties in general occupy as prominent a place in government as they do in Great Britain and the United States. Party groups are numerous, formed on lines of nationality, religion, class spirit, foreign policy, and economic interests.
Personal followers of formerly royal families or of present popular leaders form additional political groups, and shifting combinations are held together temporarily by common grievances or by common hope of gain. In each state peculiar conditions of national life or particular phases of national history give rise to groups that, for a time at least, consider themselves political associations. Party history is therefore a series of kaleidoscopic changes, concerted action ,in time of crisis or under a powerful leader being followed by disintegration as minor differences again assert themselves or as parties are manipulated by skillful statesmen.
Aside from parties formed on national or religious lines, and from those apposed to the existing form of government, various shades of conservatism and radicalism are represented. In general, the socialists and the communists exhibit the most definite policy branches of these parties being found in all the leading states. The control of government by a single party, which forbids organized opposition as in present day Russia and recently in Italy and Germany, is a new development in party government.
While the existence of political parties is now generally accepted as essential to the Workings of democracy of a large scale, criticism of the party system or of certain defects and evils that result from its practical Operation has been wide spread. It has been pointed out that the existence of several great organizations, within which there is supposed to be substantial agreement on questions of governmental policy, is contrary to the psychology of human nature.
People are not divided into a few great groups, but hold all shades and combinations of opinion. Those who agree on one issue differ on others. Party agreement is therefore artificial, party programs are insincere and party rivalry is devoid of principle. Some have urged numerous parties, each devoted to a single issue, forming spontaneously as the problems of government arise. The difficulty of applying this method in practice is obvious.
Numerous improvised parties cannot possess the organization, needed for purposes of political propaganda, and candidates whose attitude would please the voter one one issue might displease him on others. The necessity of bringing vast numbers of men together on a common ground of political action necessitates large national parties, though their unity may be to a large extent artificial.
It is usually believed that the best political conditions exist where there are but two well organized and opposing political parties. These check each other and prevent either from becoming too extreme, since each will be anxious to attract to its ranks adherents of the other and to appeal to the independent voters not attached strongly to either party.
Hence the policies of the party in power will probably not be seriously objectionable to any considerable part of the population. Where the two parties are fairly equal in strength, the government is more likely to be honest and efficient, because of the fear of the other party’s coming into power if dissatisfaction exists. Where the opposition is weak, the party in control can abuse its power With considerable impunity. The existence of a considerable number of intelligent independent voter’s also acts as a deterrent to misgovernment by the party in power.
When numerous parties exist the tendency is to resort to logrolling, by which the stronger parties make concessions to the weaker ones in order to obtain their support. Thus it may happen that weak parties who hold the balance of power may force the and adoption of policies that are opposed by a large majority of the people. The instability of a government resting upon a coalition of several parties is also an objection to the multi party system.
Some critics urge the complete abolition of political parties. They argue that the party System is destructive of democracy, that party control suppresses those individual opinions and actions that are the very essence of free government, and that it is a device for preventing the expression of general will, obscuring public opinion, and setting up a new form of despotism. When the government is controlled by parties, the voter is politically effective only as a member of a party, and as such he is compelled to sacrifice his individual opinions for the sake of party harmony.
Party contests are waged not on principles, but by every means, fair or foul, to win success. The party in power “points with pride” to its achievements the party out of power “views with alarm” all the acts of its opponents. Politics thereby becomes a sort of game between the “ins” and the “outs” the latter often misrepresenting and thwarting the actions of the former, even when they know them to be good, in the effort to supplant them in the favor of the people. These critics argue that parties exist largely because of the indifference of the voters, and frequently urge nonpartisan elections. Here, again, the difficulty of working democracy without organization . appears. Besides, it is not clear that if parties exist because of the indifference of the voters, the voters would be better off without them. Parties at least accomplish something unorganized and indifferent voters could do nothing.
Much criticism has been directed against the intrusion of national parties and national issues in local elections, with the resultant destruction of local self government and the difficulty of waging local elections on questions of local interest. The evils of carrying the organization of the national parties into the local units and of basing local elections on national party lines is greatest in cities.
Several methods have been suggested for the remedy of this evil the holding of local elections at different times from national elections as is done in many European states , the organization of separate local parties on local issues and the use of nonpartisan elections, with nomination by petition, for local purposes. The Objection to these devices is that national parties have their roots in the local units and cannot maintain their organization or discipline if local organization is based on local issues or upon nonpartisan grounds.
Parties are often criticized on the ground that they are extralegal organizations, outside the regular machinery of the government, and therefore tend to be irresponsible and uncontrolled. The result is unusual opportunity for boss rule, machine politics, corruption, and misgovernment. The large sums of money spent by the parties, the improper sources from which campaign funds are secured, and the improper uses to which such funds are put are frequently pointed out. As remedies for these evils, full publicity and legal recognition and regulation of the parties are usually suggested.
It is in the United States, Where parties are powerful and highly organized, that the evils of party government have been most conspicuous and that reform has been most needed. The causes of this condition are complex and closely interrelated, and can only be suggested here. The American system of decentralized administration and the large number of officials elected for short terms have given the parties control over numerous unrelated officials.
This has led to the spoils system, by which governmental positions are looked upon as at proper reward for party service. Civil service reform and further centralization in administration and the increased use of experts in government promise improvement. Many believe also that fewer elected officers and longer terms, and consequently a shorter and simpler ballot, would increase intelligent and active interest in elections.
The irresponsibility of the party, owing to its extra legal position in the American constitutional system, is largely the reason for its over organization and for the growth of the party machine and bass. It is, of course, evident that party organization is necessary, and that the leadership of a comparatively small number of persons must control the routine of party action. Such machinery becomes dangerous when under improper leadership, and when it assumes the sole right to select candidates, prevents the real wishes of the majority of the party, and uses its powers for selfish or improper ends.
The American political system makes little provision for real and responsible leadership, Such as the cabinet system provides in most countries and the Ordinary voters, little interested and Unable to give time and attention to the mass of party work, leave the actual operation of party organization to a small group of professional politicians. Caucuses, committees, and conventions are composed of their henchmen prearranged slates take the place of nominations and through punishment of political Opponents and rewards, direct or indirect, to political followers, the unity of the party and the power of the machine and boss are maintained.
For this feudal system in politics, efficient in controlling. votes and quite natural under the conditions of American political life, several remedies have been proposed. Legal recognition of the party, by which all party members are guaranteed an equal voice in party management and by which responsible party leadership may be developed, accomplishes much. The system of direct primaries, in which nomination by party caucus or convention is replaced by nomination by petition, followed by a preliminary election to select candidates, receives support in some quarters. There is always the possibility that voters may be aroused to an active interest in public affairs, or even that independent parties may be formed if the personal government of the machine becomes too burdensome.
The connection between national and local politics is especially close in the American system because of the extensive division of powers in a federal system and because of the strength of the two party system. While national issues differ materially from those in the commonwealths and these, in turn, differ from those in cities or local districts, the national organization of the party permeates all areas and controls most elections. The need for organization, to which purpose the local units are best adapted, thus subordinates local issues to party unity and local patronage is used as a reward for party service.
Recent attempts to separate national and local issues have met With fair Success, especially in the larger cities, and local elections have been fought out on local issues or held on a nonpartisan basis. The suggested remedy of holding national and local elections on separate days has the advantage of emphasizing the different questions at issue, but it has the disadvantage of increasing the number of our already numerous elections.
One of the chief dangers in American politics is the close connection between the parties and business interests resulting in the graft evil. For this purpose boss rule in the party and the corporate form of business organization offer convenient points of contact. Corporations desire favorable legislation or public franchises or profitable government contracts, and wish to avoid heavy taxes.
The politicians in control of the party desire the support of Corporation influence or financial contributions to the campaign fund. The irresponsibility of party leaders and the lack of publicity concerning party receipts and expenditures offer Opportunity for improper relations. Governmental regulation of both parties and corporations and full publicity concerning corporation and party finances, together with higher ideals of political and business ethics, are needed. The connection between the party organization and the criminal underworld, especially in the large cities, opened opportunities for graft, in connection with various “rackets.”
In recent years the growth of labor unions, especially the powerful Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.), has made them an important factor in politics, particularly in their organized. effort to elect candidates favorable to labor. By having large funds available, numerous voters, organized committees, and access to various means of publicity, they have become one of the most active in influences in American political life. As in the case of corporations, many abuses of this power have resulted, with growing demand for governmental regulation of their campaign expenditures and political actions. The Taft-Hartley Labor Act (194-7) was, in part, an effort to restrict improper political action carried on by organized labor.
Throughout American history emphasis has been laid on political rights, without sufficient attention to the corresponding political duties and obligations. The right to vote has been demanded, but the public responsibilities thereby implied have not been sufficiently realized. The successful working of democracy and of the party system demands from the citizen active and intelligent participation in public affairs, willingness to serve, and the placing of the public interest above party, class, or selfish interests.