Characteristics and Functions of American Political Parties
Political parties of the United States play an important role in the political system and life of the country. Traditionally, the U.S. has the two-party system when only two large parties have influence on the political changes and regularly replace each other in power. Political experts and historians divide the development of Americans two-party system into five epochs. The two-party system is composed of the Democratic and Republican parties, which invariably win the presidential election since 1852 and control the United States Congress since 1856. There are other third parties that elect some representatives to the local offices. Since 1980s, the most successful of them is the Libertarian Party. The main functions of the political parties are to provide the desire of their voters through legislation or program initiatives, organize the election and maintain the policy making process.
Political parties in the United States of America consist of three main elements. The first element represents citizens who consider themselves as members of the party. The other two are officeholders and activists who run the party organization at different levels. There are also three main characteristics that distinguish the American political parties from the other parties in the world. They are characterized by pragmatism, which promotes the judgment of ideas on the basis of practical results rather than on the ideology. It means that American political parties are willing to give up their principles in order to get the majority of voters and gain the government power. They willingly bargain with most organized groups and take stands that appeal to a large number of interests to build a winning coalition.
The other main characteristic is the decentralization in the hierarchy. It could be observed over the national, state and local level. State and local parties use different methods in the creation of their policy than national parties. They differently create innovations, raise money on the campaigns and recruit candidates. It is also important to highlight that candidates on the state and local level are influenced by its political traditions, leaders, culture and so on. Although, with the help of internet technology this tendency began to change as the parties on the national level became more involved in state and local party activities.
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The political system in the United States is also characterized by the leading role of only two major parties. The Democratic and Republican parties lead the main competition for power in the country. As a result of this strong competition, there is a very little chance for the third parties to gain public office. The reason of such a situation is not only because of the influence of two major parties, but also because of the pragmatic behavior of the voters who do not support the losing parties. They get used to this for many years and are not ready for changes. Voters tend to cast their ballots for those candidates who have the best options for winning.
The American political parties also fulfill certain functions and perform an important task in government. They have to accomplish their direct duties such as bring American people together in order to gain control of the government. They have to come up with efficient policy and solutions for the countrys economy that will be favorable to their voters or groups that support them. They create all necessary conditions and spread the specific information among voters in order to persuade them to elect their candidates to public offices. It is the main function that political parties are trying to achieve in order to get the power in the country. The next function involves the transformation of information of different issues to the voters. It is the task of political parties to simplify the current issues for voters in the way that people can understand the parties position and methods that they will apply in order to solve them. They provide this information through the newspapers and television channels.
The third function is to prepare the readiness of the voters for active participation in the election process. In order to achieve this, political parties carry out activities such as door-to-door canvassing, telephoning and other campaigns. The success of such activities has the direct impact on the result of the election. Finally, the direct function of the parties is to run the government at the different level. Sometimes, it is very difficult to achieve due to the inability of one party to control separate branches of government. When the political party gained the power, it tries to implement its strategy, take the position on current policy questions, provide alternative position to the other parties in power and fulfill commitments to the voters through legislation.