What is a political party? The purpose of a political party is to win elections and exercise power. A political party is an association of individuals and especially groups who share an interest in specific policies and principles. They want to influence and gain control of the government in order to enact into law their point of view and or policies. The effort to take over responsibility for the over all conduct of the government distinguishes it from an interest group. Many state laws require that an alleged political party gain a certain percentage of the vote in order for that organization to be classified as a political party.
Politics is a struggle for power. In theory individuals were thought to have the power to govern, and through the vote, a citizen can exercise his power to help determine what leaders are to be elected. But early on in our Republic’s history it became evident that the power to make change and to determine who a leader will be is more easily determined when a group or party is formed to gain power and to make change happen.
Through time, political parties became a reality and our current two party system arrived on the scene as a result of particular issues that citizens believed in and wanted a vehicle in which their collective will could and would be expressed through. The Republican Party for example began through the growth of the Abolitionist Movement and it was a vehicle by which the interests of big business found a home. The Democratic Party has reshaped itself over time into a patchwork of many coalitions. There was the Roosevelt coalition which helped elect Democrats to Congress for many years, and now with a slightly different coalition of groups the current Democratic Party is an amalgamation of groups that helped elect Barack Obama.
Two key are elements are part and parcel of what a political party has done for a long time. In a party’s platform a message is developed to be articulated by the candidates. For a political party to have resonance and popularity it needs to have a consistent message to the voters that they can relate to and support. Without a strong message a political party would not have a reason for its existence. A body of voters through their own particular interest group gain influence with the party of their allegiance and the political party would die if it did not have a reason an issue or two to support. Secondly, historically a political party has raised money for its candidates. If you are someone that has given money, you can depend on hearing from them again, as they will ask for money every election cycle. Money is the mother’s milk of politics in this country, as it is necessary to raise money to get the respective party’s message out and heard by the public. Raising money from the party faithful is and has been an integral part of a function of a political party.
As an outgrowth of Citizens United, Super Pacs, have grown in prominence. The rise of the SUPER PACS, has minimized the power of our party system. Now a candidate for a major office does not need the party apparatus to raise money, they can have someone or group form a PAC. Accountability has become a real issue. The phrase dark money has become part of our political lexicon. The problem with having these SUPER PACS is not only a lack of accountability but the lack of transparency. Talk about buying your Congressperson or President of Senator, the few billionaires will really own those who they get elected.
A recent New York Times article on the 358 families who basically foot the majority of the bill for the costs of this Presidential election illustrates the fact that the deck is now stacked against those who are not wealthy. Who do you think your Congressperson will pick up the phone for, Joe citizen or his or her main benefactor, that helped to get that person elected? Reforming the system is of utmost importance.
We need vibrant political parties! If elections are going to be bought one wonders why you would even need one other than being a marketing tool and apparatus to get voters excited and out to the polls. But eventually even the voters will get it, that the game is now rigged for the new American aristocracy the Billionaire class.
The survival of the Republican Party is not at issue. Political Parties have come and gone in our history and now there appears to be a schism within the Republican Party that might not be fixable. You have factions within the party with diametrically opposed views. On one side you have the business wing of the party, they have a vested interest in making sure that their friends make as much money as possible in our capitalist system. Interestingly enough they are being called the establishment wing by their opponents, the Tea Party or as they would like to be called the Liberty caucus. The liberty caucus has demands that they insist be met. Compromise is not part of their political being. They are at war with their own government. The business wing sees no advantage in closing down the government, especially if the credit worthiness of the dollar is at risk. They support paying for things like the highway trust fund or extending the debt ceiling so that we are not in default. Erroneously or not the Liberty wing believes that only by destroying what we have can we rebuild our system into their vision of how it should be. Perhaps the liberty caucus members are more in line with a Libertarian Party view of non governmental interference into peoples lives.
Regardless of how we judge their positions on issues, the very structure of our government is at risk with a very real war going on within the Republican Party for Supremacy. Any political party must be cohesive to a degree if harmony and a united effort is to be possible to elect their chosen candidates. The Liberty caucus believes that they hold a veto power over what the party can do now, whether it is to elect a Speaker of the House or to pass a budget. The bottom line issue is whether the Republican Party, as we have known it will still be standing after the Presidential election. If one wing of a political party is at war with its own party on their reason for existence it is hard to see it surviving this current election if they can not find harmony and compromise within its own party caucus in Congress.
The voters may determine this answer to the above stated question of will the Republican Party survive as we have known it. Will the right wing of the party, the so-called conservative wing get their candidate for President or will what has been referred to by the media as an Establishment candidate gain the nomination? And what will be the result if the Conservative nominee were too lose badly? Will the resulting defeat split the party? Of course the Liberty wing will tell you that the people are with them on the issues. Well, let the voters decide. History beckons!