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When the US constitution was being drafted and ratified, the position of political parties was not well defined. Such legislative provisions emphasized by the nation's fathers included the division of powers between the three branches of government, federalism, and the provisional election of the presidential seat by the Electoral College. Many of these precautions were set in order to ensure that the democratic country was fully free of divisions and groups (Sartori, 34-35). Despite the initial intentions by the founding fathers, the United States saw the importance of developing political parties that would be organized in a manner that ensured an effective and efficient spread of the executive powers, an effort that would only be achieved through elections. From 1800s the scope of political parties was broadened to encompass more voting rights (Aldrich 23-26).
In order to understand the revolutionary changes that have been done on the political parties, it is necessary to understand the initial intentions of their formations. During the early years of the young republic, only men were allowed to participate in the voting process. The changes done on the political parties rules from the 19th century made significant amendments to have the activity being all inclusive (Jones & Wonjae 273-274). The changes were mostly attributed to forces such as democratization, the growth of cities and the high rates of immigration. Over decades, the restrictive laws were revised and voting extended to a larger number of the population as conditions like race, sex and property ownership were lifted. Political parties underwent a revolution, mobilizing the growing number of voters. The parties further became institutionalized in order to accomplish the essential tasks. A look the current functions served by political parties reveals that they have undergone a profound democratic expansion for a firmer establishment. Americans will continue to take pride in the status that they hold as independent voters. There are various functions served by political parties in the modern era key among them being the development of policies that cater for the need of the interest groups, organizing and persuading voters and bringing people together to control the government.
Running candidates for political offices is one of the core function served by political parties. Parties are entrusted with the duty of selecting the best-suited candidates to run for electoral positions in the American politics. In the electioneering period, voters have so many officials to choose, and the task is often overwhelming. Making decisions is however made easier by the idea of having candidates wearing the party labels in order to identify with a particular ideology. Voters, therefore, get a chance to weigh the available alternative policies that inform the decision to either go for straight tickets or choose the same party for all political positions. All these fruits are being enjoyed as a result of the formation of the modern democratic party due to the bold stand that was taken by Thomas Jefferson. He opposed the views held by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton on the state rights and centralized government.
Political parties in the United States further serve the function of keeping other parties in check. Failing to secure the majority in the Congress helps to make a party check the powers and excesses of the ruling party. Leaders of these opposition parties ensure power is not absolutely taken through publicly criticizing the actions of the president and his officials. Although there is a section of scholars and citizens who believe that 'checking system' in the country is petty and self-serving, the process has been of utmost importance to avoid exploitations. Discouraging the opposition party from correcting the mistakes of the ruling parties will be a drawback that will impact negatively on the democratic achievements.
Political parties further keep the public informed about the issues of national importance. Political debates often split the political parties that engage in a profound discussion on matters of national interest. The discussion process makes the citizens aware of issues affecting them and the country as a whole. Political debates, therefore, inform the citizens on the issues that affect their lives and present them with an alternative measure to solve the problems that they face in their day-to-day activities. The debates further help the electorate to make an informed decision on the right political party to be affiliated with based on the need to reflect the public interests.
The organization of the government is another function served by political parties. The state legislatures, as well as the Congress, are organized in a manner that reflects their party affiliations. The representatives of the legislature show their support to policies and laws depending on whether they support their agendas in the political parties. All the candidates running for political seats can have their behavior predicted by their party labels. However, their contributions facilitate the process of governance because they play an active role in the policymaking process. Party members have a group of allies that shows a degree of cooperation in the efforts to amend, pass or implement legislation. At the national level, the congresspersons have a network of allies that ensures there is the support of a particular motion. Closely associated with the allies tactic is the party alliances which serves the purpose of closing the gap between the executive and legislative branches.
In accomplishing the various functions of political parties in the United States, the Republican and the Democratic party dominate the party system. Recently, there has been an increasing number of independent candidates. Voters have also been registering as independent meaning that they can vote for a Democratic senator and a Republican president. Republicans continue to take conservative positions on social matters and support the growth of the business. Traditionally, the Democrats have been supporting the rights of the minority groups and strongly hold the position that the government is always in a position to solve the many problems experienced by the citizens. A profound analysis of the functions of the political parties has revealed that they are important and it is difficult to a political system without them. Despite their active role and increased involvement in governance, political parties are not part of the government. The constitution does not mention them as being an integral part of ensuring the exercising of governance. The clear functions played by the American political parties have influenced other nations in the world who admire the American stable form of democratic leadership. The existence of many political parties in European nations is currently being reviewed by the respective leaders in order to determine their effectiveness.
Aldrich, John H. Why parties?: The origin and transformation of political parties in America. University of Chicago Press, 1995: 23-26.
Jones, Mark P., and Wonjae Hwang. "Party government in presidential democracies: Extending cartel theory beyond the US Congress." American Journal of Political Science 49.2 (2005): 273-274.
Sartori, Giovanni. Parties and party systems: A framework for analysis. ECPR press, 2005.
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