Party Organisation

Introduction to Party Organisation

  • The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are the two dominant political parties in the US.
  • The organisation of these parties is a complex network at three levels: the local, state, and national level.
  • Unlike in the UK, US parties are more diffuse and lack a strict hierarchical structure.

Layers of Party Organisation

  • Local Level: Local committees within towns and municipalities form the ground level of party organisation. These forums are crucial for grassroots mobilising, field work and local legislative elections.
  • State Level: Each state has its own party organisation, which coordinates campaigns for state and federal offices, and organises state party conventions.
  • National Level: The national committees work to elect the party’s presidential candidate and support other party candidates throughout the country. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) are examples of this.

Functions of Party Organisation

  • Candidate Selection: Through caucuses and primaries, parties choose candidates for various offices, including that of the president.
  • Policy Formulation: Parties work towards defining their policy stance, presented in the election as a party platform.
  • Campaign Management: Parties organise fundraising, advertising, and mobilisation efforts during election campaigns to promote their candidates and policies.
  • Leadership and Governance: Once in office, party members participate in the legislative process and executive governance, attaching importance to the party’s policy commitments.

Features of the US Party System

  • Decentralised Structure: The diffused structure of the US party system often leads to varying policy stances within the same party at different levels.
  • Weak Party Discipline: Unlike the UK, party discipline is weak in the US, and members often vote against their party line.
  • Two-Party Dominance: Though other small parties exist, the US is predominantly a two-party system with Democrats and Republicans being the central players.

Limitations and Criticisms

  • Critics argue that the two-party system leads to the marginalisation of minority views, creating a political environment that lacks diversity and balanced representation.
  • There’s a perception of excessive influence of money in party politics, leading to critiques of monetary influence skewing political priorities.
  • The diffuse, decentralised structure can result in internal party fractions and inconsistent policy stances, undermining the clarity and unity of party politics.