Political Parties Essay, Research Paper
Political PartiesPolitical parties have become increasingly unpopular and havelost a great amount of power because of it. Interest groups are slowlypicking up where parties left behind and are becoming more and moreimportant not only in mobilizing voters, but also in lobbyinggovernment officials to aide their cause. In the early 1900’s, parties solely were in charge of thenomination process. A small group of party leaders, also known as acaucus, would choose who would run against the opposing party’scandidate and what office this individual would be seeking. It was aprocess that was closed off to everyone but the party leaders, andthus, could be tagged “undemocratic.” Years later, because of the ‘Party Machines’ of the north andthe completely Democratic south, primaries replaced caucuses.Primaries allowed for members(not only leaders) of the party to votefor whom they wanted to nominate. Primaries also gave individualsthe right to run for office under their party’s name. Thus, the partycouldn’t prohibit anyone from running for public office as a member ofthat particular party if the individual was a registered member of thatparty. The primary system of nominations has become so vast andpopular that it has broken down into three different styles(eachpracticed by different states): open, closed, and blanket. Openprimaries are just that; open for anyone to vote in any party. Forexample, a Democrat can vote in the Republican primary and viceversa. Closed primaries(which are the most widely used) are closedto people belonging to that party. Republicans can only vote in theRepublican primaries and Democrats the same. Blanketprimaries(practiced in only a few states) are relatively open in thesense that both Democrats and Republicans can vote for members ofeither party in different races; they don’t have to vote for candidates ofonly one party. The primary system is set up so that adverse effects can helpand/or hurt the candidates and nominee. For example, becauseduring a primary most candidates are very similar as far as ideologiesgo, voters tend to vote according to the candidates’ personalcharacteristics. Looks, popularity, etc. will always help a candidateduring the primaries. Primaries, though, can be hurtful to nomineesbecause voters are less likely to vote for someone in the generalelection if they didn’t vote for them in the primary. After each party has chosen it’s candidate, they ratify theirdecision at their national conventions. “The principal significance of anational convention is that it is the kickoff of the general electioncampaign(Bibby 174).” The national convention also gives nomineesthe opportunity to set the theme for their upcoming election as well asgiving parties a forum where they can draw up and sell their platform. But who exactly attends these functions? More so, who evenvotes? There are many factors to take into consideration whendetermining who actually goes out and votes and why it is that othersdon’t. The main factor is, without question, wealth. Those who arewell off tend to vote more often because they can afford the luxury oftaking off from work early, have transportation to take them to thepolls, know the issues(are more educated), etc. Another advantagethat the wealthy have is that they can mobilize ‘friendly’ voters,transport them to and from the polls, thus greatly helping theircandidate/party. Also, men tend to vote more than women, perhaps becausewomen are usually the ones responsible for taking care of children,and don’t have the time to get to the polls. Members of churches orother social group also vote more often than those who don’t take part.But surely, the most consistent voters are and have always beenthose with preferred candidates and strong opinions on issues. Thesevoters will not be deterred from their civic duty.Interest groups are also influential in getting citizens to vote, butonly if they’re voting for a candidate that would help the interest groupaccomplish it’s set agenda. The main task of an interest group,though, is to lobby officials for their help(vote on positive legislation) byoffering goods or services(money, campaign aid, votes) to the officialin return. Interest groups lobby ‘friendly’ members of Congress as well
as use the media to raise the salience of an issue. Interest groups’ lobbying tactics differ based upon the way thatthey recruit their members. Groups whose members joined becauseof economic reasons tend to be more pragmatic as far as lobbyinggoes. They don’t expect overnight changes, but prefer making small,lasting changes. Interest groups with an ideological membership domore confrontational lobbying. These groups want big changes andare not afraid of funding challengers in order to attain them. Although interest groups almost always lobby Congress solely,some do try to lobby the President, though they are rarely successful.Because of the office of the president’s popularity and the amount ofmedia attention the President receives, interest groups generally liketo lobby the President. The President can take a forgotten issue andmake it salient. Unfortunately, because the office of the President isso important, it is very difficult to even get into the White House, muchless have the opportunity to do any lobbying. Lobbying the judiciary is just as difficult. Because most judgesare appointed, interest groups can offer very little to judges(legally,anyway) that would help the group reach it’s goal. What they can dois wait until a pertinent case comes along and they can serve asexpert witnesses. They can also help during the litigation by offeringlawyers, doing research, etc. But like their efforts in lobbying theexecutive branch, equally as difficult is it to lobby the judiciary. In conclusion, although members of political parties are stillinfluential in determining who will represent them in a general election,it is interest groups who will decide what the interests of the nomineeswill be. If an interest group deems a nominee’s position as beingunfavorable, they will do whatever is necessary to ensure that thenominee is not successful. After all, was the GOP successful in 1994because of the party’s name, or was it because large groups like theCC and the NRA were behind them? Is the Caucus System still being used?(or ‘Why Dick Lugar isn’t the Republican Nominee’)Probably no man alive today is more worthy or better qualified tolead this nation as President of the United States than Richard Lugaris. Senator Lugar is a soft-spoken Republican with qualities endearingto members of both parties. His moderate stance and ability tocompromise intelligently could have put him in a position wherein bothsides would compromise for the betterment of the country.Unfortunately for Senator Lugar, he is innately a ‘good guy.’ He isfrank. He is genuine. He has no skeletons in his closet. And he’sactually quite charming and attractive – all the qualities the mediahates in a Republican contender. Yes, the ever biased media now serves as a ‘caucus’, or a groupof men sitting around deciding who the best candidate would be. With their own agenda in mind, they set forth and nominate thecandidate who would best serve their needs and shun those whodon’t. How do they do this? Easy – most American voters are easilyswayed. Voters don’t have the time to read Congressional Quarterlyor White House press releases every week to find out what’s going onin Washington. Their sources of information are Wolf Blitzer, DanRather, etc. These journalists naturally don’t want a Republican inthe White House, so they promote the Republican candidate with thesmallest chance of being victorious over Clinton. Although theycouldn’t do much with Bob Dole( he’d already acquired a high level ofpopularity, especially among GOP members), they started promotingpeople like Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes; candidates who’d makeBill Clinton look like a man for all people. The media, of course,ignored Richard Lugar, et.al., in hopes of no one hearing about them,learning their message, and voting for them.The extremely powerful media has incredible influence overAmerican voters. They can manipulate the ‘average Joe’ intobelieving and doing whatever it is they want him to do – includingvoting for a man that ‘Joe’ doesn’t even care about. They are caucus-like because they control the vote and, thus, control who getsnominated. Yes, the power the media has is immense and couldpossibly work for the good of society. Unfortunately, most of the timethe media works for itself and it’s agenda, whether it be good or bad.