The American Party System: An Introduction to the Study of Political Parties in the United States

By Charles Edward Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE PARTY AS A FORMULATOR OF
PRINCIPLES AND POLICIES

One of the functions of the political party is to aid in the formulation of public policies, in the shaping of issues on which various groups in the community divide. To what extent, upon what subjects, in what way, it may be asked, do political parties act in the process by which the community states and settles broad questions of social, economic and political policy? It will be found that at this point more than at any other there is widespread misunderstanding of the actual work of the parties. The unsophisticated may assume that common action on common policies is the chief function of the party, while the over-sophisticated may conclude that the party has nothing to do with these questions. An objective analysis will reveal the true part played by the political organizations in the shaping of issues, and help to clear away some of the frequent misunderstandings about the real work of the party.

In every community there are broad differences upon questions of public interest. Persons holding similar views tend to come together in groups for conference, for statement of principles, for effective organization to carry them through into practical action. This is ostensibly the primary purpose of political parties. This task involves a wide variety of functions, some governmental and others partly governmental, including the formulation of political platforms, the nomination and election of candidates, con-

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