The Organization of Contemporary American Parties
In some ways, the contemporary Republican and Democratic parties resemble midsized corporations. They maintain permanent headquarters in Washington, providing space for key executives who worry continually about the competition, a sizable number of employees who range from technical experts to receptionists, and many other trappings of corporate life. But concluding that the major political parties operate like most corporations would be a serious misreading of the nature of American parties.
The two major American political parties are not organized along strict hierarchical lines but are made up of several loosely connected organizations. The various organizations that compose a modern party may be on the same team but are not necessarily part of a single command structure. At the center of each major party is its national committee, the Republican National Committee (RNC) or the Democratic National Committee (DNC), headed by a national chairperson. Yet the national chairperson is not the party's sole authority. Unlike a corporate chief executive officer, the party chair must work in conjunction with members of Congress and, if the party controls the White House, members of the president's administration. Not only must the party chairperson coordinate actions with elected officials in Washington, but he or she is not in a position to issue orders that will be carried out in Kansas or Idaho because each state has its own party organization subject to state law and is not a creature of the national party.
The important point is that the political parties are not the same as most modern, hierarchical organizations such as General Electric or Microsoft. Rather, each major party is a complex network of organizations with overlapping responsibilities and decentralized power. Why do the party organizations retain these loosely connected structures? In large part because