Representation in Crisis: The Constitution, Interest Groups, and Political Parties

By David K. Ryden | Go to book overview

them in the right direction. In the absence of other players on the political landscape that can bring to the game those qualities that political parties imperfectly embody, we have no alternative but to accept them, warts and all. Despite the flaws in our contemporary parties, a vigorous party system is better equipped to accommodate the range of competing strands of representation and to engender a richer, more effective system of representation.


CONCLUSION

The set of political subsystems in the form of parties and groups is better equipped than a legal system of group representation to consolidate the network of representational forms and practices, and to secure a more effective system of political representation. The pluralist dilemma points to the singular functional qualities of party subsystems. The tensions between collective political involvement and individual political existence which characterize pluralism are answerable only through parties. Mediating parties palliate the inherent contradictions of representative democracy in a way that factions and groups cannot.

Party subsystems also provide the answer to the riddles and complexities of political representation, belonging "first and foremost to the means of representation." 54 They express the demands and desires of people and groups, while simultaneously channelling those desires. 55 As expressors and channellers of popular opinion, their functional character is unmatched by other groups. As a result, they are singularly constituted to weave together the patchwork of representational threads and cloths.

One may be dissatisfied with the dissimilarity between the model and the reality of parties. That disparity is certainly relevant when considering legal responses to the dilemmas of representation. But the purpose of the model is not to describe reality, but to bring into prominence basic features that might otherwise get lost in the complexity of descriptive accounts. 56 We must now assess whether the Supreme Court adequately accounts for party systems in its theory of representation. In patronage disputes, ballot access issues, and in gerrymandering cases, the party systems model set forth in this chapter has been too often ignored or disregarded by the High Court.

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