A Grammar of American Politics: The National Government

By Wilfred E. Binkley; Malcolm C. Moos | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
AMERICAN POLITICAL PARTIES

What Political Parties Are

A POLITICAL party consists of a body of citizens holding opinions somewhat different from those of the remainder of the community. This differentiation of opinion is most clear-cut in a minor party such as the Prohibition party which would abolish the manufacture of, and traffic in, alcoholic beverages, or the Socialist, which advocates governmental ownership and operation of the means of production. But the principles of the major parties in the United States are by no means distinct since each of these parties consists of a combination of groups representing many and even divergent interests. Nevertheless, major parties, because of their varying group structures, are distinguished from each other by somewhat different ideologies. For example, the center of gravity in the Republican aggregation is, as Charles A. Beard once pointed out and as the opinion polls persistently reveal, on the side of wealth. Consequently, Republican party opinion tends toward freeing private enterprise from governmental regulations, is inclined to bear less heavily upon the wealthy in levying taxes, and is not enthusiastic over proposals for a broader social security program. Since the membership of the Democratic party includes a considerable number of the under-privileged, party policy is inclined to promote the interests of this consumer-conscious element by governmental regulations such as anti-monopoly legislation. Quite naturally the outstanding Federal statutes in the interest of labor have been sponsored by Democratic administrations. The elaborate program of social security of the Franklin Roosevelt administration tended to serve the peculiar needs of Democratic voters.


The Necessity of Political Parties

Political parties are institutions that grow out of the sheer necessity of self- governing peoples to have their public officials nominated and elected, and to hold them somewhat responsible for their conduct in office. The

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