Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

SECOND CHAPTER
THE ACTION OF THE CAUCUS

I

THE Organization of parties which we have been studying has disclosed to us a structure which may be described as ingenious; the living wheels of which its mechanism is composed are, we may admit, well co-ordinated and adjusted, and their regular working is fairly ensured. The forces which set them in motion are perhaps highly effective, and constitute a propelling power of an exceedingly strong yet very simple nature. Intended to fight the battles of fiercely competing parties, this Organization combines, it may also be admitted, all the essential conditions of success, by providing men accustomed to obey orders, well disciplined, and following freely acknowledged leaders, who in their turn possess in a high degree such qualities as energy, skill, and strategical and tactical ability. But, after all, this valiant army commanded by first-rate chiefs is really only a small battalion confronting the bulk of the electorate. How is it possible for such a handful of men to capture the formidable fortress of a well-nigh universal suffrage? This question, which naturally occurs to the mind, brings us to an examination of the various methods by which the Caucus reaches and acts upon the great mass of voters.

In the old days, when the electorate was far more limited, there was a gap in the constitutional wall which surrounded it; this, as will be remembered, was electoral registration, the keeping of the lists of voters, which was almost entirely left to private initiative by the authorities. It will also be recollected that the necessity of making up for the shortcomings of the State had even led to the formation of RegistrationSocieties

-371-

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