The Political Parties of To-Day: A Study in Republican and Democratic Politics

By Arthur N. Holcombe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
THE FUTURE OF THE BI-PARTISAN TRADITION

THE comparison of political parties to bottles, either empty or full, is inept. The major parties, are not containers, holding a quantity of principles, great or small, which may be precisely described in a political platform, as the contents of a bottle may be described on the label. Parties are rather like rivers or streams, pursuing courses which the flowing waters can not greatly alter, now bearing upon their surface cargoes of goods and companies of men, now stopping in their flight to moisten a field, that agriculture may flourish, now rushing on to turn a wheel, that industry may prosper. Perchance the waters slacken and the stream falters in its course, or even dries up altogether, leaving only a waste, a sad reminder of former greatness; or again, a flood comes, and the mighty current carries all before it until its force is spent. So with the parties; they are bodies of men, urged on by the interests which move them to action, now proceeding serenely in the channels which habit has fixed, now smashing the old order and building anew in response to the play of circumstance upon the dispositions and impulses which give them their character.

To understand a political party it is not enough to read political platforms and other partisan declarations of faith, or even to examine the laws which the party has caused to be enacted and the policies which by its means have been carried into effect. It is necessary rather to become acquainted with its members and ascertain what

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