Essay on the Importance of Political Parties

As Lowell says, “The conception of government by the whole people in any large nation is, of course, a chimera; for wherever the suffrage is wide parties are certain to exist and the control must really be in the hands of the party that comprises a majority or a rough approximation to a majority of the people.”

Without party organisation there may be factions and cabals, people appealing and petitioning to government for the redress of personal and sectional grievances. A faction lacks a stable organization and it is a group with a scattered leadership in pursuit of sectional interests.

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Whereas stable organisation is a distinguishing feature of a political party and it pursues “desirable objectives for the corporate body as a whole” and it functions under recognised leadership.

Political parties, thus, seek to make government. They are permanent organizations and their primary business is to influence the electorate to support their programmes, to win election, and to form a government in order to pursue the programme endorsed by the electorate at the General Elections. And for that matter political parties need to be continually operative if a democratic system is to work effectively.

Political parties, therefore, perform a necessary service; they are inevitable like the tides of the ocean. “Their essential functions,” says Lowell, “and the true reason for their existence, is bringing public opinion to a focus and framing issues for a public verdict.”

They are the instruments for carrying on popular government by concentrating public opinion. Their function is to make candidates and programmes known to the public and attract them to those programmes, so that they can speak with a united voice, instead of uttering an unintelligible Babel of sound.

If the millions went to the polls without any sort of thought and agreement, they would scatter their votes among so many candidates possessing and professing so many divergent views and policies, thus, creating chaos, pure and simple.

Political parties make the scheme of representative government workable and in advance of the election help to bring together large numbers of men in acceptance of a common basis of action.

The importance of political parties may be summed up in the words of Bryce. He says, “In popular governments, however, parties have a wider extension if not a more strenuous life, for everywhere a citizen has a vote, with the duty to use it at elections, each of the parties which strive for mastery must try to bring the largest possible number of voters into the ranks, organise them locally, appeal to them by the spoken and printed words, bring them up to the polls.

Ballots having replaced bullets in political life, every voter are supposed to belong to one of the partisan hosts to render more or less obedience to its leaders.”


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