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The term «political parties» Essay Sample

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The term «political parties» Essay Sample

We hear the term «political parties» almost every day of our lives. We see it on TV, read about it in newspapers, books or magazines. We study it in school, discuss it at work and sometimes take part in debates. At least, this is true for me. Even though, this topic was recently covered in our University program I was still curious to find out more about it. «Almost all present-day societies, democratic or not, have parties that link citizens to government» (Roskin, 2016).

I hope that this research will broaden my outlook and help me understand the political systems of other countries better, as well as the role of political parties in those countries. Part 1. History and definition. Political parties first appeared in history in the 17th-18th centuries as the result of bourgeois revolutions in England and France. At that time, they didn`t gain much support. The introduction of suffrage in Europe and United States in the 19th century was the key point in emergence of the modern version of political parties. Only 100 years later they got the constitutional recognition in developed countries.

But what are the «political parties»? Edmund Burke was the first to explain the term «political parties». In his book, «Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent», published in 1770, E. Burke formulated the following definition: a political party is «an organized assembly of men, united for working together for the national interest, according to the particular principle they agreed upon». For M. G. Roskin, political party is a «group seeking to elect office-holders under a given label» (Political Science an Introduction, fourteenth edition).

There is another similar definition, which states that it is «a team of men seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election» (Anthony Downs, An Economic theory of Democracy, 1957). In all of the explanations, authors talk about the institutional nature of the parties and their functions. However, in my opinion, the first definition, given by E. Burke, is too ideological and very similar to «interest groups». Basically, in his understanding «political party» is a group of people with a certain world outlook. Later explanations by M.

Roskin and A. Downs seem more accurate to me. They represent the technical and electoral nature of parties. Both of them mention the most important feature of political parties that distinguishes them from any other groups – the desire for power. That is why I think that these two definitions are more relevant than the first. It is also important to mention the functions of political parties and what role they play in politics. First of all, they express social interests and transform them into political programs with which parties are then seeking for support.

Political parties also select people to be their representatives and take part in elections. The most important is that they are creating a link between citizens and the political system and allow them to participate in organizing the government (Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Political parties: functions and organisation in democratic societies, 2011). Part 2. Classifications. Different political parties not only have similar functions but also some features which differ them from one another. There are many criteria for classification such as origin, ideology, structure, quantity, etc.

First typology to mention is by ideology. Klaus von Beyme arranged seven out of nine European party families from left to right: communist, socialist, green, liberal, Christian democratic, conservative and libertarian. Agrarian and ethnic parties were not included. Similar separation was mentioned in «Political Science. An Introduction»: party of the left, social democrats, greens, center, liberals, Christian democrats, moderates, Sweden democrats (Roskin, 2016). The problem with such classification is that the political parties are seeking for power and often don`t follow their ideology while trying to get more support.

That where the term «Catch-All Parties» originates (Otto Kirschheimer,1966). It is a «large, ideologically loose party that welcomes all» (Roskin, 2016, p. 199). Another popular classification was created by M. Duverger. It is based on the acquisition of party membership. He distinguished three types of parties: cadre, mass and devotee. The first one allows only elite members, while the second one is open. The last type is centered on a particular leader, for example – Nazi (Roskin, 2016, p. 196). The separation of party systems by the number of parties in them is also worth mentioning.

These systems are: dominant-party, two-party and multiparty (Roskin, 2016, p. 200). As we can see, there are a lot of classifications which makes it hard to find any similarities. Most of them are very different from each other, because they all are focused on certain features of political parties. Richard Gunther and Larry Diamond stated: the «problem with the existing typologies is that, in the aggregate, they have been based on a wide variety of criteria, and little or no effort has been invested in an attempt to make them more consistent and compatible with one another» (Species of Political Parties.

A New Typology, 2003 SAGE Publications). Part 3. Understanding. Once again, what are the «political parties»? It doesn’t matter whom you ask, a politician, political scientist or a common citizen, they all will give a similar answer. They would probably say that the «political party» is a group of people, which represents society and tries to hold power in the government. The only difference is that some of them would tell more in detail about it (e. g. political scientists), while others don`t have enough knowledge. However, there are some misunderstandings about the intentions of political parties and voting.

First, we should understand that most people are unfamiliar with politics. They might not care about the parties, their candidates or even their ideology. Compared to political scientists or politicians, common people usually don`t have much information and tend to follow their feelings while voting. There are also situations when people vote not for, but against, some representatives. That happened during the last elections in the United States in 2016. Many people, who were voting for Hillary Clinton (Democratic party) were actually voting against Donald Trump (Republican party), and likewise in the reverse.

It is also important to mention, how the media shapes the information and influences the way people think about political parties. Uncovering or, on the opposite, hiding certain information became common among social media and other networks. For example, Fox News is an American television channel that is considered to be primarily Republican. They rarely air the news that is not favorable to the party. If we look at the recently published articles, we can see that most of them are using propaganda for creating the «perfect image» of the US President.

For example, such articles as «Washington Post reporter apologizes for ‘bad tweet’ after Trump calls him out» and «Trump says CNN was ‘caught red handed’ with fake news on WikiLeaks email». Though, they hardly ever post about the activity of the Democratic party. Popularity also has its impact. In his research about celebrities’ political activities, Anthony J. Nownes writes: «My results support the general notion that celebrity giving to political parties and their candidates can indeed affect peoples’ views of the political parties».

He also finds that peoples` opinion on the political party corresponds with their opinion on the celebrity. In the conclusion, we can see that ideology and real intentions of the political parties don`t play such a big role compared to citizen`s personal beliefs and the opinion reported by the news. Part 4. Recent news. I`ve already spoken about US elections in 2016. Even though it has only been one year since that, people have already started to think about the next elections in 2020. Democratic party in particular.

In the article from BBC News, the author, Anthony Zurcher, speaks about the never-ending conflict between the Democrats and the current president Donald Trump. The point of the paper was to show that the right direction and unity among people will lead to victory of the Democratic party in 2020 and prevent the country from the «disaster» at a national level. He mentions the case of Iowa state, «which had been reliably Democratic, but went for Mr. Trump». Another idea, included in the article is made by John Delaney, politician, who is officially running for the President position in 2020.

He stated that “the Democratic Party can do a much better job really talking to people about what they care about, as opposed to talking to people about what we care about”. Shortly, it means that the party should focus more on peoples` demands than on their own ideology. The role of the term «political party» in this work is crucial. It connects all people from the article together and shows their thought, overall outlook and strategy to win the elections as a whole. This is a basic definition of the «political party», which is fully represented by the author.

Work by Anthony Zurcher is not about Republican party or bad image of Donald Trump. It is an inspiration and a call for attention. It shows that there are certain problems that should be taken care of. And mostly, it`s about peoples` ignorance. The ideology, values, strategy and chosen candidates need to be changed to represent the Democratic party in it`s true form. Another quote from the article made by Reynard: «We’ve relied too much on really smart people who know all their data and analytics, and I think we kind of lost the soul of the party and what we’re actually fighting for».


Taking everything into consideration, we can definitely see that understanding and classification of «political parties» varies not only among common citizens but even in scientific field. Nevertheless, their political role is undeniable.

I would also like to point out that despite their importance, political parties have lost their popularity. People should remember that party system and elections are not only about gaining power and influence in the government. They are also about bringing citizens` needs to the top and maintaining political socialization and mobilization.


M.G. Roskin, Political Science. An Introduction, fourteenth edition, 2016
E. Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent, 1770
http://www.unilibrary.com/ebooks/Burke,%20Edmund%20-%20Thoughts%20on%20Present%20Discontents.pdfAnthony Downs, An Economic theory of Democracy, 1957
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Political parties: functions and organisation in democratic societies, 2011
R. Gunther, L. Diamond, Species of Political Parties. A New Typology, 2003 SAGE Publications
Anthony J. Nownes, «Information about celebrities’ political activities can influence how people think about political parties»,

Information about celebrities’ political activities can influence how people think about political parties

Anthony Zurcher, «Democrats go soul-searching in Iowa», 8th of December 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42204697

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