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my take on american political parties
by ferrell rosser

The members of the two major political parties in America have, in my opinion, reached a stage where they are not primarily beholden to the voters who have placed them into office, but whose loyalty actually rests with their political party. They care more about their parties’ political ideology rather than the issues and concerns of their constituencies, thus resulting in a disconnect between the elected and the electors. This leads to frustration and anger among the voters, which in turn leads to upheavals in the political landscape. A brief revue on how this situation arose may be in order.

At one point, political parties were composed of like-minded people who banded together for mutual support so they could present a united front to the voters. Later, the political parties developed staffs that organized rallies, debates, public appearances, and to help raise funds for the candidates. Some time during this process, the parties formalized their political ideologies by mutual consent by the members. At this point in their evolution, political parties’ ideologies are driven by the shared beliefs of their members.

However, as the political parties continued to evolve, there is a slow shift to the ideology becoming doctrine. The ideology becomes more formal, more rigid, and more central to the overall strategy of the party. As the importance of the ideology increases, the more candidates are judged by their adherences to it. How issues are voted on by elected officials are increasingly decided by how those issues relate to the parties’ political ideology, rather than how the issue impacts the politicians’ constituents.

Political parties then reach a point where to become a member of the party; you must adhere to the parties’ ideology, a complete reversal of the earlier situation. This brings us to the present day, where the political parties’ ideologies are becoming more and more important than the issues and concerns of the voters. Politicians become more loyal to their parties than to the voters. The concerns, aims, and goals of the political parties start becoming more important than the concerns of the voters. The parties’ ideology now becomes the guiding factor on all issues, all concerns, even how campaign strategies are conducted.

The political parties’ ideologies drive the parties, instead of the members’ driving ideology. This may be subject to debate, but the general consensus that I have observed seems to be that voters are frustrated with politicians due to their ignoring local concerns and pushing their parties’ agendas instead. Voters seem to think that no matter what politicians say to get elected, they do whatever the parties’ dictate. It makes people think that the real constituencies of these politicians are the two major political parties, and not the voters who actually put them into office. This can be illustrated by the fact that politicians proudly display their political party in their official identification and titles, with the district or State they were elected from as an afterthought.

As the focus of campaigns shift from debates on the issues, and where the candidates stand on them, and are now driven by ideology, then it becomes less important to the politicians’ strategy to tell the voters what they believe in, than to defeat their opponent. When debating the issues or articulating their own stance on the issues becomes less important than adherence to ideology, then simply defeating the opposition becomes more important. This gives rise to so-called “attack” ads, or “smear” campaigns to discredit the opposition, rather than debates or speeches to inform the voters on how the candidates stand on each issue. As the importance of individual opinions of politician’s decreases and adherence to party ideology increases in importance, it matters less what those politicians have to say to the voters about how they stand on the issues. However, to replace informing the voters on how the individual politician would vote on those issues, some other strategy needs to be used. That is where the negative ads come in; when you can’t be sure that you have the complete confidence of the voters in your ideology, then the only strategy you have left is to discredit your opponents’ ideology (and them, personally, as well). That this strategy leaves the voters frustrated and uninformed only increases the dissatisfaction of the voters and increases their perceived disconnection from the elected does not seem to have made an impact on the parties’ ideologues.

It is no wonder that voters are frustrated with their elected representatives. When ideology becomes more important than practical concerns, people began to lose their confidence in their ability to elect anyone that will actually represent them, rather than merely be a soldier for whichever political party. When that happens, the voters will either refrain from voting, or will turn to other, less “mainstream” candidates. Either way, the two major political parties’ actions, if unchanged, will lead to their marginalization. Whether this continued course of action by the two major political parties will result in major damage to the nation, before these parties fade away and are replaced with some new party, or parties, that are more relevant and responsive to their constituencies, remains to be seen.


I'm a young grandfather, amateur writer, college graduate, and enjoy reading all sorts of things. I have strong opinions, but am willing to change my mind if presented with compeling facts, however, not just someone elses' opinion.

more about ferrell rosser


a walk in the park
some thoughts on the last day of spring
by ferrell rosser
topic: general
published: 12.30.99


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