The Jury Talks Back


What Are Political Parties For?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 10:37 am

A political party qua political party is an organization dedicated to winning elections.  (A politician is a self-interested seeker of re-election.)  The winning of elections is the primary goal of a political party. All other goals which any particular political party may espouse are either secondary or strategy.  Furthering an ideology, distributing goods and services to supporters, petitioning a redress of grievances, etc…, are all either secondary or strategic considerations.

The true nature of political parties is a problem for an ideologue, or, to be more fair, those who wish to espouse a particular ideology above all else.  The Libertarian Party is not a true political party.  Its primary goal is not to win elections.  The Libertarians refer to themselves as the party of principle.  Winning elections is often an unprincipled business.

True political parties adopt the ideological positions they do because they think that those positions will help them win elections.  They “sell” that position to voters by providing distinctions (or blurring distinctions as the case may be), disseminating positive and negative information, and making persuasive arguments to voters so as to give them reasons to support that political party.



  1. Agreed about the LP, from an ex-member. But I don’t agree that a political party can exist without some definition or set of ideals.

    The Democrat Party, for example, appears to have a two clear goals: state control over the economy to benefit “the common man” and state-guided social “progress.”

    One would think that the opposition resisted this Statism, and the Republicans have in the misty past (eg. Reagan), but both Bushes seemed to think Statism was fine, so long as it was bent to their uses (benefit business and traditional values).

    Sure the goals cannot be sharply focused like the LP, and lots of compromises must be struck, but the lack of ideals that currently bedevils the Republicans makes the winning of power both difficult and moot.

    Comment by Kevin Murphy — 3/24/2009 @ 1:44 pm

  2. There’s a story my father told me, it may be apocryphal:

    When Stalin was purging the Bolsheviks, a bunch of them were arrested and brought before him for interrogation. He asked each, “Why are you a Communist?” One after the other quoted Marx, Engels and Lenin. One, however, said, “My family was starving and a Communist organizer gave us a sack of potatoes”. He was the only one who was not purged.

    Comment by nk — 3/24/2009 @ 2:13 pm

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