Why Do We Have Political Parties

Why do we have political parties? What purpose do they serve? Have they out lived their usefulness? How are they involved in the election process?

Why do we have political parties? What purpose do they serve? Have they out lived their usefulness? How are they involved in the election process?

Expert Answers
geosc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reason for government is that people want protection.  Government, to finance protection, collects taxes.  But government has power, so that it can give some people more than their fair share of benefits from the taxes.  It can give things besides protection, such as business subsidies and business bail-outs.  Political parties are formed to compete for these extra benefits. 

The benefits are not free.  Government has nothing of its own to give.  It cannot give to one segment of society without first taking from another segment of society.  That is why it is said that the purpose of government is to rob Peter to pay Paul and the purpose of political parties is to sort out who gets to be Paul and who has to be Peter.

In a democracy, each political party tries to attract a majority of votes to its candidates so that it can be Paul.  It does this by promising things that voters want, by hiding or disguising things that its powerful members want but most voters do not want.  In short each political party tries to fool more voters than the other political party.

The criticism this answer received warrants a statement as to the background from which it was made: It answers a question about politics today; today the U. S. is a democracy; neither the question nor the answer pertain to an 18th-century republic.  The composer of the answer had a career in bureaucracy and a Masters degree in Public Policy and Administration and service in both the national headquarters and as a district organizer of a Presidential campaign and a summer internship in the Capitol Hill office of a U. S. Congressman.  All this accompanied by a now almost life-long enjoyment of history books, including books covering the constitutional history of the early republic, and capped by 18 graduate semester hours of history.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not agree with either of the first two answers.  Parties are not created so everyone can have an equal say.  The parties would both gladly have all the power if they could.  The second answer is extremely cynical.  After all, the political parties go back as far as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton -- founding fathers who were presumably interested in things other than greed.

The parties were formed to try to give some order to governing and elections.  If there were not parties, Congress would be very hard to manage.  Having parties gives some way of organizing the various members into groups rather than just having chaos.

In electoral terms, having parties gives us a good way to understand who is likely to agree with us and who is not.  It saves us from having to learn that about every person running for office.

We might think we would be better off without parties, but if we destroyed the two we have now, we would probably get others that were pretty similiar since the two parties pretty accurately reflect public opinion.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In their original state, political parties were designed to give a consolidated voice to those who shared similar beliefs.  Starting off with the Federalists and the Republicans, the growth of these political parties emerged because people held different views about the nature of legislation and the role of government.  The modern political parties attempt to do the same thing, but the defining characteristics which seemed to be strongly applied in the earlier days are not as dominant today.  For the most part though, both political parties share core values that are in divergence with one another from a theoretical standpoint.  The idea of whether or not they have outlived their usefulness might not be as pressing as to whether or not they have become entrenched in the American system, impossible to remove.  I think that a strong case can be made that the two party dominating system has embedded itself into the foundation of the election process and the landscape of American politics.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Political parties came to be because people have different opinions and think things should be handled in different ways. Some people believe that the federal government should have more power while others believe that the states should have more power. It is really a matter of personal opinion.

The purpose political parties serve is so there will be equal and fair representation. The idea is that everyone should have a voice and their voices are heard through political parties.  People usually pick a side, whoever they agree with, and go with that particular party.

The two main political parties in the US are the democrats and the republicans. Democrats are liberal while republicans are conservative.

They are totally involved in the election process. They have debates, conventions, etc. They attempt to get people to believe in what they believe in so they may get votes and get elected to office.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To answer the last part of the question, I would argue that political parties (in the United States) in their current form have outlived their usefulness.  Money and influence have always playes a huge role in politics, so that is nothing new, but I do think that a new level of impasse and complete lack of response to actual voter demands has taken over two of our three branches of government.  The introduction of a viable third party or even a fourth might do a great deal to provide for the expression of ideas that currently don't fit either one of our parties and therefore don't get any airtime.

It might also serve just to provide some accountability for the two current parties that dominate our system and allow for more meaningful compromise since more than two players would be involved and it wouldn't be quite as much of a simple win-lose system.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

George Washington and Alexander Hamilton were concerned with the dangers of faction - a fragmenting political system that could descend into anarchy.  Political parties organize large groups of people under an umbrella of ideas (a platform) and focus them towards a political goal.  This is much better than allowing a disorganized mob to run the democracy.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
There is an excellent Federalist Paper on factions, and thier dangers, written by James Madison. In the end, he determined that while factions can be destructive, they are going to be part of society. They allow for a peaceful shift of power.