chapter  1
26 Pages

What Are Political Parties?

The gulf between the parties in government has grown so dramatically that the US House elected in 2014 was the most polarized in American history, and the picture is not likely to change in 2017 and 2018. Most observers, however, see the American parties as including more than just candidates and officeholders. As John Aldrich points out, parties are organizations—institutions with a life and a set of rules of their own, beyond that of their candidates. The Progressive movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, which promoted voter registration and the use of primary elections to nominate candidates, strengthened the case for including a citizen base in a definition of American parties. The American parties also help aggregate and organize political power. The major American parties are fully committed to political activity; it is their sole reason for existing.