You see them argue on television, you hear them bickering on the radio, you witness them go on campaigns, all seemingly for the sake of your vote. You have grown tired of having to listen, but somehow you also understand the need to understand them. And so, you do your own research, you visit websites, even the ordinary tech blog, and number yourself among the many website visitors curious for answers.
At the end of the day, you do realize the importance of having to understand them, if indeed you are going to live and function as a proper political person. At the end of the day, you do recognize the need to ask: what is a political party?
Political Party Explained
A political party is, in essence, a group of people who come together for the sole purpose of contesting elections and holding power in the government. This is what they do: the party agrees on some proposed policies, with the intention of either promoting the collective good or furthering the interests of their supporters.
Of course, the way political parties are recognized shares an international commonality, and in how they operate, there are often many differences, and some are significant. Many political parties have an ideological core, but some do not, and many represent ideologies very different from their ideology at the time the party was founded. In many democracies, political parties are elected by the electorate to run a government.
Typically, a political party is led by a party leader, who is essentially the most powerful member and spokesperson or representative of the party, a party secretary, who is responsible for maintaining the daily work and records of party meetings, a party treasurer who is responsible for the regular collection of membership dues, and a party chair who is responsible for forming strategies for recruiting and retaining party members, and also chairs party meetings.
Usually, most of the above positions are also members of what is called the party executive. The party executive is the leading organization which sets policy for the entire party at the national level. In the United States, the structure is far more decentralized. This is mainly because of the separation of powers, federalism and the multiplicity of economic interests and religious sects. Even state parties that are decentralized as county and other local committees are largely independent of state central committees.
The Parliamentary Setup
On the other hand, there are also parliamentary democracies. In parliamentary democracies, on a regular, periodic basis, party conferences are held to elect party officers, although snap leadership elections can be called if enough members opt for such. Party conferences are also held in order to affirm party values for members in the coming year. American parties also meet regularly and, again, are more subordinate to elected political leaders.
Depending on the demographic spread of the party membership, party members form local or regional party committees in order to help candidates run for local or regional offices in government. These local party branches reflect the officer positions at the national level.