Party: The ‘Non-Displacement’ of Conflict
One of the themes of this book is that the cleavages in a western polity exist on two levels; levels which are related to one another but not directly, as populist democratic theory assumes. At one level, there are divisions between political leaders organised, tightly as in Britain or loosely as in the United States, into political parties. It is these leaders seeking public office who are in a position to make sense for the citizens of the divisions at the other level, that of the mass public. They will not always provide this service, and when they do not, the citizens will have no major source from which they can acquire the concepts and consistency of viewpoint with which to comprehend the social and economic divisions of which they are directly aware. The citizens directly understand local manifestations of these cleavages, but it is only by relating them to the divisions to which the elected leaders refer that they can see them as aspects of more general cleavages. Those seeking election as party candidates for public office are not, of course, the only source of political information but they are the only source which, under certain circumstances, has an incentive to supply the electorate with a comprehensive, coherent and simplified model of the political world. Because they are organised into parties, the candidates need not overload the citizens’ capacity for understanding by exposing them to too many alternative perspectives.
KeywordsDemocratic Party Republican Party Electoral Competition Free Enterprise Initiative Vote
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