Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

The future of political parties

As I recall, the topic we chose for our meeting on Monday, 8 May is the future of political parties in the US. I found some articles on the Wilson Center website by Patrick Liddiard that discuss the recent history of (primarily European) political parties, but that seem relevant to US political parties.

You can find those articles at (discussing the decline in voter identification with political parties since the 1950s and, particularly since the 1970s) and (discussing possible solutions to the decline of political parties).

Here’s another take on the subject, from the Heritage Foundation:

To me, these articles raise several questions about political parties, such as:

What purposes do political parties serve? How do they serve those purposes?

Are political parties a net benefit or a net detriment for governance in general and for democracy in particular?

Have political parties in the US declined as they have in Europe? If so, why?

Assuming the answer to the previous question is “yes”, is there a viable alternative to political parties? MLabor unions? Other civil society institutions? Mass mobilization? Would any of those alternatives contribute more to democracy and effective governance than political parties?

Again assuming political parties in the US have declined and if the available alternatives are likely to be ineffective, should we try to revive political parties? If so, how? Should we try to move away from a political system dominated by two major parties and toward a multi-party system? How would that work in the political context of the US? Or should we try to move away from political parties and partisanship? If so, how would that work?


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