Political parties serve various functions, some of which strengthen democracy. Interested candidates join parties that align with their goals and ideologies. Similarly, citizens vote for aspirants who belong in political parties they feel will best represent their interests. Parties run and organize elections, recruit and nominate candidates for elective positions, and oppose the party in power. Political parties support the democratic process through the various functions they perform.
The first function that political parties serve is organizing and running elections. They perform activities that generate interest in the elections and persuade citizens to support their candidates by voting. Examples of organizing and mobilizing strategies used include door-to-door canvassing, making calls to people, and running registration. As the election period approaches, volunteers participate in these activities to boost voter turnout. For instance, some party members distribute flyers to encourage people to register to vote. Voting is an integral part of the democratic process since it enables citizens to choose leaders who represent their interests. Increasing voter turnout by stimulating interest in the elections is an effective way of strengthening democracy.
Another function of political parties that bolsters democracy is recruiting and nominating candidates for public office by conducting primaries and caucuses. A primary refers to a preliminary intra-party election held for voters to nominate their preferred candidates to office. On the other hand, a caucus is a private meeting between party leaders to elect delegates and aspirants. When parties run primaries, they show that democracy begins at a party level. For instance, Barrack Obama won the primary election over Hillary Clinton, allowing him to represent the Democratic party in the 2008 presidential election. Primaries and caucuses are a crucial part of the democratic process since they demonstrate that democracy begins at the most fundamental level.
The third way in which political parties strengthen democracy is by acting as the opposition to the party in power. The opposition party may propose policies that could work better than those instituted by the ruling party. Political parties often differ in economic, social, and environmental ideologies. For instance, the opposition party can propose a new international trade policy if the party in power has an international trade policy which stifles the country’s economy. This happened in 2020 when President Trump entered trade war with China. Proposing alternative policies strengthens democracy because the new proposed policies may be popular with citizens. Government opposition also ensures that the party in power does not become a dictatorship.
Some of the functions of political parties support the democratic process. Parties essentially run elections by urging citizens to vote. They also approach candidates to run for elective positions under their platform. Once enough candidates are recruited, the nomination process is left to the voters. It would be undemocratic for party nominees to be selected without citizen participation. Finally, the party that does not win elections continues to promote democracy by opposing the party in power and introducing new policies. Ultimately, political parties exist to support the democratic process.