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71. NATIONAL AND LOCAL PARTY ORGANIZATION.
It is a common saying that modern popular government is party government. In no country is this more true than in the United States where so many offices are elective and there is so much for the party to do. Therefore, the party having much to do, provides an elaborate organization and it becomes increasingly inevitable that the same organization will be used for all elections local, State and national. In the following extract President Wilson states this point clearly:
We have made many efforts to separate local and national elections in time in order to separate them in spirit. Many local questions upon which the voters of particular cities or counties or States are called upon to vote have no connection whatever either in principle or in object with the national questions upon which the choice of congressmen and of presidential electors should turn. It is ideally desirable that the voter should be left free to choose the candidates of one party in local elections and the candidates of the opposite party in national elections. It is undoubtedly desirable that he should go further and separate matters of local administration from his choice of party altogether, choosing his local representatives upon their merits as men without regard to their affiliations. We have hopefully made a score of efforts to obtain "non-partisan" local political action. But such efforts always in the long run fail. Local parties cannot be one thing for one purpose and another for another without losing form and discipline altogether and becoming hopelessly fluid. Neither can parties form and re-form, now for
this purpose and again for that, or be for one election one thing and for another another. Unless they can have local training and constant rehearsal of their parts, they will fail of coherent organization when they address themselves to the business of national elections. For national purposes they must regard themselves as parts of greater wholes, and it is impossible under such a system as our own that they should maintain their zest and interest in their business if their only objects are distant and general objects, without local rootage or illustration, centering in Congress and utterly disconnected with anything that they themselves handle. Local offices are indispensable to party discipline as rewards of local fidelity, as the visible and tangible objects of those who devote their time and energy to party organization and undertake to see to it that the full strength of the party vote is put forth when the several local sections of the party are called upon to unite for national purposes. If national politics are not to become a mere game of haphazard amidst which parties can make no calculations whatever, systematic and disciplined connections between local and national affairs are imperative, and some instrument must be found to effect them. Whatever their faults and abuses, party machines are absolutely necessary under our existing electoral arrangements, and are necessary chiefly for keeping the several segments of parties together. No party manager could piece local majorities together and make up a national majority, if local majorities were mustered upon non-partisan grounds. No party manager can keep his lieutenants to their business who has not control of local nominations. His lieutenants do not expect national rewards: their vital rootage is the rootage of local opportunity.
Just because, therefore, there is nowhere else in the world so complex and various an electoral machinery as in the United States, nowhere else in the world is party machinery so elaborate or so necessary. It is important to keep this in mind. Otherwise, when we analyze party action, we shall fall into the too common error of thinking that we are analyz
ing disease. As a matter of fact, the whole thing is just as normal and natural as any other political development. The part that party has played in this country has been both necessary and beneficial, and if bosses and secret managers are often undesirable persons, playing their parts for their own benefit or glorification rather than for the public good, they are at least the natural fruits of the tree. It has borne fruit good and bad, sweet and bitter, wholesome and corrupt, but it is native to our air and practice and can be uprooted only by an entire change of system.
All the peculiarities of party government in the United States are due to the too literal application of Whig doctrine, to the infinite multiplication of elective offices. There are two things to be done for which we have supplied no adequate legal or constitutional machinery: there are thousands of officials to be chosen and there are many disconnected parts of government to be brought into co-operation. "It may be laid down as a political maxim that whatever assigns to the people a power which they are naturally incapable of wielding takes it away from them." They have, under our Constitution and statutes, been assigned the power of filling innumerable elective offices; they are incapable of wielding that power because they have neither the time nor the necessary means of co-operative action; the power has therefore been taken away from them, not by law but by circumstances, and handed over to those who have the time and the inclination to supply the necessary organization; and the system of election has been transformed into a system of practically irresponsible appointment to office by private party managers -irresponsible because our law has not yet been able to devise any means of making it responsible. It may also be laid down as a political maxim that when the several chief organs of government are separated by organic law and offset against each other in jealous seclusion, no common legal authority set over them, no necessary community of interest subsisting amongst them, no common origin or purpose dominating them, they must of necessity, if united at all,
be united by pressure from without; and they must be united if government is to proceed. They cannot remain checked and balanced against one another; they must act, and act together. They must, therefore, of their own will or of mere necessity obey an outside master.
Both sets of dispersions, the dispersion of offices and the dispersion of functions and authorities, have co-operated to produce our parties, and their organization. Through their caucuses, their county conventions, their state conventions, their national conventions, instead of through legislatures and cabinets, they supply the indispensable means of agreement and co-operation, and direct the government of the country both in its policy and in its personnel. Their local managers make up the long and variegated lists of candidates made necessary under our would-be democratic practice; their caucuses and local conventions ratify the choice; their state and national conventions and declarations of principle determine party policy. Only in the United States is party thus a distinct authority outside the formal government, expressing its purposes through its own separate and peculiar organs and permitted to dictate what Congress shall undertake and the national administration address itself to. Under every other system of government which is representative in character and which attempts to adjust the action of government to the wishes and interests of the people, the organization of parties is, in a sense, indistinguishable from the organs of the government itself. Party finds its organic lodgment in the national legislature and executive themselves. The several active parts of the government are closely united in organization for a common purpose, because they are under a common direction and themselves constitute the machinery of party control. Parties do not have to supply themselves with separate organs of their own outside the government and intended to dictate its policy, because such separate organs are unnecessary. The responsible organs of government are also the avowed organs of party. The action of opinion upon them is open and direct, not circuitous and secret.
72. WHAT THE PARTY MACHINE HAS TO DO.
The basis of the elaborate party machine and the army of politicians that are required to run it is to be found in the large number of elective offices for which the parties must make nominations. Mr. James Bryce describes this system in the following selection: 1
In Europe a citizen rarely votes more than twice or thrice a year, sometimes less often, and usually for only one person at a time. Thus in England any householder, say at Manchester or Liverpool, votes once a year for a town councillor (if there is a contest); once in three years for members of a school board (if there is a contest); once in four years (on an average) for a member of the House of Commons.
Now compare the elections held to fill offices in the great State of Ohio, which is fairly typical of the middle or older Western States. Citizens vote at the polls for the following five sets of offices. For simplicity I take the case of a city instead of a rural district, but the number of elective offices is nearly the same in the later.
This list shows a total of seven elections at the polls taking place, annually, twenty-one to twenty-six (according to circumstances) taking place biennially, eight taking place triennially, two quadrennially, one quinquennially, one decennially-giving an average in round numbers of twentytwo elections in each year. Of course this does not mean that there are twenty-two separate and distinct elections, for many of the State offices are filled up at one and the same election, as also most of the city offices at one and the same election. It means that there are, on an average, twenty-two different paid offices which a voter has annually to allot by his vote that is to say, he must in each and every year make up his mind as to the qualifications of twenty-two different persons or sets of persons to fill certain offices. As nearly all these offices are contested on political lines, though the respective principles (if any) of Republicans and Democrats