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What is the goal of a political party?

Date: 2020-10-12

Creating a political party takes time, energy, and resources like money. Parties aren’t cheap to create and they take some effort to maintain. It doesn’t make sense to start or continue a party if the political party doesn’t contribute to some goal, or of that goal can be met more effectively in other ways.

In general, Australian political parties are groups with members that are registered with the relevant Electoral Commission. These groups are allowed to run candidates under a unified banner in elections managed by that Electoral Commission. Parties aren’t necessarily incorporated. Parties are made up of members, at least some of whom must be voters in the relevant elections.

It’s fair to say that a party can help achieve multiple goals. When a party is multi-purpose, like this, the goals don’t change. There aren’t that many common goals that parties help achieve, either. Some of the goals a political party might satisfy can be better satisfied by other types of organisations. For example: if you had the goal to increase medical research for some disease, you could register a political party around that issue, or you could register a not-for-profit company. Why would you want to go the political party route instead of another option? It doesn’t make sense to register a political party if some other type of organisation would be better. It only makes sense if you’re taking advantage of the things political parties are uniquely suited to address.

The main goals a political party is uniquely suited to meet, are:

  • Affect the policies enacted by legislatures, either by proposing new legislation, or by participating in voting on which legislation to enact.
  • Get one particular person, or a group of people, elected.

Both of these involve the interim step of winning elections.

Parties can help meet other goals too–they don’t just have to be about winning elections–though they’re not uniquely suited to such goals. For example, creating a political party can help meet a personal goal of contributing to something meaningful, or the goal of amplifying particular points of view in the media and other discussions. For political parties, these usually become background goals. They’re goals that could be satisfied in multiple ways; a political party is just one path to satisfying those sort of goals. Crucially: background goals are not well satisfied by a political party which consistently loses–they’re better satisfied in other ways. Anything outside winning elections that a political party can do can be done better by a different type of organisation.

What is a decisive reason for starting a political party? Well, such a reason needs to be something that political parties are uniquely suited to achieve; a decisive reason means there is no comparable method to meet the particular goals. Those goals cannot to be met effectively in ways other than the creation of a party (otherwise there’s no point starting a party). The main advantage of a political party is that in elections, compared to independents, parties have privileged treatment. They can choose a good name to appear on the ballot and they typically have a better position on the ballot paper, too. It’s significantly easier for a candidate of a political party to be elected compared to an independent–most of the time.

A core goal of a political party, then, must be to affect elections–i.e. increase the chance of a candidate, or multiple candidates, being elected. That goal is a decisive reason to start a political party.

A political party which does not contribute to particular candidates being elected is wasting resources. Political parties don’t need to have their own candidates elected to meet the core goal. An easy example can be demonstrated with Flux. We (Flux) have enough members to register multiple parties federally. This would give us certain advantages, though it increases maintenance costs and the overhead of running in elections. If we had, say, 4 federal parties, we could run 4 candidates where previously we could only run 1. In some situations this would increase the chance of us winning a seat. So parties can contribute to the core goal even if the candidate elected is not their own.

what do the common misconceptions lead to – impact

what mistakes get made when ppl don’t understand this

  • feels unfocused
  • what are the downsides
  • switches back and forth
  • seemed like 2 goals would be main thing

et: might do better to start with bullet points

what’s my goal?

get info across as main focus

after feedback on the outline version

  • staggered library of crit
    • tier for lower quality
    • tier for higher quality

need better idea of what audience is interested in

doesn’t seem like I know my audience / have a clear goal

can respond to ~everyone a lot faster w/ bullet point

no background on who I’m arguing with

write outline first

  • progression / theme

some guy with a policy: you need an outline with the article or no feedback

outline - brainstorm a bunch of thing, then criticize list and narrow it down / fit together thematically / etc.

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