Course Code (545) – Assignment 1 Measure The Strength and Weakness of Party

Q.No.1  What is party membership? How do you measure the strength and weaknesses of a party?    

Political parties are organized groups of people with similar ideas or ideology about the function and scope of government, with shared policy goals that work together to elect individuals to political office, to create and implement policies, to further an agenda, and to gain control of the government and the policy-making process.

Parties gain control over the government by winning elections with candidates they officially sponsor or nominate for positions in government. Political parties nominate candidates to run many levels of government including the national level, Congress, and the presidency; but, they nominate for state and local levels as well. They also coordinate political campaigns and mobilize voters.

In Federalist No. 10, written in the late eighteenth century, James Madison noted that the formation of self-interested groups, which he called factions, was both natural and inevitable in any society. Interest groups and political parties are two of the most easily identified forms of faction in the United States.

Political parties are points of access/linkage institutions available to the public, though they are not themselves government institutions. Neither interest groups nor political parties are directly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

Where interest groups often work indirectly to influence our leaders, political parties are organizations that try to directly influence public policy through nominating and officially sponsoring members who seek to win and hold public office.

This is a key difference. Interest groups do not officially nominate or nominate candidates for public office, although they may support them politically and even contribute dollars to their campaign.

Parties accomplish this by identifying and aligning sets of issues that are important to voters in the hopes of gaining support during elections. In this respect, parties provide choices to the electorate, something they are doing that is in sharp contrast to their opposition.

These positions on these critical issues are often presented in campaign documents or political advertising. During a national presidential campaign, they also frequently reflect the party platform, which is adopted at each party’s presidential nominating convention every four years.

If successful, a party can create a large enough electoral coalition to gain control of the government. Once in power, the party is much more likely to be able to deliver, to its voters, the policy preferences they choose by electing its partisans to the government. Political parties organize political campaigns to win public office for those they nominate.

As with the review of approaches to measuring election quality, this will not be an exhaustive assessment but will highlight several key elements to consider for all approaches.

Figure 3 classifies the approaches according to their strength as measures of electoral quality and their scope of inquiry. “Strength” is understood as the degree to which an approach follows a robust methodology, is focused on one or more aspects of an election, and includes a specific rationale for its findings. “Scope” relates to the degree of focus and detail related to electoral quality.

Table 1 provides a summary comparison of the approaches to measuring electoral quality described above against the following key points:

  • The nature of the implementers
  • Scope and focus
  • Methodology for data collection
  • Outputs
  • Highlights of strengths/weaknesses of the approach

Public Opinion Polls

Opinion polls of all types have value in that they report on a range of perceptions on important issues related to democracy and electoral quality.  At the global level, they may offer useful comparative insights and at the national level signal key areas of achievement or concern.

Their specific value with regard to measuring electoral quality is relatively limited but they can serve as one of several tools that can capture important data about public perceptions. They may capture general public attitudes about democracy and the electoral process but also more specific feedback, for example, to a political party about how well their messages are being received by the public or indicate to an EMB that voter information is being disseminated and understood.

Democracy Assessments

Global democracy indices provide a macro and comparative perspective on the broad questions of democracy and governance. They also offer the confidence associated with numerical scores and ranking even if those scoring systems rely on a great deal of qualitative (and subjective) analysis.

While a score based on a numeric figure may provide the impression of a solid value, it should also be interrogated.  An obvious challenge for any such framework is deciding on which factors to consider and how to weigh them against the other factors included or excluded from the framework.

The number of indicators included in a democratic survey (e.g. 10 vs 80) may also affect the level of detail and timeliness of the survey results.

A second challenge is the level of detail captured by the index. A generalized democracy survey may include measures of fundamental human rights and political freedoms, but relatively few specific measures of electoral quality.

National level democracy assessments hold more potential to provide in-depth measures of the strength of government institutions, the rule of law and operation of the judiciary, respect for individual political rights, the operation of civil society organizations and political parties, and the like.

However, it is possible but unlikely for a national democracy assessment (whether conducted by intergovernmental organizations, national governments, or non-governmental organizations and scholars) to offer a detailed assessment of the electoral quality or electoral actors.  This may be a thematic area in which further work could occur.

It is notable that democracy and elections are key elements of so many intergovernmental and regional organizations.

In terms of electoral quality, the value of either their EOMs or other forms of periodic review and assessment they may conduct rests with the degree to which they follow a clear methodology and commit themselves to hold one another accountable through follow-up on reform and implementation.

Election Management Assessment

Post-election reviews by EMBs, election assistance providers, and national stakeholders hold a great deal more potential than is currently the case, and if fully implemented by, for example, not only the EMB but also the judiciary and other government structures they could serve as effective platforms for electoral reform.

In the case of donors and election assistance providers, they can provide incentives for policy changes and improvements.

Certification is a tool used infrequently and only in special circumstances such as transitional elections in which an outside actor (e.g. the UN) is involved in a range of peacekeeping and/or state-building activities.

The methodology for certification is thus highly contextualized and perhaps unsuited to broader generalization. It draws however on other existing methodologies used by other actors.

Q.No.2  What is meant by public pressure groups? Distinguish between pressure from civil organizations and pressure from the military.

Pressure groups are collections of individuals who hold a similar set of values and beliefs based on ethnicity, religion, political philosophy, or a common goal. Based on these beliefs, they take action to promote change and further their goals.

For example, members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) share a common belief that, in turn, influences the actions (e.g., advocacy, public awareness programs, policy research) they use to achieve their goals.

Pressure groups often represent viewpoints of people who are dissatisfied with the current conditions in society, and they often represent alternative viewpoints that are not well represented in the mainstream population.

By forming a pressure group, people seek to express their shared beliefs and values and influence change within communities and sociopolitical structures, such as governments and corporations. Some pressure groups, such as the tobacco-control movement, have been successful at influencing change across a number of sociopolitical structures.

Pressure groups are different from political parties. Political parties seek to create change by being elected to public office, while pressure groups attempt to influence political parties. Pressure groups may be better able to focus on specialized issues, whereas political parties tend to address a wide range of issues.

Pressure groups are widely recognized as an important part of the democratic process. Some groups offer opportunities and a political voice to people who would traditionally be thought of as disadvantaged or marginalized from the mainstream population.

In this way, pressure groups strengthen the democratic process by giving a voice to a variety of people. Pressure groups also offer alternatives to the political process by providing opportunities for expressing opinions and a desire for change.

While pressure groups are acknowledged as potentially beneficial to a democratic society, problems can arise when the democratic process becomes dominated by a few specific groups. In this situation, the voice of a small group of people with a particular interest can become overly influential and negatively affect the rights of other individuals.

In the democratic process, there is a need for compromise in order to reach consensus regarding the common good. If pressure groups remain rigid and refuse to compromise on specific issues, they can potentially monopolize the democratic process by focusing public debate on a few specific issues.

Pressure groups may adopt a variety of strategies to achieve their goals, including lobbying elected officials, media advocacy, and direct political action (e.g., organized protests). Clearly, some pressure groups exert more influence than others.

The degree to which such groups are able to achieve their goals may depend on their ability to be recognized as legitimate by the population, media, and by those in power. For example, civil rights groups, trade unions, and professional associations are more widely recognized and accepted than a newly formed, single-issue pressure group.

Significant gains in public health have been achieved because of efforts by pressure groups, including important changes and advances in public health issues such as tobacco control, occupational health and safety, air pollution, and HIV/AIDS.

Pressure groups can fulfill a valuable function within public health. They have the potential to raise the profile of previously marginalized issues and force action to improve the health of their members, as well as the health of the general population.

For example, mental health service consumers have joined together to form pressure groups that have identified the issue of homelessness as an unintended consequence of deinstitutionalization. Initiatives spawned by these groups aim to improve living conditions for the homeless.

These actions have provided benefits not only to the homeless, they have also positively affected the well-being of entire communities.

Individual pressure groups can form larger coalitions to advance their cause more effectively. The tobacco-control movement provides an excellent example of how a variety of pressure groups can work together across sectors and at many different levels to affect change.

This movement has successfully pulled together many organizations under the umbrella of the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Members include organizations from a number of sectors including health (American Public Health Association), education (American Federation of Teachers), medical (American Medical Association), civic (Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights), corporate (Adventist Health Care), youth (Girl Scouts of the USA), and religious (National Council of Churches).

Too often during the last decades, research (including our own) on military organizations have been focusing on the adaptation of military organizations to various transformation processes (Moskos et al. 2000, Forster 2006, Szvircsev and Leuprecht 2010, King 2011, Bergström et al. 2014, Farrell et al. 2014, Holmberg and Hallenberg 2017).

This literature does not, however, question how the military organization is viewed and conceptualized in terms of its basic characteristics. We problematize military organizational characteristics theoretically and relate these to different pressures for change with the help of empirical examples from the Swedish armed forces.

In this way, we are able to enhance our understanding of the challenges the military is facing today and in the future. The research design could be termed a plausibility probe that exposes the inconsistency of traditional military organizational characteristics with 21st-century demands.

We do not claim that our results are applicable in every military organization in the Western world – and recognize that there are large national differences.

However, we do argue that military organizations are perceived in research (which will be developed below) to hold similar traits. If this understanding is accepted, then the results may be very valuable for research on, in particular, the civil-military relations of the coming decades.

In our research, we have started to direct interest towards the implications of military organizational characteristics that are out of tune with societal developments. We have analyzed in more detail the strategies of leaders within the military organization in managing pressures for change and the fragmentation of the military organization in the context of 21st-century transformations (Alvinius, Holmberg, and Johansson, 2019).

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