Thursday, June 14, 2012

Party Discipline 

The notion of having consensus as a fundamental pillar in political settings has been taken for granted and debated over and over, again and again since the era of deTocqueville (McClosky, 1964). Lack of discipline in major political parties and erosion of consensus among party members can be a recipe for disaster if not contained with some sort of stringent regulations and rigorous disciplinary measures. Indiscipline among elected members by and large opens unnecessary challenges that may tarnish existing elemental ideological foundations and result in deviation from democratic norms and expectations. Changes in people’s habits, ideas, and beliefs and contamination of driving political principles explicitly intensify peculiar dominant ideas. In some democratic governments, especially those practicing parliamentary democracy, a member of the legislature who is found tarnishing the image of a party may be expelled from parliament for a certain duration until a time when it is determined that the negative behavior inherent in the party member has been rectified.

In their study of the behaviors of members of the European Parliament (EP)-especially in the aspects of competition and contestation, Hix, Kreppel, and Noury (2003) found ‘cartelized’ party systems-political systems that are supranational in outlook. Some parties of the EP displayed a lack of common ideology in their initial establishments (Hix, Kreppel, & Noury, 2003). In the United States, there are wide disparities in the voting behaviors of the legislature and that little data is available to the scholar especially at the cross-national level. Indiscipline in a party could result in a party to lose its reputation and lower voter confidence. In most cases, legislatures try to fix their adverse differences when threatened by a rival party and when their own electoral seats are at stake.

Currently, looking at how events unfold in both houses of Congress, we can conclude that the American legislative system is far from being perfect. There is the need to have a major force that will look into the behaviors of the members of the legislature and enforce regulations so that law and order can be maintained. While political independence is good for democracy, it is irrational to leave both houses in their current states. Sieberer (2006) argues that research on the causes of disunity in parties, especially in parliamentary democracies, is under researched. McCarty, Pole, and Rosenthal (2000) argue in the absence of tough leadership, members may find themselves engaging in legislative activities that could include pork. Therefore, it is logical to have measures that will be used to contain behaviors of errant party members.


Hix, S., Kreppel, A. & Noury, A. (2003). The party system in the European Parliament: Collusive or competitive? Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 309-331.

Nolan, M, Poole, K. & Rosenthal, H. (2001). The hunt for party
           discipline in Congress. American Political Science Review 95(3):673-

McClosky, H. (1964). Consensus and ideology in American politics. The American Political Science Review, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp. 361-382

Sieberer, U. (2006). Party unity in parliamentary democracies: A comparative analysis. The Journal of Legislative Studies, Vol. 12, Issue 2, pp. 150-178

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