Thursday, June 14, 2012

Party Seniority System

Despite undergoing superficial reforms in the past and experiencing elemental institutional changes meant to inject quality leadership styles, nowadays, America’s political alignments seem to be mired in gridlocks, decline of party memberships, unnecessary squabbles, and poor command structure that has its roots in disagreements between party members who are mainly obsessed with the old seniority system. According to Crook and Hibbing (1985), the US House of Representatives’ strict adherence to the ranking system makes matters worse for the effective management of party institutions. The selection of committee members from the old political elites who sit on ranking committees remain a contentious issue among scholars, the media, and political observers watching from the sidelines. The effective use of persuasion, mobilization, and coordination that was once the hallmarks of American political systems has been replaced by political misguidance that tends to do more harm than good to party loyalists and the general voting population. Fighting over voters and misguiding them so they can change party allegiance, attempting to alter voter party preferences, and altering voter participation in elections are some of the factors that plunge voters into confusion and party politics into oblivion (Cox, 2006).

It is parties that make democracy possible and it is the people that control governments (Cox, 1977). When a government manipulates its citizens, then the people become powerless subjects who can be driven anywhere. Nowadays, there seem to be a decline in American party discipline and that could be a sign of bad organization and lack of coordination among party leaders and party politics. Ideological differences could also set the stage for unnecessary differences and general decline in discipline among party members. Katz and Mair (1995) argue that parties have become cartels and that parties can achieve perfection when they effectively relate their activities to the societies they represent and serve.

America’s two biggest parties-Democratic and Republican parties-seem to be divided along ideological lines with one party always seeking a weak spot in the other while forgetting the general welfare of the nation and society. Party divisions often lead to social divisions, and social and economic decline since members may be reluctant to agree on important national issues. Bartels (2000) asserts that the rise of independent voters may be attributed to the decline of political parties. Voting at the presidential and congressional level has seen drastic rise due to partisan politics and the trend has been more visible in the 1950s and 1980s respectively (Bartel, 2000).


Bartels, L.M. (2000). Partisan and voting behavior, 1952-1996. American Journal of Political Science, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp. 35-50.

Cox, G.W. (2006). Swing voters, core voters and distributive politics. University of California, San Diego.

Crook, S.B. & Hibbing, J.R. (1985). Congressional reform and party discipline: The effects of change in the seniority system on party loyalty in the US House of Representatives. British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 207-226.

Katz, R.S. & Mair, P. (1995). Changing models of party organization and party democracy: The emergence of the cartel party. Party Politics, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 5-28.

Pomper, G.M (1977). The decline of the party in American elections. Political Science Quarterly, Volume 92, No. 1.

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