Parties as Families on the Left-Right Continuum

Left: Professor                               Center: Student                               Right: Gadfly

  1. Political parties may be analyzed as organizations,
  2.    And these factions likely embrace an ideology.
  3. The political scientist does recognize methodologically,
  4.    That political parties are observable mobilizations.
  5. Truly, parties are political experiments to win constituents.[i]
  6. But non-ideological aspects penetrate,
  7. Many political parties today.
  8. Right, yet there are parties with a long-lasting ideology,
  9.    And there are differences in party modifications.
  10. Couldn’t you work on comparative party etiology?
  11. In democratic societies,
  12. The critical juncture occurs,
  13. In researching how voters’ opinions,
  14. And changes in opinions,
  15. Change party behavior.
  16. Yes. The competitive approach and the institutional one:
  17.    The competitive approach understands parties as actors,
  18.        Whereas, the parties adopt the opinions of likely supporters,
  19.             In the electorate.
  20.    The institutional approach allows for the usurpation,
  21.         Of the likely voters’ preferred political stance;
  22.              But the history of the party brands them,
  23.                 And consciously bands them,
  24.                     From altering their original reputation.
  25.         Conditions persist in directing their development.
  26. The competitive approach was blessed  by Downs.
  27.    The spatial continuum places ideology upon a left-right,
  28.         Political spectrum.
  29.    The voters, Downs assumes, understand their place,
  30.         Upon the single ideological spectrum, and embrace
  31. The party that advocates their reflection.
  32.    The voters associate with their, say, political neighbors.
  33.         They vote based on the party which represents,
  34.               Their interests. Perhaps one’s priority is labor!
  35. Budge et al.[ii] wondered if political parties’ ideology,
  36. Might be scattered around the ideological continuum.
  37. The data comes from electoral platforms,
  38. They place all the articulated tenets,
  39. On the ideological continuum.
  40. And what did they find?
  41. Most parties actually align,
  42. Along a single dimension.
  43. There are few internal divergences,
  44. And few external spaces emerging,
  45. Across many countries!
  46. There are four common party families:
  47. Communist, Socialist, Centrist, and Conservative ideologies.
  48. These are in order, respectfully.
  49. Party platforms[iii] are constructed to appeal to voters.
  50. Doctrines are distinct.
  51. Doctrines are a component of ideology.
  52. The party platform, or program,
  53. May illuminate doctrine.
  54. Ideology is unique because it also holds ethos.
  55. I’m sorry, but where are we going with this?
  56. Reducing party ideologies into distinct variables,
  57.    Upon the Downsian ideological spectrum,
  58.       May suffer anomalies—likeArgentina;
  59.         The party had Left and Right sections.
  60.    It may exclude issues not in the manifesto,
  61.       Or the party may act differently than,
  62.          The party leader’s commands.
  63. I can think of a few American Presidents,
  64. Who were against something in the campaign,
  65. And then enacted the opposite once retained.
  66. Yes. The party platforms or programs may be biased,
  67.    And in practice, in light of populism or nationalism,
  68.       Observable reactions might show less bias,
  69.          And therefore better data for your analysis.
  70. Let’s move on to the institutional approach
  71.    To party ideology.
  72. The Left and Right are still quite relevant,
  73.    But so too is the history of the institution.
  74. The values and beliefs original at the party’s founding,
  75.    Must be researched and compared,
  76.        To the current ideology.
  77. Klaus von Beyme is credited for delineating:
  78.     Familles spirituelles, or, party families.
  79. Now under Budge et al.’s conception of party families,
  80.    There were four that you articulated earlier.
  81. Klaus von Beyme delineates nine familles spirituelles:
  82.   In European liberal societies.
  83.     They are, in order of emergence:
  84.             (1) Liberal and Radical parties,
  85.             (2) Conservative parties,
  86.             (3) Socialist and Social Democratic parties,
  87.             (4) Christian Democratic parties,
  88.             (5) Communist parties,
  89.             (6) Agrarian parties
  90.             (7) Regional and ethnic parties,
  91.             (8) Right-wing extremist parties, and
  92.             (9) Ecology movements.
  93. Parties are formed based on the,
  94. Preferred interests of society.
  95. Another interjected:
  96. Ware says, “…the interaction of the politics of patronage
  97. And the politics of ideology
  98. May result in an atypical member of the family.”[iv]
  99. Yet another:
  100. Excluded from this analysis,
  101. Is Canada and the United States.
  102. Ware thus makes the case,
  103.    That with Laver and Hunt’s data,[v]
  104.        That comparing the original party’s
  105.             Ideological spectrum placement,
  106.        You may now compare recent
  107.             Party spectrum arrangements.
  108. For example, the original liberal:
  109.    Sought to remove state restrictions
  110.        On the economy.
  111.    Sought a “strict separation of state and society.”[vi]
  112.    Sought the inclusion of citizens with a stake in it; i.e.,
  113.        Male owners of property.
  114. Liberals?
  115. Yes. Remember that this is the original version,
  116.     From the 1800s.
  117. Kroar spoke up:
  118. Radicals were the democrats.
  119. Radicals surfaced much more when,
  120. The people believed strongly in the franchise
  121. Without caveats.
  122. Radicals believed in republicanism; or to over simplify:
  123. Transparent and non-monarchical government.
  124. And they are not budding socialists given time.
  125. Today, liberals hold to the traditional commitments of,
  126.    Political and legal rights for all citizens,
  127.    A strict separation of state and society,
  128.         Thus permissive social policies.
  129.    Liberals upon the ideological spectrum,
  130.        Are left to center of the policy dimension.
  131. One who always wore sunglasses,
  132. In class,
  133. Started to speak:
  134. And Ware reveals that the American,
  135. Republican Party,
  136. Is quite Right from the center of these.
  137. Most liberal parties are continuous through the historical narration;
  138.    In their opposition to public ownership.
  139.    In their opposition to church interference.
  140.    In courting entrepreneurs.
  141. In this institutional approach to party ideology,
  142.     Conservatives have undergone the most changes.
  143. That seems quite ironic.
  144. The original conservatives were opposed to change,
  145.    Particularly to protect their organized interests.
  146. Many conservatives composed the wealthy,
  147.    The economic and political super-bourgeoisie,
  148.      So they were against an inclusive franchise!
  149.      They argued for regulatory control of the markets.
  150.      Their “base” was landowners and the clergy.
  151. Thus the conservatives had to change their ideology,
  152.    Otherwise they would disappear from politics.
  153. Today, conservatives still oppose,
  154.    Social theories and radical change.
  155. Conservatives attempt to attract voters;
  156.    In the “middle-class salariat,”[vii]
  157.    Through national honor, symbols, and unity,
  158.    Seeking working-class committals too.
  159. Until the mid-1970s, conservatives were less concerned,
  160.    With program opposition to state ownership than liberals.
  161. Yet, conservatives were widely to the Right concerning,
  162.    Permissive social policy.
  163. Since the mid-1970s, in secular societies,
  164.    Conservatives have focused on economic policy,
  165.    And moved closer to the center on social orthodoxy,
  166.        In order to retain the middle-class demography.
  167. Conservatives are to the left of,
  168. Christian Democrats.
  169. [those Europeans].
  170. Since the mid-1970s, there is an adherence to the New Right;
  171.    This made a break from the past conservative arguments,
  172.       And usurped many of the past liberal notions.
  173.    Conservatives no longer argued for paternalistic,
  174.       Or national interests—to justify state interventions.
  175. Again, America is a deviation,
  176. From much of these situations.
  177. Socialist and Social Democratic parties,
  178.    Sought to mobilize the working class base.
  179. Populism has always been a serious rival through time,
  180.    Because populists also opposed those in power,
  181.        But mobilized majorities across class lines.
  182. Socialists are unique, historically, from most radicals and liberals,
  183.    Since their goal was for workers to own the means,
  184.        Of production.
  185. Socialists were good at creating and consolidating a program,
  186.    Across national borders.
  187. Yet socialists supported their government’s wars,
  188. Which negatively impacted foreign workers.
  189. This fractured the movement of social revolution.
  190. And the Russian Revolution fractured it further,
  191. Whereas many to the left of the socialists,
  192. Broke away and became communists.
  193. Now in Sweden, where socialists captured parliament,
  194.    There was some significant societal transformation.
  195. But in most countries the socialists never quite gained power,
  196.    And so their policy platforms have been little devoured.
  197. After WWII, socialist policy more vigorously accepted liberalism;
  198.    Socialists then expanded beyond the working class,
  199.    They advanced the mixed economic model,
  200.           Described by John Maynard Keynes.
  201. In England, socialists walk hand-in-hand with labor unions,
  202. But in France, socialists are not as amorous,
  203. With trade unionism.
  204. Today, the Socialist and Social Democratic platforms,
  205.    Do not advance public ownership [nationalizing industries],
  206. Rather, they protect state-funded welfare programs,
  207.    And strongly believe in regulating the private industry,
  208.         To prevent abuses and exploitation.
  209. The Christian Democratic party formed in the 19th century,
  210.    But only became salient after WWII in Europe.
  211. The Catholic Church in the 19th century,
  212. Did not like the secular tides.
  213. “In the 1920s, fascist parties were seen
  214. As a bastion for defending
  215. Church interests.”[viii]
  216. Then, after authoritarianism was dishonored and drowned,
  217.     The Catholic Church to liberal democracy,
  218.           Came around.
  219. This alignment let the Christian parties’ ideology,
  220.    Merge with Catholic values—to pragmatically mobilize,
  221.          Lots of voters in the electorate.
  222. Christian Democrats are quite restrictive,
  223. On continuing the permissiveness,
  224. Of social values for Diversity’s prescription.
  225. Christian Democrats, courting Catholics,
  226.     Float the economic middle ground,
  227.          Upon public ownership and state intervention.
  228. This allows Christian Democrats to shift their position,
  229. When is suits their electorate’s interests.
  230. Clearly, Christian Democrats promote religious values,
  231.     In politics.
  232. Yet there is a wide variance between the numbers,
  233.     Of Protestants and Catholics,
  234.         As platform architects and voting participants.
  235. I can’t imagine that this party is large,
  236. In France.
  237. Communist parties submitted to the Comintern, since 1919.
  238.    The Soviet Union strongly controlled the ideology,
  239.         Of Communist parties globally.
  240.    The Comintern supported Leninism.
  241.         And when like-minded dissidents, such as Trotsky, arose,
  242.              The Comintern prevented a change of course,
  243.                  In every other country supporting communism
  244.                      Around the globe.
  245. Let us remember the Hungarian uprising.
  246. Recall the perceived need for the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
  247. And the Italian PCI pursuance of Eurocomminism,
  248. Recognizing the legitimacy of liberal democracy.
  249. Communist parties wholly support public ownership.
  250. Regarding social policy, there is much more variance.
  251. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union,
  252. Communist parties in other states,
  253. Have changed their names.
  254. They disassociated themselves from the failure,
  255. Of the Comintern.
  256. Agrarian parties formed through small farmers and peasants.
  257.    These groups were injured by industrialization,
  258.        And economic depression—throughout the
  259.            Nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  260. Agrarian parties were much more dominant,
  261. In smaller countries,
  262. Where nation building was too gradual,
  263. And small towns suffered greatly; mostly,
  264. In Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
  265. An agrarian party also formed in the United States and Australia.
  266. They fought the industrial powers undermining agriculture.
  267. In Minnesota, in the 1930s, Agrarians captured,
  268.    The state government.
  269. The agrarian parties, like the past communist parties,
  270.    Have since changed their names, or have been,
  271.        Taken in by larger colleagues.
  272.  Regional and ethnic parties often exist:
  273.    When minorities speak a different language than,
  274.         The dominant factions.
  275.    When minorities hold onto a different culture or tradition than,
  276.         The principal factions.
  277.    When their interests, because of their region or territory,
  278.         Manifests different electorate requests.
  279. Like in the United Kingdom;
  280. There is Whales, Scotland,
  281. And Northern Ireland.
  282. You will find the same type of arrangement,
  283.    In Belgium and Spain.
  284. The existence of these sub-cultures; however,
  285. Is not a sufficient condition,
  286. For these political parties’ appearance.
  287. Right. It was not until the 1960s,
  288.    When Welsh and Scottish Nationalists,
  289.         Arrived in the parliamentary scene.
  290. And considering other regional parties; e.g.,
  291. The Flemish Bloc and the Canadian Québécois, I think,
  292. These parties are heterogeneous, and so,
  293. Difficult to place their ideology.
  294. Right-wing extremist parties also control ideology.
  295.    Some are anti-democratic and anti-liberal;
  296.        Like fascism, an authoritarian pathology, which
  297.            Strongly protected traditional values, and,
  298.                Business interests over state intervention.
  299.    Or take the National Front, in France, or the
  300.        Republican Party in Deutschland;
  301.            They link economic hardship
  302.             For the dominant racial groups,
  303.                To immigrants—to foreigners,
  304.                    Calling for new governmental rules.
  305.    And the Libertarians, in the United States,
  306.        Is a common example of an anti-tax,
  307.           Anti-government party, whom advocates
  308.               Radical change.
  309. Finally, the Ecology movement is the newest familles spirituelles.
  310.    ‘Tis a new politics on the left.
  311.    ‘re most liberal and permissive about social policy.
  312.    ‘re like Socialists when it comes to state intervention; as in,
  313.        They need the governments to protect the environment!
  314. A greenie graduate student spoke up:
  315. Thus the importance of spatial competition!
  316. We can track changes in party positions!
  317. This even helps us locate congruence,
  318. Within the electorate!
  319. When parties change ideology,
  320. For more constituents!
  321. This student sincerely hoped,
  322. To sharply add to the dialogue:
  323. There are ideological spaces,
  324. Perchance like the Ecology movement,
  325. Not taken by parties; hence,
  326. Non-voter salience.
  327. That didn’t quite make sense,
  328. To half the class.
  329. To wrap this up, Budge did find, surprisingly,
  330.     That political parties were on a Left-Right continuum.
  331. But they did also find a second dimension,
  332.     Such as in Belgium, Greece and Spain,
  333.     ‘Tis centralization or decentralization decision-making.
  334.          And it is independent of the party ideology spectrum.
  335. So again the field is wide open,
  336.    For research analysis.
  337. Begin with a competitive approach, and if works out,
  338.    Move on to the institutional method.

[i] This entire poem is actually an analysis of: Ware. 1996. Political Parties and Party Systems. Oxford University Press. Chapter 1.

[ii] Budge, Robertson, Hearl (eds). 1987. Ideology, Strategy and Party Change: Spatial Analysis of Post-War Election Programmes in 19 Democracies. Cambridge University Press.

[iii] Ware uses “programmes” (20).

[iv] Page 23.

[v] Policy and Party Competition, 1992.

[vi] Page 29.

[vii] Page 33.

[viii] Page 36.


One thought on “Parties as Families on the Left-Right Continuum

  1. Pingback: Poli-Sci “Parties” Poetry Book « Political Pipeline

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