Political parties as intermediaries

One of the ways of describing political parties at a theoretical level is as “intermediaries” between citizens and those who run for public office. It is easy to see that, in a contemporary democracy, it would be virtually impossible to run an election in which 1,700 people – to say a number – ran for any particular public office. If it is already difficult to understand an electoral contest in which more than ten political parties compete, one with hundreds of candidates for each particular office would be impossible to manage in practice.

But, such intermediation does not end in the mere fact that, in this way, the number of candidates is reduced to a manageable magnitude. These are several substantive issues. Perhaps the most important are those of the ideological location of the candidates, their civic quality and their skills.

In other words, for the intermediation of political parties to work, when one of them proclaims a citizen as a candidate for any public office, that act should have the following triple meaning: first, that candidate embraces and makes his own certain principles, values ​​and ideology; second, that candidate has a track record of rectitude and honesty in the public life of the society in which he lives that justifies his aspiration to hold public office by election; and third, that from a professional or technical point of view he has the necessary skills and experience to exercise the public office to which he aspires, if elected.

From all this it follows that, for a representative democracy to be functional, political parties are a key element. This is a truism, but, as I believe, a good part of those who make up the intellectual, moral and economic elites of the country have not seen it that way. I believe that, in a way, among these elites each party is judged according to whether or not it agrees to favor, if it comes to power, certain public policies.

In other words, for many members of the country’s elites, a political party is good or bad depending on what public policies its officials implement, which, in turn, depends on whether or not those public policies are favorable to them. . That vision of a political party is potentially catastrophic.

Indeed, when one understands the “end product” of a political party as the package of public policies that its candidates could endorse, the logical step to take is to invest in the political party that offers the best product. And, on the side of the political parties, the idea of ​​intermediation, as I have described it above, disappears.

The idea of ​​an ideological intermediation, civic virtue and technical skills disappears because the key issue is to design and offer the best “end product”. It does not matter what convictions the candidates have, what their civic background or the level of professionalism they have demonstrated. What matters is your ability to design and deliver, when the time comes, the demanded product.

Thus, in the sessions of Congress nothing is discussed or debated because the product offered is already clear and the question becomes one, then, of getting the votes that are necessary to approve it. This process is obviously destructive of democracy because, in the end, citizens do nothing more than to give the appearance of legitimacy to the negotiation of “products” between party leaders and interest groups. Hopefully it will reform in time.


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