Ideal Type Versus Reality
How well do the parties measure up to the ideal-type characteristics of a political party as described here? Although both parties have been quite successful at getting their candidates elected at various times, they generally do not meet the ideal characteristics of a political party. m0mas Dye and Harmon Zeigler (2008) suggest several reasons for that failure. First. the two parties do not offer voters dear
policy alternatives Most voters view themselves as being dose to the center of the political spectrum (illiberality-length far left. of that spectrum and extremely conservative being the far right). Although the definitions of liberal and conservative vary over time. liberals tend to focus on equality of opportune the need for government regulation and social nets. By contrast. conservatives are more likely to emphasize economic liberty and freedom from government interference (Greenberg and Page. 2002). Because most voters consider themselves to be moderates. neither party has much incentive to veer very far from the middle. Second, the two parties are oligarchies. dominated by active elites, The active party elites hold views that are further from the center of the political spectrum (Democrats to the left. Republicans to the right. usually) than are those of a majority of members of their party. Thus, platforms state the policy goals of the oligarchies. whereas the goal of winning elections necessitates nominating more-centrist candidates.
Third. primary elections (in which the nominees of political parties for most offices other than president and vice president are selected) determine nominees. Thus, voters in the primaries may select nominees whose views are closer to the center of the political spectrum and further away from the party's own platform. The
nominee may establish a personal organization (committee) to work for the nominee's election outside the party organization. That committee may contain both Democratic and Republican members, thus being more centrist than (he party platform or organization. Fourth, party loyalties are declining. Many people today vote in one party's primary but then cast their ballot in general elections without total loyalty to that party. They may cast a "split-ticket" ballot (voting for one party's candidate in one race and another party's candidate in another). As a result, it is harder for the party to meet the "ideal" of holding the candidate accountable for implementing the party's platform. Finally.the media have replaced the party as a means of political communication. Often. the candidate who wins does so as a result of media presentation. not the political party's platform. Candidates no longer ne political parties to carry their message to the people