Foundations of Party Power

Dr. Jessie Fields took a look at Chapter One–The Foundations of Party Power.

Dr. Jessie Fields at the 2012 IP NYC Spring Chair Reception

Dr. Jessie Fields at the 2012 IP NYC Spring Chair Reception

“The two parties function in symbiosis.

In the first chapter of Indispensable Enemies Walter Karp debunks the assumption that the two party’s main principal of action is to win elections and that parties operate as instruments of representative government. He gives many examples that occur primarily between the years 1900 and 1970 of party leaders running weak opposition against each other, sabotaging insurgents of their own party or supporting the other party’s candidate to maintain control of the party organization. Karp describes the power of the parties: “When a party organization is in control, its leaders do not merely put up candidates for elective office, they control what a substantial number of these men do once elected. Such a party does not merely “manage the succession to power”, it has power and it wields power.”

He highlights century long statewide two party relationships in which one party dominates statewide and another controls certain urban areas with little change in the relative status of the two parties in each state despite enormous social and cultural changes in the society as a whole.

Karp examines how party politics divides the residents of the states and the country pitting one community against another. “Persuading one segment of the citizenry to blame another segment for its troubles is a constant practice of party organizations.”

His examples of how the parties respond to insurgents and independent grassroots movements seem very relevant today. Especially here in New York City where Adolfo Carrion the former Democrat and Bronx Borough President who worked in the Obama administration and who became an independent and ran for Mayor, was shut out of the debates and almost all media coverage.

I am tempted to ask what Karp would make of today’s extreme partisanship in Congress and the various states and the development of the independent movement and the fight for structural political reform such as nonpartisan elections and redistricting reform. He died in 1989 just a year after Dr. Lenora Fulani’s historic presidential run in which she focused a spotlight on two party corruption of our electoral process. Our movement can learn a great deal from Walter Karp’s writings and I believe he would be thrilled at our growth.”

—Jessie Fields


Join the Indispensable Enemies Conversation on Sunday, February 9th at 7 pm EST.

The call in number for our book club conference call is 805 399-1200 and the access code is 767775#.  I look forward to our conversation.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks Jessie Fields for your insight!


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