Political parties serve as fundamental pillars of a nation’s democratization process. Democracy serves as the contemporary form of political governance, as over the recent years, the world has witnessed the fall of dynasties, kingdoms and dictatorships, while giving the rise to democratic governments. Many nations, especially those in the Arab region, have experienced revolutions where historical dictators have been overthrown, establishing democracy in these countries. For the sustenance of democracy, there is a need for well-grounded political parties that would provide citizens with different options for governance. Therefore, with respect to this, political parties serve as agents of prosperity to developed democracies.
Political parties act as a control to the ruling government, holding the reigning administration accountable, structuring electoral choices, voter interests and controlling the political representation. Ideology forms the foundation of a political party. It sets the values of the party itself altogether with that of the group or society that elects it into power. Ideology serves as a map or recipe of interests and goals that may at times twist reality, thereby shackling a society that is highly tempted by utopian models.
However, the only thing that is constant is a change itself. This tenet is even realized in the fundamentals of party politics where significance of ideology as the roots of political parties has shifted to a lesser and diminished role. In the contemporary political realm, party ideology serves as a mere curtain to conceal real perspectives of candidates and political organizations. In order to justify the statement above, it is necessary to conduct a political analysis of case study of countries that include Russia, the United States of America and Spain. It is important to evaluate the political shift in these nations in order to identify whether ideology still plays a significant role as it was during the traditional case, or this role has shifted to one that is merely covering to the real intentions of the candidates.
Party ideology constitutes a group of political values and ideas that represent the immediate relation between the government and the electorate. It is a model that controls conflict and ensures the pursuance of state welfare grounds this concept. French philosopher Tracy (Smith 2009, p. 177) pioneered the identity of party ideology as the science of studying political theory. However, this identification shifted based on social and political changes to further encompass the set of ideas and not necessarily the science (Omotola 2009, p. 616). Ideology mainly represents the positive and negative aspects of people that support it. The former perception of ideology as a science identifies the concept as a system of thought that provides life or acts as a guide to political or social action. The latter depiction of ideology regards it as misleading and illusionary notion that serves to conceal the real values and pursuits of those in power.
The political development of nations differs from nation to nation. An analysis of the political party set up in the United States of America indicates that ideologies still form the basis of political parties and tend to shape both the political campaigns and the policies advocated by those in office. The ideologies of American political parties are considered to be variations of classical liberalism. The ideologies of different political parties, therefore, tend be similar to a considerable extent. On a general perspective, all political parties in the United States of America harbor an inherent liberal belief on the free market, limited government and individual liberty. In American politics, two distinct political parties consist of the republicans and democrats. These two parties harbor only slight differences on how best to achieve the national goals.
Furthermore, political ideologies in America are not monolithic. In this case, there are instances where members of a given political party disagree among themselves. In the end, the political set up is different compared to other nations since the two parties tend to share similar core beliefs. The four major American ideologies can be categorized with respect to their preferences. However, studies indicate that the political environment in the state has experienced a realignment of ideologies where there has been an increasing relationship between liberal and conservative ideology with partisanship. In addition, there is a growing ideological divide between republican and democratic elites and that between coalitions within parties in the mass electorate (Birnbaum 2008, p. 56).
In this grand economy, the political parties compete for political rule using ideologies as a foundation. The parties’ ideologies and values form the basis of appeal for voters where the parties use these to woe potential supporters and ground the already existing followers. The political ideologies in the American political environment are mainly divided into two realms: the social democrats to the left of the political divide and the conservatives to the right. Parties in the United States of America adopt different names that are in line with their fundamental values and describe themselves as centralists’ left or right of the center. However, the general ideologies remain as the two broad categorizations.
Political parties further draft party manifestos. These documents contain information on how the party will approach issues including the management of society and economy. In this document, the political parties describe how they plan on dealing with social issues such as education, agriculture, healthcare, housing, interest rates, employment and other significant facets of the community. Nevertheless, all these are in line and are based on the on the party’s foundation of ideologies. The political parties, therefore, are grounded on ideologies that each believes is the one best suited to develop the nation’s economy and the beneficence of the nation’s citizen’s welfare. In this case, the political arena becomes a competition of ideas. This is evidenced in the recent general elections held in November 2012, where the two political candidates, Obama and Romney were engaged in heightened political debates that were televised nationally, where each candidate advanced ideas on how best to run the nation grounded on the ideologies upheld by the parties that each belonged to (Murphy 2000, p. 56).
After the political debates and the competition of ideas, the citizens harbor the role of choosing the party and candidate whose ideologies and values they can identify with. In this case, the citizens support the parties and candidates whose policies seem to advance their social economic situation. In grossly simplified analysis of the underlying ideologies in the nation, those belonging to the conservative party harbor the belief in the least possible government involvement in the societies’ economic affairs that include infrastructure and wealth, and should provide leniency and liberty for people to grow their wealth. Social democrats, on the other hand, believe that the government should be more involved in the provision of general services such as social security, insurance, healthcare, etc.
These grounded fundamentals are evidenced in the disparity between the two presidential candidates on their support of healthcare reforms and the public’s consequent support. In this case, it is highly evident that the American political environment is still largely shaped by the political parties’ ideologies. In this case, ideologies form a strong foundation for the political parties and the political candidates use these ideologies to design national policies. In line with this, the nation’s serving President Obama has successfully implemented a healthcare program where the government takes up a more inclusive role in the provision of healthcare for the nation’s citizens.
Spain is another nation whose rule has been largely dominated by political ideology. For a larger portion of the 20th century, the state was under the Fascist dictatorship of Franco. Franco used Fascist ideologies in the rule of the nation nationalizing every facet of the economy and to a significant extent instituting government intervention in the citizens’ social activities (Blakeley 2006, p. 340). The nation’s experience at participatory democracy only dates back to the late 1970’s. This was after Franco’s death where he left a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. Most of the national political parties in the nation have deep-grounded ideologies. Parties, such as People’s Party, harbor conservative ideologies that have highly influenced the party’s impact on the nation’s involvement in the war in Iraq. However, the current ruling party, the PSOE, follows a socialist ideology. However, over the years, this party has drifted away form socialist ideals and is currently imposing austerity and cuts in the national governance (Roller 2001, p. 220).
Taking a look at Russian political environment further indicates that national political parties are grounded on ideologies that facilitate the parties’ philosophies, policy implementation and ideas. The United Russia political party is currently the nations ruling party. The party is founded on a strong ideology of conservatism. This ideology has greatly shaped the party’s policy implementation and ideas. As recently indicated, the party intends to revert the nation back into Soviet times (Bacon 2006, p. 56). The party is now considering instituting strategies that were largely implemented during the Soviet regime. Such changes include the opening of party schools that provide ideological training. This is meant to train new personnel and activists in line with the increasing challenges of political competition being experienced in the region.
In line with the party’s ideologies, the party aims to put in place public scrutiny and increase government intervention to fight corruption. The party further supports the strengthening of the judicial system and enables it to be more independent and transparent. The use of the party’s ideologies in the development and support of national politics is a strong indication that political parties in Russia are still largely founded on ideologies (Moraski 2009, p. 210).
Recently, the party has been discussing the intention of opening such schools where the party members and supporters could access training on the party ideologies. The intended schools will harbor the mission of political education. This approach tends to further cement the party on the underlying ideologies since the members and supporters who will take the prescribed learning programs are bound to enhance the party’s furtherance of its ideologies.
Another major party in this region is the Communist Party. This party is founded on the ideology of upholding the rights of the workers and national interests. This ideology has shaped the party’s strategy of rebuilding a nation where there is renewed socialism. The party is founded on the ideologies of Marxism and Leninism and uses these ideologies to develop the party manifesto. In line with the party ideologies, the party aims to increase the worker’s representation and the protection of midsized properties and businesses from mafia groups and bureaucrats. This form of policy advocacy further affirms the fact that a clear ideological identity still plays a central role in the contemporary political parties (Andreasen 2005, p. 56).
From the case studies of Russia, USA and Spain, it is evident that although there has been a growing notion, the significance of ideology as the roots of political parties has shifted to a lesser and diminished role. This statement is not true to its entirety as parties in the case study nations still indicate a strong significance of ideology on party politics.