Mountain Party (2000-2007) Become the West Virginia affiliate of the Green Party July 16, 2007 
Christian Freedom Party (2004)
The chapter focuses on the organization of American political parties. It offers a historical perspective on the evolution of parties, and examines them within the context of electoral politics. The chapter offers with a discussion of the relationship between party organization and public influence on government. The main points are:
The ability of America’s party organizations to control nominations, campaigns, and platforms has declined substantially. Although the parties continue to play an important role, elections are now controlled largely by the candidates, each of whom is relatively free to go his or her own way.
U.S. party organizations are decentralized and fragmented. The national organization is a loose collection of state organizations, which in turn are loose associations of autonomous local organizations. This feature of U.S. parties can be traced to federalism and the nation’s diversity, which have made it difficult for the parties to act as instruments of national power.
Party organizations have recently made a "comeback" by adapting to the money and media demands of modern campaigns. However, their new relationship with candidates is more of a service relationship than a power relationship.
Candidate-centered campaigns are based on the media and the skills of professional consultants. Money, strategy, and television advertising are key components of the modern campaign.
Candidates’ relative freedom to run on platforms of their own devising diminishes the electorate’s capacity to influence national policy in a predictable direction. The candidate choice made by voters in any one constituency has no necessary relation to the choices of voters in other constituencies.
America’s political parties are relatively weak organizations. They lack control over nominations, elections, and platforms. Primary elections are the major reason for the organizational weakness of America’s parties; once the parties lost their hold on the nominating process, they became subordinate to the candidates. More generally, the political parties have been undermined by election reforms, some of which were intended to weaken the party and others of which have unintentionally done so. The result is that a candidate can bypass the party organization and win nomination through primary elections, even in the face of opposition from the party. Individual candidates also control much of the organization and money necessary to win elections and run largely on personal platforms.
Today, the relationship among local, state, and national party organizations is marked by paths of common interest rather than lines of authority. Recently the state and national party organizations have expanded their capacity to provide candidates with modern campaign services and are again playing a prominent role in election campaigns. The most important of these "services" is money, especially since the use of soft money and issue ads has increased so much in recent years; indeed, the greatest source of power for the national party is its control of enormous sums of money that the candidates need. Nevertheless, the fragmentation of parties prevents them from acting as cohesive national organizations. Party organizations at all levels have few ways of controlling the candidates who run under their banner. They assist candidates with campaign technology, workers, and funds, but cannot compel candidates’ loyalty to organizational goals. Traditionally, the local organizations have controlled most of the party’s work force because most elections are contested at the local level. Local parties, however, vary markedly in their vitality. (See OLC graphics, "Parties, Campaigns, and Elections -- Congress" and "Party Makeup & Elections -- the President," both at www.mhhe.com/patterson5.)
American political campaigns, especially those for higher office, are candidate-centered. Candidates are usually "self-starters" who spend most of their time raising campaign funds and who build their campaign organizations around professional consultants. Strategy, image-making, and television are key components of the modern campaign; use of the Internet as a campaign tool has increased dramatically. (See OLC simulation, "Running a Congressional Election Campaign," at www.mhhe.com/patterson5.)
America’s party organizations are flexible enough to allow diverse interests to coexist within them; they can also accommodate new ideas and leadership, since they are neither rigid nor closed. However, because America’s parties cannot control their candidates or coordinate their policies at all levels, they are unable to present many of America’s voters with a coherent, detailed platform for governing. The national electorate as a whole is thus denied a clear choice among policy alternatives and has difficulty influencing national policy in a predictable and enduring way through elections.