'The reality of mass politics makes parties absolutely necessary'

Andrew Potter defends the existence of political parties.

Nenshi also pointedly refused to affiliate himself with any particular party. He re-emphasized that line while giving a speech in Toronto last week, saying in the Q&A after the talk that the absence of parties is the one thing he likes best about city politics. Parties, he said, are of interest to academics, to the media, and to politicians themselves, but to the average citizen they are useless.

Like almost all popularly held views, the only problem with this is that it’s wrong, and based on a serious misunderstanding of what parties are for. Most people think that parties are supposed to advance a specific ideology, like left-wing egalitarianism or social conservatism. Some parties do this, but that is mostly just a side-effect of their primary role, which is to translate popular support into political power. They do this by delivering a cohesive and disciplined block of support sufficient to sustain a government for an extended period of time.

See previously: In defence of partisanship

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.