Political parties in any political system usually operate in a complicated and unpredictable environment. Change is a continuous within all political parties and organizations, as well as in their surrounding environments. New people join the ranks of the leadership, cadres, and back office, while others leave. Some succeed and others fail. Still others move between different positions within the party structure.
In broad terms, there are two ways that parties can change: by design and by accident. Design changes are made by leaders who want to transform a party into one that better meets the needs of the time. Accidental changes happen when circumstances outside of a party's control cause it to adapt or adopt new policies or practices. For example, a party may lose an election and need to find new ways to attract voters or shrink its scope to fit within limited resources.
Design changes are often the result of strategic thinking by party leaders. For example, a party might seek to appeal to growing sectors of the population by adopting a platform focused on social justice or by campaigning for more government services. They might also try to reduce their vulnerability to competitive forces within the electoral arena by becoming more efficient or by developing closer ties with other parties.
Accidental changes can be caused by factors such as public opinion, voter behavior, and political opportunities.
As we've seen, political parties are established on the ideals of their constituents. Whenever there is a movement in the party's philosophy, we witness a shift in the policies and public image of the party. However, extreme external pressure can force parties to shift over time. For example, when one third of the electorate votes for another party in a parliamentary election, the ruling party is forced to adapt its platform or lose support. Likewise, when a new party emerges with radically different policies, this can cause problems for the existing parties, especially if the newcomers start winning elections.
External pressures can also come from within the party itself. For example, the American Whig Party was founded in 1829 to oppose the Jacksonian Democrats. But by 1836, the two parties had merged. This was because many members of the Whig Party had become disillusioned with President Andrew Jackson and his policies. Thus, the Whig Party was able to improve its image and win more elections afterwards.
Another internal factor that can force parties to change is the emergence of new ones. This has always been happening since the first colonial congresses. At that time, there were only two parties: the Crown supporters and the colonists. But now there are dozens, if not hundreds. This demonstrates that politics is a dynamic process that cannot be tied down to any single ideology or structure.
During party realignments, certain groups of individuals who previously voted for one party switch to the other. Political parties come and go, and new ones emerge. Party realignments can occur as a result of historical events or changes in the types of people in the country. For example, after Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945, his Democratic Party lost support among conservative Southern Democrats, leading to its loss in the 1946 congressional elections. Conversely, during the New Deal era, the party was considered liberal, so losing support from that side of the spectrum could have helped bring about its demise.
Party realignments are usually led by the party's presidential candidate, but they may not be the only factor involved. The death of a popular leader or the emergence of a new one can also cause voters to look elsewhere for representation. For example, after FDR died, Harry Truman became president, but it took several more years before he was able to win back the support of those voters who had earlier supported Roosevelt.
The current party alignment of Congress is listed as "no majority rules". Since the House of Representatives uses an apportionment formula to determine how representatives are assigned, each district has different voting patterns that determines which party will hold the majority.
While the phrase "political change" can refer to any change in the political landscape, it is most commonly reserved for major disturbances in a government that result in new or modified leadership or policies. Political changes can be classified as either institutional or substantive.
Institutional changes involve the adoption of new procedures or constitutional provisions that are intended to prevent future leadership crises and promote greater political stability in an organization. Some examples include term limits for officeholders or changes to the election process that aim to reduce the advantage that long-serving leaders have over their opponents. Institutional changes do not require the support of any single member of the organization to be enacted; instead they reflect a decision by its members to modify existing practices in order to make politics less disruptive and more stable within the organization.
Substantive changes on the other hand, occur when individuals who hold power within an institution decide to use it against others within the organization. This may result from a struggle for influence between two or more groups within the organization or it may be done as part of a larger plan designed to improve one's position within the organization hierarchy. Substantive changes require the support of at least one member of the organization who will act as a proxy for those who would like to see the change implemented.