Why do state legislators have national political parties?

What is the difference between a Republican and a Democrat? Oh, the cynical side of me wants to say “not much.” Some would argue that a Democrat wants bigger government while a Republican wants a smaller government. While that’s shockingly oversimplistic, it’s at least a starting point.
We can get into the whole conservative versus liberal thing, but being a Democrat does not automatically mean you’re the latter. Same with Republican and the former.
I guess, a better explanation is that a Democrat feels the federal government is better equipped to handle a majority of the nation’s issues while a Republican believes those things should be dealt with at the state level. That seems, to me at least, to be the best overall explanation of the two major political parties.

So, given that, why are our state legislators Democrat and Republican? Whether or not they believe, in general, that certain issues need to be decided at the state level, they ARE at the state level. Democrats don’t continually say “sorry, we’re going to pass this on up to Congress to deal with.” They couldn’t do that even if they wanted to. Likewise, Republicans don’t throw things down to the county or city level.

So for what reason do we have Republican and Democratic legislators. I can think of two reasons myself.
First, my overall explanation of what an R or D is, is inaccurate.
Second, it is much much easier to run on a ticket, with national backing to help with your campaign, if you fall in line with a particular party.

So what is it then?

So they can raise money.

And FWIW, each state does have its own Republican and Democratic parties (though a few give them funky names). It’s a nice way to organize oneself. So basically, I’d say your second explanation is a pretty decent one.

Likewise, at the state level, Democrats are generally of the opinion that state government should run as much as what is left over from the feds as possible while Republicans want even more hands-off at the state level.

Dogface is that really the answer? That state Republicans believe government should be controlled at the county level and those at county believe it should be run at the city level? Just a basic pass the buck down the line?That doesn’t make sense though. I know for certain there are quite a number of things Republicans wish to do in the state legislature. In Kansas, we have 30 Rs to the 10 Ds in the Senate and with that overwhelming majority, if the R’s philosophy was a hands off approach, nothing would ever get done.
Besides, the city level is oftentimes composed of people who don’t fall within the two parties. It’s really one of the few places where one can create a completely independent platform and still have the resources to win an election. It would be illogical for R to let cities decide X when those city governors don’t share the ideals of the R party. While no one claimed any political party was logical, I would think “keeping government running the way our party wants it to be run” would be pretty high on the list of priorities.

HumanStromboli, it was the cynical side of me that chose to create reason number two. While no one can doubt the inherent advantage of a steady money source while campaigning, I think that it’s ultimately counter productive. You’re in a situation where some of the basic tenets of your parties don’t even apply at your level, yet you continue to call yourself R or D. What does that do? Create an artificial excuse for conflict. He’s Republican! Kill the bill! (hmmm…maybe this is where Tarantino got the idea…)

Essentially, state Republicans pretty much do believe this, although “local” does not necessarily mean “county then city”. Within a given county, cities are usually essentially “independent” entities, with mostly parallel and non-overlapping governments with the “county”. That is, cities and incorporated towns are not subservient to county governments within their municipal borders, for the most part. But from my decades of observing my family operate in the state political machinery, it is very much a matter of how much one wants the state to handle things vs. local interests.

Of course, the other major difference between Republicans and Democrats at the state level is that Democrats want to take away money from anybody who works and give it to those who don’t.

…As opposed to the Republicans, who want to take away money from the working man and give it to the big corporations who give them campaign contributions. :dubious:

Might it be possible to discuss this topic without gratuitous insults directed at one’s political opponents?

My impression is that there are two general, overarching political philosophies, shared by most members of each party, that apply equally, modified slightly to fit the particular circumstances, at every level from local ward to nationally. Accordingly, the Democrat running for the county legislature stands for much the same things as the Democrat running for the U.S. Senate; the Republican candidate for Mayor has a similar political philosophy to the Republican nominated for a Federal judgeship. And there is a sort of cursus honorum where one cuts one’s political teeth at city or county level, runs for a state legislative seat, then for Congressman, and ultimately for Senator – with perhaps shifts to campaigns for Governor or another statewide office and for the Presidential nomination included at the appropriate points.

Yes, unless you’re really rich. Then you can cut to the chase.

That’s why I think a big reason why we local, state and federal levels roughly use the same party labels is for fundraising purposes. It’s easy for the candidate to identify him/herself to reliable donors; it’s easy for fellow candidates to spread around excess campaign funds to neighboring candidates in tougher elections. That kind of thing.

In fact, I don’t think the labels mean much exceptfor money. A good friend of mine recently participated in—and finished a close, close second in—the Republican mayoral primary in Wilkes Barre, PA. It’s a strongly Democratic city with little Republican organization (he just started the country Republican party newsletter, for instance). He couldn’t raise a dime outside of college friends. The eventual Republican primary winner was apparently an ex-Democrat who switched in order to have a shot at the general election.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. He’s a conservative Republican, I’m a Democratic (though not a far lefty, really), but if I lived there, I’d have voted for him. He’s passionate and organized and honest and competent (and, yes, compassionate); that’s all you really need at the local level. But in reality, it was amazing how well he did without any fundraising from within the city.

Actually, there are some political parties that exist ONLY at the state level. Click on http://www.politics1.com; click the button for “The 50 States”; you’ll get a map and list of all 50 states – click on your state, scroll down and there will be a more-or-less complete list of political parties in that state.

  1. Historically, there has always been enough commonality between state and federal issues that people who organize political parties have felt it in their interest to run candidates at both levels. In earlier times, state legislatures elected Senators, so there was an obvious link. Even today, how could a national political party ignore the states? Think of Florida in 2000, or the Texas redistricting controversy. And, once political parties exist and run candidates, it’s a lot easier to get elected with their backing than without it.

  2. Modern ballot access rules have written this natural tendency into law. In many states, maintaining a state-only or federal-only political party would require constant petitioning to preserve ballot status.

It’s true, as BrainGlutton says, that if you look hard enough you can find state-only political parties–here in Illinois, some years back, we had the Illinois Solidarity Party in response to a gubernatorial election mix-up. Virginia had Funders and Readjusters in the 1880’s. The Upper Midwest had the Farmer-Labor Party in the early 1900’s. But all of these were short-lived anomalies; over time, the pendulum will always return to state-federal commonality because of the links between politics on the two levels.

There are some interesting parallels in Canada–the Parti Quebecois started out as a Quebec-only party and eventually felt the need to run candidates for federal office, and the So-Creds I believe started out as a federal party and ended up restricted to British Columbia, and then died out altogether.

What is the difference between a Republican and a Democrat? Oh, the cynical side of me wants to say “not much.” Some would argue that a Democrat wants bigger government while a Republican wants a smaller government. While that’s shockingly oversimplistic, it’s at least a starting point.

*****This is overall true…The Democrats feel more like the government is there to help the people…work programs etc…the Republicans more to protect the people, but each has the right and obligation to make it on their own…one breeds a bigger government one a smaller…

We can get into the whole conservative versus liberal thing, but being a Democrat does not automatically mean you’re the latter. Same with Republican and the former.

******This over all true…but not always…Arnold winning in California…by most standards his views are liberal, but he is a Republican…overall though it is true…

I guess, a better explanation is that a Democrat feels the federal government is better equipped to handle a majority of the nation’s issues while a Republican believes those things should be dealt with at the state level. That seems, to me at least, to be the best overall explanation of the two major political parties.

*******Not, always…By definition a Federalist (like Alexander Hamilton, Madison etc…authors of the Federalist papers) view this as a balance…as defined below:

(Definition of Federalism: Federalism is a mode of political organization that unites independent states within a larger political framework while still allowing each state to maintain its own political integrity (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1994, vol. 4, p. 712). While the distribution of power between states and the federal authority will vary from system to system, all federal systems preserve the ability of state governments to decide matters of local importance without interference from the federal superstructure.

In the American system, for example, the states are considered to be the source of political power; it is the states that call the federal government into existence, and it is the states that have the right to legislate on matters of local concern. Conversely, the federal government enjoys delegated power, i.e., power that the states hand over to the federal government for the purpose of dealing with issues of national scope. Critically, the federal government is limited to these delegations of power; in the absence of a delegation, the federal government has no lawful ability to act. Our Constitution was set up this way to ameliorate the general concern of the framers that a federal government would try to expand its power at the expense of state autonomy)

A Federalist therefore can be both…Normally the Federal government is stronger when a Republican is in…the Sates when a Democrat is in…though with issues of the courts…yes the Democrats would want it all ruled by the supreme court and applied to the nation…the Republicans by the state…

When I worked for the VA House of Delegates there were Republicans, Democrats, and one Independent (he also happened to be the longest serving member). At the end of the day’s business, the Majority Leader would stand up and say “The Democratic Caucus will meet in House Room C 45 minutes after recess” (this was in the good ol’ days when the Dems had the majority). The Minority leader would then stand up and say “Mr. Speaker, the Republican Caucus will meet in House Room D 30 minutes after the recess.” Mr. Putney, without fail, would stand up and say “Mr. Speaker, the Independent Caucus will meet in the telephone booth besides the snack bar in 5 minutes.”

Working at a state legislature in a behind the scenes capacity is a great learning experience.