Top down or bottom up politics?

Someone at work sent me this Republican Reboot article, which crystalized the thing thats been bothering me about politics in general (in the UK and USA) for so long.  Namely, the “top down” nature of political parties.  Its probably naive of me, but i’ve always thought that political parties should be representations of the ‘will of the people’ (thats why they’re called ‘representatives’ in congress right?). Should parties really rebrand themselves – looking to attract new voters to their beliefs, or should they really be realigning themselves to the popular will of the people? This is what excited me about Obama’s campaign (and his win) – its the most ‘will of the people’ effort i’ve seen in politics for years.

2 Responses to “Top down or bottom up politics?”

  1. 1 David Harper January 13, 2009 at 8:37 am

    I would suggest that a Top Down prediliction can be seen in nearly every decision that people make about many things in life, not just political parties. Many people will purchase something based purely on the fact that it looks good rather than it performs well, or better than its competitiors. Notable examples include iPods and cars. Until possibly very recently when energy costs have rocketed to new heights, most people would have based their automotive buying decision on what looked good, not what had the best MPG or its mechanical excellence. The same with the iPod example. I am not saying there is anything wrong with them, just that most people wouldn’t spend the time to research other makes and weigh up their individual merits, they would simply choose the iPod based on image alone. Politicians know this is how the majority of people think and are therefore willing to spend great amounts of time massaging their polical ‘brands’ rather than focussing purely on what the people want.

    David Harper
    Managing Director
    PresentWise Ltd

  2. 2 Scott Parsons June 5, 2009 at 4:14 pm


    I once heard politics defined as “the acquisition and retention of power”. While I agree with your view of “how things should be”, it seems unlikely. One interesting exception was Brad Blanton’s 2004 US congressional campaign (look him up in Wikipedia) which he ran with from a “Radical Honesty” perspective. He always told the truth to every question he was ever asked. He got some traction, but lost in the end.

    -Scott (yes, the one who works with you!)

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