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Major parties in two-party-dominated states (e.g. US and UK) have clear reputations, we can look at the laws they pass and listen to what pundits say about them. I have never read a manifesto (maybe I should), but I understand that these outline the agenda for the current campaign, not the long-term agenda.

It appears to me that smaller parties have clearer ideologies and agendas (Green, Libertarian), but major parties don't actually spell out the future they want, somehow we're meant to already know.

Do major parties clearly outline their long-term agenda?

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    Very good question, but I think it may need to be separated out per country. To my limited knowledge, it varies quite a bit per nation. For example, in the UK, historically, major party agendas are somewhat consistent, but in the USA, major party agendas changed tremendously over time. Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 23:44
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    I rolled this question back as it had an edit that invalidated an existing answer.
    – Joe W
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 14:44
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    Even when parties have clearly stated agendas (short or long term), this doesn't mean much. What they do in power frequently contradicts both. several conservative manifestos in the UK, for example, have promised far more house building but their governments have consistently imposed policies that deliver less (as if not annoying their core vote of home owning retirees is more important than their stated agenda).
    – matt_black
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 17:20
  • This question seems to betray an astonishing lack of research. Unless you are asking about a country where parties don't have constitutions or other publicly available principles, in which case you need to say where you're interested in.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 23:41
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    @StuartF The point of my comment was that, even if there are clearly stated long term goals for a party, they may be irrelevant in reality. this is important context for making sense of answers.
    – matt_black
    Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 15:37

3 Answers 3

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In general, you should look at the party constitution to see a statement of their aims, objects and values.

There are many parties and many countries, so I'll just focus on the three main ones.

The Labour party has explicit aims and objects spelled out in clause 4 of its constitution:

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.

The Conservative party has objects and values, these may vary, but (for example) David Cameron enumerated them:

To improve the quality of life for everyone through:

A dynamic economy, where thriving businesses create jobs, wealth and opportunity.

A strong society, where our families, our communities and our nation create secure foundations on which people can build their lives.

A sustainable environment, where we enhance the beauty of our surroundings and protect the future of the planet.

Our values:

The more we trust people, the stronger they and society become.

We're all in this together - government, business, the voluntary sector, families and individuals. We have a shared responsibility for our shared future.

The style here is from a speech, not a constitutional document, so has a rather different rhetorical style. The Conservative party constitution merely states the Party's "purpose is to sustain and promote within the Nation the objects and values of the Conservative Party." Allowing for those aims and values to be determined informally by the Leadership and Membership of the party.

Finally, the Liberal Democrats' constitution spells out their objectives:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

The Liberal Democrats stand firm on seven core values: liberty, equality, democracy, community, human rights, internationalism, and environmentalism.

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    The SNP have three times as many seats at Westminster than the Lib Dems currently (44 for the SNP compared to LD's 14). And the SNP do have a very, very clearly stated aim: the independence of Scotland. Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 10:14
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Established and experienced political parties around the world do indeed have a clear political ideology and long-term political visions based on it. These long-term visions are often spelled out through their proposed policies in manifestos they present to the public during elections.

For example, India's oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, doesn't hide it's vision, mission or policies and is transparent and public about it. These include publicising:

  1. The Party Constitution - Article I -

The object of the Indian National Congress is the well-being and advancement of the people of India and the establishment in India, by peaceful and constitutional means, of a Socialist State based on Parliamentary Democracy in which there is equality of opportunity and of political, economic and social rights and which aims at world peace and fellowship.

  1. Values they seek to protect and promote - Democracy, nationalism, secularism, inclusive growth, social justice, allegiance to the indian constitution.

  2. Inspiration from past leaders - Mahathma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel etc.

  3. Historical list of achievements - From freeing colonial India from the British empire, to uniting India into a stable democratic republic, to transforming India from a poor country to one of the fastest growing developing nation of the world, to liberating millions from poverty etc.

  4. Historical list of policies

They also constitute committees of experts in their party and engage with the voters to create manifestos before every election, which is publicly released and disseminated via the media for more debate and discussions.

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The two big national parties in the US, the Republicans and the Democrats, will have a convention to pick their presidential candidate. At this convention, they will also draft and vote on their "platform": a series of policy statements.

The 2020 Republican Party Platform was simply their 2016 platform, plus bemoaning their inability to have an in-person convention due to COVID restrictions. The Democrats did have a new 2020 Platform.

The platforms are dozens of pages long. Each starts with a one or two page preamble laying out their principles in general terms, then go on in detail for dozens of pages on subjects such as the economy, civil rights, the environment, voting rights, jobs, religious liberty, gun rights, and so on.

Democratic Platform

The preamble of their platform states diversity, change, fixing inequalities, shared prosperity, voting rights, and many others as their core values.

America is an idea—one that has endured and evolved through war and depression, prevailed over fascism and communism, and radiated hope to far distant corners of the earth. Americans believe that diversity is our greatest strength. That protest is among the highest forms of patriotism. That our fates and fortunes are bound to rise and fall together. That even when we fall short of our highest ideals, we never stop trying to build a more perfect union.

 The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep-seated problems in our society—the fragility of our economy and social safety net, the risks posed by growing inequality, the impacts of racial and economic disparities on health and well-being, and the profound consequences of deepening polarization and political paralysis.

 We must right the wrongs in our democracy, redress the systemic injustices that have long plagued our society, throw open the doors of opportunity for all Americans, and reinvent our institutions at home and our leadership abroad. We do not simply aspire to return our country to where we were four years ago. We know we must be bolder and more ambitious.

We must once again stop another Republican recession from becoming a second Great Depression. President Trump and the Republican Party have rigged the economy in favor of the wealthiest few and the biggest corporations, and left working families and small businesses out in the cold. Democrats will forge a new social and economic contract with the American people—a contract that creates millions of new jobs and promotes shared prosperity, closes racial gaps in income and wealth, guarantees the right to join or form a union, raises wages and ensures equal pay for women and paid family leave for all, and safeguards a secure and dignified retirement.

 We must guarantee health care not as a privilege for some, but as a right for every single American. For a century, Democrats have fought to secure universal health care. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump and the Republican Party are trying to tear health care away from millions of people who depend on it for survival. Democrats will not allow that to happen. We will not rest until every American can access quality health care and affordable prescription drugs.

We must steel and strengthen our democracy, not distort and debase it. Democrats believe there is nothing to fear from the voices and votes of the American people. We will restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act and stamp out voter suppression in all its forms. We will curb the corrupting influence of money in politics and protect the integrity of our elections from all enemies, foreign and domestic. We will never accept political gridlock as our fate. We will never tire in our fight to deliver results and create opportunity for all Americans. And we will end the war on government that has politicized our institutions, denigrated public service, and left the American people on their own instead of working to make them whole.

We will ensure that our nation continues to prize diversity and compassion, and welcomes those who yearn to participate in our great democratic experiment by creating a humane, 21st century immigration system that benefits all Americans.

And so on.

Republican Platform

The Republican preamble begins...

With this platform, we the Republican Party reaffirm the principles that unite us in a common purpose.

And then goes on with a series of ideological beliefs: Constitutional originalism, American exceptionalism, limited government, intertwined political and economic freedom, exploitation of natural resources, belief in divine salvation.

We believe in American exceptionalism...

We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant.

We believe our constitutional system -- limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people -- must be preserved uncompromised for future generations.

When political freedom and economic freedom are separated -- both are in peril; when united, they are invincible.

We believe that people are the ultimate resource -- and that the people, not the government, are the best stewards of our country's God-given natural resources.

Every time we sing, "God Bless America" we are asking for help. We ask for divine help that our country can fulfill its promise.

And the rest is grievances about the President and the Democrats (which is funny because by 2020 a Republican had been president for the past four years).

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    Party platforms are short term manifestos, not statements of fundamental ideology. I don't think this answers the question for the USA
    – James K
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 15:15
  • I've removed the fluff part from the answer. Everyone's focused on it and it's just the preamble. All the detail comes later. It's too much detail to summarize you might have to read the documents.
    – Schwern
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 20:32
  • @DLosc "Deficit", I'll fix the typos.
    – Schwern
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 19:54

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