Many modern theorists of political parties see the party system not only as an adjunct to democracy but as a necessary precondition of it. In an almost complete reversal of classical doctrine, these theorists argue that competition between parties, preferably two, is the very life blood of democracy. This paper attempts an evaluation of this thesis, which may be called the “organizational theory” of democracy, as it applies to conditions in three counties in a southern state.
Three cases do not warrant conclusions extrapolated beyond our data, for any truly rigorous evaluation would require more cases in more different types of situations. This limitation particularly holds for extrapolations to national governments, since we can not assume that parties operate similarly at all levels. However, the choice of three units of local government makes possible a more intensive coverage of the events, men and patterns of politics. Furthermore, they are sufficient for present purposes, for if the organizational theory is to be accepted as completely explanatory, it should apply to all cases. Otherwise it must be viewed as partial, limited to special cases, in need of further elaboration and refinement, or, at worst, incorrect.