The Triumph of Campaign-centered Politics

By David Menefee-Libey | Go to book overview

7
The New Politics on Capitol Hill

Our only Interest was in Roll Call One [the party line vote for House Speaker that opens each Congress]. What happened in the House after that was somebody else's responsibility.

- William Sweeney, Executive Director ( 1977-1981), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Like the national committees, the parties' Capitol Hill campaign committees went through dramatic transformations between the 1960s and the 1990s. Their transformation was simultaneously simpler and more complicated. On one hand, continuous linkage to the House and Senate party caucuses kept their missions more consistent and narrowly focused. On the other hand, the frequency, number, and diversity of congressional campaigns required them to develop quickly and improvisationally. Though the campaign committees usually avoided sharp programmatic shifts, they gradually but clearly embraced the Accommodationist paradigm.

The Democratic and Republican caucuses in the U.S. House of Representatives each created campaign committees in the 1860s, predecessors to the current Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). 1 The organizations served a simple purpose: to help their decentralized parties win elections and take control of the national government. During the party-centered electoral order of the mid- to late-nineteenth century, this remained an almost entirely decentralized enterprise, requiring minimal coordination, and the organizations remained small. Even during the reformed party-centered order of the 1890s through the 1950s, state and local Democratic and Republican leaders--and congressional candidates--usually tended to their own local business with minimal outside help.

-118-

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The Triumph of Campaign-centered Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Parties, Elections, and American Democracy 1
  • Notes 9
  • 2 - The Campaign-Centered Electoral Order 11
  • Notes 27
  • 3 - The Foundations of Campaign-Centered Politics 32
  • Notes 44
  • 4 - Campaign-Centered Politics Leaves the Parties Behind 49
  • Notes 63
  • 5 - Reform and the Search for a New Party-Centered Politics 66
  • Notes 86
  • 6 - Embracing Campaign-Centered Politics 92
  • Notes 112
  • 7 - The New Politics on Capitol Hill 118
  • Notes 148
  • 8 - Campaigns and Parties in the Senate 154
  • Notes 176
  • 9 - The New Conventional Wisdom, Fraying at Its Edges 181
  • Notes 204
  • 10 - The Resilience of Campaign-Centered Politics 211
  • Notes 220
  • Index 223
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