The Triumph of Campaign-centered Politics

By David Menefee-Libey | Go to book overview

in all, some 630,000 donors answered the call in 1995-96, giving $200 or more and providing nearly $600 million in the 1996 elections (not including money they gave to PACs or to the parties' soft money accounts). Despite their financial importance, these donors make up less than 1/4th of 1 percent of the nation's population.

Indeed, if you look solely at those who gave $1,000 or more, you find that the number of donors is something under 235,000--about 1/10th of 1 percent of the American public. 29

In short, the proportion of Americans who finance and most directly influence the conduct of campaign-centered politics is extremely small.

Party organizations may succeed in capturing and channeling a growing share of that money, but their success does not mitigate the effects of money on our democracy. Further, both parties and campaigns are increasingly funded by soft money, which is raised in even larger denominations from an even smaller share of the voting public. The Supreme Court may yet allow the regulation of such funds, but until it does, campaign-centered politics will increasingly be the province of those who can afford it. The spending goes up and the turnout goes down.

So challenges remain for the future. American democracy is a work in progress, and if history is any guide, political parties will be at the center of the next transformation.


NOTES
1.
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, The New Presidential Elite: Men and Women in National Politics ( Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1976). See also B. Bruce-Briggs, ed., The New Class? America's Educated Elite ( New York: McGraw Hill, 1979).
2.
Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Dismantling the Parties: Reflections on Party Reform and Party Decomposition ( Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1978), 11-12.
3.
Robin Kolodny and Angela Logan, "Political Consultants and the Extension of Party Goals," PS: Political Science and Politics 50 ( June 1998): 155-59.
4.
Pew Research Center for The People and The Press, "Public Appetite for Government Misjudged," 18 June 1998. Published at http://www.people-press.org/leadrpt.htm.
5.
Lloyd A. Free and Hadley Cantril, The Political Beliefs of Americans: A Study of Public Opinion ( New Brunswick, NJ.: Rutgers University Press, 1967); E. J. Dionne, Why Americans Hate Politics ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991).
6.
Pew Research Center for The People and The Press, "The Views of Political Consultants: Don't Blame Us," 18 June 1998. Published at http://www.people-press.org/con98rpt.htm.

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