Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns

Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns

Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns

Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns


Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns is intended for use in courses dealing with political parties, campaigns and elections, or interest groups. In one integrated text, this book covers the history and contemporary organization of political parties, the nature of the electoral system and modern American election campaigns, and the activities of interest groups. The central theme of this book is that the actions of political parties and interest groups are no longer played out in separate spheres of the political world, but are increasingly bound together. Nowhere is the overlap of interest group and party activity more apparent than in the modern political campaign. The book is organized around the idea that modern political campaigns link political parties and interest groups. Both political parties and interest groups have been forced to adapt to the changing circumstances of American politics in the contemporary era. Election campaigns have become more candidate-centered, increasingly driven by polls and media coverage, and fueled by staggering amounts of money. Political parties have adapted to these circumstances by becoming more proficient at providing the services that candidates require in modern campaigns, while interest groups have adapted by applying the style and techniques of election campaigns to their own political issue campaigns run by hired assistants from the worlds of public relations, polling, and campaign management. Part One explains the history and development of political parties in the United States, the contemporary organization of the major parties, and the electoral environment in which the parties compete. Part Two ties political parties to modern campaigns, with special emphasis on recent presidential and congressional elections, and examines the problems of campaign finance. Part Three links interest groups to political parties through the bridge of political campaigns. Interest groups are examined as they participate in candidate-centered campaigns, issue campaigns, and interest group lobbying campaigns.


This book is about political parties, interest groups, and political campaigns. Until recently, these three subjects were often taught in three separate courses, but we had noted a movement to combine all three in one course, which happened at our university when it switched from quarters to semesters in the summer of 1998.

Two Westview editors encouraged us to write this book. Jennifer Knerr, then political science editor, initiated the project and her successor, Leo Wiegman, encouraged us to finish it. We wish to thank both of them for their support and assistance. We also thank Kristin Milavec, our project editor, and Nora Wood for her assistance with the index.

We have tried to incorporate the most recent information and data into this manuscript. The reader will find the various themes supported with data from the 1998 general elections. Our central theme is the greater interaction of interest groups and political parties in political campaigns of all types. The 1998 elections provided more evidence in support of this pattern. We tried to synthesize materials about the role that parties and interest groups play in American political campaigns. Then we placed our analysis into a historical framework and tried to explain how the once dominant parties have now joined with interest groups to use modern political campaigning techniques in both candidate- and issue-centered campaigns. The link in this analysis is our broad definition of "campaign," which includes the traditional party-led, candidate-centered campaign, the lobby-led policy campaign in governmental and public opinion arenas, and other types of political campaigns in many other arenas.

This book tries to avoid much of the debate that has dominated the discipline of political science for so long about the decline of political parties as essential actors in our contemporary political system. We believe that parties continue to be essential actors but are now sharing their role in political campaigns with interest groups. This debate has largely run its course and contributes little to the current appreciation and understanding of modern political organizations. The new reality of such organizations is that they have moved much closer together and have joined to dominate our politics through their common focus on political campaigns. The following is that story.

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