Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices

Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices

Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices

Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices

Synopsis

Since the middle of the eighteenth century, elections for public office in the United States have generated significant popular interest. Many accounts from that time to the present have documented the widespread participation and enthusiasm generated by the quest for voter approval. But until now, no one has attempted a comprehensive, comparative history of American electioneering. Dinkin does just this in a pathbreaking study that shows how campaigning evolved from the simple forms of earlier days to the complex, expensive races of the present day.

Excerpt

For more than two hundred years political campaigning has held a special fascination for the American public. As early as the 1750s one of George Washington's correspondents observed that at election time, "the flame of burgessing seemed to enter every heart." Three-quarters of a century later the remarks of an English visitor were even more pronounced: "the spirit of electioneering . . . seems to enter as an essential ingredient into the composition of everything." Numerous similar statements can be found in subsequent periods as well. Yet despite its pervasive quality vote-seeking never has enjoyed wide esteem nor have most participants in the process truly relished going out on the hustings. Indeed, except in those cases where a candidate forced the public to confront a necessary or otherwise ignored issue, the campaign rarely has been a politician's finest hour. (Sometimes it has been the worst.) Perhaps this is one of the reasons why no one ever has written a history of American electioneering, at least from the standpoint of the practices used. There have, of course, been studies of battles for the presidency and works on the tactics employed in individual contests. There also have been analyses of separate aspects--for instance, campaign finance-- and of the major developments in particular eras. But no full-scale treatment of campaign activities over the entire span of American history has been produced. This book seeks to correct that omission by surveying the changing nature of vote-getting from its rather simple forms in colonial times to the highly complex methods of today.

The book is divided chronologically into seven chapters, the early ones coinciding with traditional political watersheds, especially the rise and fall of party systems, the later ones corresponding more to new directions in campaigning. Although it is difficult to create exact boundaries or cut-off . . .

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