American Political Parties Take to the Airwaves
SINCE FIRST COMING into the American political scene in the late 1700s political parties have been dynamic, changing organizations, varying from a loose grouping of like-minded politicos to highly organized "machines." While the parties have changed throughout their history, their goal of obtaining increased political power, generally through the electoral process, has changed little. From Jeffersonian Democrats to Reagan Republicans, the pursuit of political power has been central.
But like the parties themselves, the methods of obtaining this power have also changed over time. Journalists, political scientists, and politicians have chronicled these changes, explaining, or at least attempting to explain, why they occurred and what impact they had or would have on the American political scene. Perhaps the greatest change, certainly in recent history, has been that brought about through the growth of mass media, especially television.
During the past three decades television has grown to play a major role in the lives of most Americans. In 1946 there were only eight thousand television sets in America, many concentrated in the Northeast (Sterling & Haight, 1978, p. 377). Since that time, the number of