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.