The Matrix of Political Mischief
In our concern with political mischief in American election campaigns, we need first to understand the universe in which the florid accusations and deceptions and chicanery go on. And, in order to realize that mischief in elections is as old as elections, we must know something of the history of both.
Suppose a time machine delivered John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt to your family room some October evening in an even-numbered year. Vitriolic campaign commercials are blaring from the TV.
Your visitors marvel at the black box, but all of them grasp instantly what is going on. Every one of them has been there before.
The substance of campaign propaganda--advocacy and attack--has not changed in centuries. Campaign advertising is among the artifacts that survived the extinction of Pompeii in A.D. 79. But the environment in which election campaigns are conducted--number of offices to be filled, qualifications for office, the process of selecting candidates, frequency of elections, scope of the franchise, mechanics of voting and counting, and so on--has changed more or less continuously throughout American history. Every such change necessarily affected various aspects of the electoral system, including the campaign itself. Meanwhile, the march of technology has worked its effects on each of these elements, most of all on the means of disseminating campaign arguments.
The three chapters of Part I will consider the origins and evolution of these principal elements of electioneering: the selection of candidates and the role of the party in it (Chapter 1); the development of the election campaign and campaign management and marketing (Chapter 2); and drawing attention to the deficiencies of opposition candidates, that is, negative campaigning (Chapter 3).