The Triumph of Campaign-centered Politics

By David Menefee-Libey | Go to book overview

1
Parties, Elections, and American Democracy

This then is life. Here is what has come to the surface after so many throes and convulsions.

- Walt Whitman, "Starting from Paumanok"

Ross Perot's off-again, on-again presidential campaign in 1992 provided political pundits one last opportunity to spout the waning conventional wisdom of an era. The quirky Texas billionaire could make a credible independent run, they said, because loyalty to the major national parties had declined since the 1960s. Perot gained public support because candidates--Democratic, Republican, and otherwise--now stood at the center of our campaigns and elections. Voters would decide, the pundits proclaimed, on the basis of personality and issues rather than party loyalty-- and Perot could be the next president.

As it turned out, the pundits and their conventional wisdom were wrong. Voters in 1992 made their decisions on the basis of personality, issues, and party. Brushing aside Ross Perot, they elected Bill Clinton president and gave Democrats control of the United States Congress. Two years later, in 1994, millions of new Republican voters frustrated with Clinton's performance turned out and elected a Republican congressional majority for the first time in a generation. Each of these elections offered voters clear partisan alternatives, and voters made partisan choices that mattered. By 1996, the conventional wisdom of party irrelevance had nearly vanished from the world of media commentary.

That waning conventional wisdom had started to disappear from academic writing on elections nearly ten years before. Beginning in the 1960s and with increasing force throughout the 1970s, most political scientists agreed that "the golden age

-1-

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The Triumph of Campaign-centered Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Parties, Elections, and American Democracy 1
  • Notes 9
  • 2 - The Campaign-Centered Electoral Order 11
  • Notes 27
  • 3 - The Foundations of Campaign-Centered Politics 32
  • Notes 44
  • 4 - Campaign-Centered Politics Leaves the Parties Behind 49
  • Notes 63
  • 5 - Reform and the Search for a New Party-Centered Politics 66
  • Notes 86
  • 6 - Embracing Campaign-Centered Politics 92
  • Notes 112
  • 7 - The New Politics on Capitol Hill 118
  • Notes 148
  • 8 - Campaigns and Parties in the Senate 154
  • Notes 176
  • 9 - The New Conventional Wisdom, Fraying at Its Edges 181
  • Notes 204
  • 10 - The Resilience of Campaign-Centered Politics 211
  • Notes 220
  • Index 223
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