The Campaign-Centered Electoral Order
It is not the decline of the political party which we have witnessed but the emergence of new Individual and Institutional relationships to the larger world for which parties are far less appropriate than are other mechanisms.
-- Samuel P. Hays
Current patterns of electoral politics emerged gradually in the decades following World War II, shaped by political institutions and practices established long before. This chapter will briefly sketch the development of those institutions and practices, then survey the emergence of the new, campaign-centered politics and evolving efforts to understand its meaning.
In a populous and diverse society such as the United States, the messy and complicated business of electoral politics does not happen automatically. It requires some kind of infrastructure; something or someone must coordinate and mediate the representation, deliberation, and choice that enables the possibility of representative democracy. 1 Historian Joel Silbey and others argue that such coordination and mediation have followed distinct patterns in each of four eras of American history: (1) a pre-party era from colonial times into the 1830s; (2) an intensely partisan era from the 1830s until the turn of the century; (3) a transitional, reformed but still party- centered era from the 1890s until the 1950s; and (4) a dealigned, fragmented, nearly postpartisan period since the 1950s. 2 In each of these "electoral orders," as