The Foundations of Campaign-Centered Politics
Tear down a tree and put up a parking lot. - Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"
The foundations of campaign-centered politics lay in the transformation of the American society and economy after World War II, rather than in any particular campaigns or parties. 1 For at least the last three decades, both scholars and the public have recognized the outlines of this new politics and the problems it presents. Yet we have not done a good enough job of explaining why the politics is as it is or what role parties have played in its development.
This chapter explores those broader themes in order to lay the groundwork for later chapters. It begins by sketching contemporary problems of representation, deliberation, and choice that have drawn public and scholarly concern. It grounds those problems in the social and economic developments of post-World War II America and begins to link them to the development of party politics during this same period. Finally, this chapter describes a transformation in group politics during this period that presents troubling implications for representative democracy in the United States.
Americans often express disappointment with electoral politics in contemporary America, arguing that it simply does not work very well as a means of enabling pop-