The Triumph of Campaign-centered Politics

By David Menefee-Libey | Go to book overview

Reform politics enjoyed a small resurgence over the next few years, as Robert Strauss returned to chair the DNC with a strategy very similar to Larry O'Brien's. 56 Strauss appointed and worked with a Democratic Party Charter Commission that codified a slightly modified version of the McGovern-Fraser reforms after a brief bout of factional bickering. Such battles continued during the 1976 presidential nomination campaign and at the 1978 midterm convention. 57 But those battles never again commanded wide interest or approached the sweeping impact they had made in 1972.

Reform itself had mixed results. In the narrowest sense, reform worked for new liberals as a strategy for ending old liberal control over party machinery and nominations. More broadly, the McGovern-Fraser reforms spurred important changes in presidential nomination politics. State party leaders gave up their former influence in national politics. They opened up their internal decision making, delegate selection shifted from conventions and caucuses to primaries, and campaigns moved out of state party arenas and onto television. From that moment on, both parties' presidential nominees would be decided in a series of state primaries. Reform forced modifications in campaign-centered politics, producing what James Ceaser has called "plebiscitary politics" in presidential elections. 58

But in the broadest sense, the Reform paradigm vision of an alternative to campaign-centered politics proved to be a complete bust. For some, the Reform paradigm offered a framework for a transformative party-centered politics that would challenge the fragmented politics of the campaign-centered electoral order. Newly mobilized citizens would seek representation and would deliberate over their choices within party arenas at all levels. The reforms did, in fact, increase access to Democratic Party decision making for minorities, women, and young people. 59 Despite that access and representation, however, citizen participation in party affairs and elections continued to decline among all but the most affluent and highly educated partisans throughout the 1970s. 60 Campaign-centered politics survived Reform paradigm efforts, resilient and unscathed, and serious reconsideration of the DNC's electoral role would be put off until the end of the decade.


NOTES
1.
John H. Kessel, The Goldwater Coalition ( Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968); Mary C. Brennan , Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP ( Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995).
2.
Frank J. Sorauf, Political Parties in the American System ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1964), 39.

-86-

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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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