The Triumph of Campaign-centered Politics

By David Menefee-Libey | Go to book overview

6
Embracing Campaign-Centered Politics

Professional politicians are like chain smokers, lighting a new campaign off the butt of the old one.

- Steven V. Roberts, 1986

The 1980 election was a shattering experience for Democrats. Winning only six states and the District of Columbia from Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter became the first president to lose a bid for reelection since Herbert Hoover had in 1932. Democrats lost control of the Senate as well for the first time since 1954, as conservative Republicans swept aside a whole roster of senior liberals. Even control of the House of Representatives was threatened when Republicans halved the Democrats' comfortable margin in that body.

In the decade that followed, Democratic leaders and activists involved with their party's national organizations gradually agreed on a common response to the campaign-centered electoral order. Frightened by election losses and predictions of a Republican realignment, members of the Democratic National Committee elected a succession of activist national chairs to lead them back to victory. By 1988, the combined efforts of Chairmen Charles Manatt and Paul Kirk, carried out with ongoing national committee support, had dramatically shifted the headquarters's role, enabling the DNC to reenter national electoral politics as a major force in a presidential campaign. Then, after yet another loss, Chairman Ron Brown picked up where Kirk had left off and helped lead the Democrats to victory in 1992.

These Democratic initiatives, combined with extensive efforts at Republican national party organizations during the 1970s and 1980s, cumulatively defined an emerging third paradigmatic party response to the challenges of campaign-centered politics. The Accommodationist paradigm resembled prior proposals; it resulted

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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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