The New Conventional Wisdom, Fraying at Its Edges
The FECA rests on the premise of campaigns centered on candidates and largely controlled by them. In 1996, however, the door was opened for major parts of the campaign to go forward without the participation of the candidates and without any statutory limits.... Although the constitutional expansions did not benefit the parties exclusively, they augmented their role in the campaigns far more than that of any other participant.
-- Frank Sorauf, 1998
After the campaign-centered electoral order emerged in presidential and congressional politics during the 1950s, it took nearly two decades for the new politics to permeate most American elections. This new order--with its distinct patterns of representation, deliberation, and choice--presented difficult challenges to party activists and leaders, as well as to candidates. They first had to develop an analysis which made sense of the new order, a new paradigm that could explain how and why the new politics worked. To complete their analysis, they had to develop strategic responses to this order that would allow them to compete effectively in elections. Previous chapters show that by 1992 most Democratic and Republican leaders and activists had arrived at an analysis and response that satisfied their competitive needs.
This chapter opens with a capsule description of their dominant response to the campaign-centered electoral order: the Accommodationist paradigm as a new conventional wisdom about the role of parties and party organizations in American elections. Then it briefly surveys the role of Democratic and Republican Party organizations in national elections since 1992. Two especially important influences on