“Thirty years ago political scientists were predicting the demise of the party system.” (Ronald G. Shaiko) This has not been the case, but the United States has seen a lessened importance of the party system in the past fifty years. However, in the past decade or two, there has been a revitalization.
The reason parties were losing power was because they lost their distinctiveness. “Political parties are their best in political campaigning when they keep in mind that they have the sole responsibility for governance or for loyal opposition to the governing party. That is when they serve voters best. When parties become just another organized interest in the political campaign context they lose their distinctiveness.” ( pg 105) Many interest groups have shown up across the board, and this is perhaps why political parties have had to battle in those areas. They have had to either connect to each interest group or risk competing with them for voter direction. Interest groups do seem to pull some sway in voters. They are sort of like mini political parties. And that’s why each mini party is seemingly under one of the two major parties.
Ack, yet another useless committee
The main reason parties have shown revitalization in the past two decades is the services that candidates are provided by national committees as campaign organizers. The top-down strategy allowed Republicans to take over a situation they were behind in. “Democrats held more than three-quarters of the House seats of the South and more than half of its Senate seats. By 2005, Republicans held almost two-thirds of the House seats and 95 percent of the Senates seats from the South.” The Democrats soon followed suit. They both started building senatorial and congressional committee organizations. This changed from the previous national committee operations.
The technical assistance from the DNC and RNC are a huge reason why the parties are making a comeback. This ranges from increased email databases, to the Internet websites, to increased demographic information on voters. And the parties are in control of this information. Parties are getting involved quicker preparing for the next elections. And the DNC and RNC ‘will be involved not only in the fundraising and in contacting and mobilizing voters, but also in communication with them through television advertisements.” (pg 110) Additionally, parties are now becoming more like campaigns. “Political party organizations apply the same techniques as campaign organizations do.” (pg 111) Some of the tools that have increased have been Direct Mail, telemarketing, traditional media, television and radio, the internet and the blogosphere.
Another area is the increased voter mobilization, and party based at that. Why had the Democrats competed just as well as Republicans since 1932 even though the Republicans out fundraised them? It’s because of voter mobilization. GOTV, get-out-the-vote, effort was better than that of the GOP. A specific area of interest is the long term party building approach. Shaiko explains how districts where democrats didn’t even run were advertised in recent elections but weren’t in previous and democrat voter turnouts increased in following years.
But let’s go back to the main reason parties exist, current government and its opposition - against government. In 2006 “no body voted for Democrats, they voted against Republicans.” (pg118) Both are poised to expand their roles in the campaign process, and both are realizing just how to take advantage of each other's situations. And the parties with their increased information are targeting new markets who aren’t pre-aligned. They are articulating specific reasons to target individuals to join them, and they’re thinking long term. Parties are becoming more strategic and are thinking abroad.
Ronald G. Shaiko, Campaigns on the Cutting edge, Chapter 7 - Political parties – on the path to revitalization.