American Political Parties Essay
American political parties experienced significant changes since 1968. It is during this period that the Republican Party and Democratic Party significantly shifted towards their more conservative and liberal political wings. According to the Democrats, political changes marked a decisive break from the Johnson and Humphrey politics that characterized the Cold War era and ushered in a considerable appreciation for social justice concerns as well as more liberal foreign policy perspective for the United States. Therefore, 1968 marked the establishment of a new language about politics and a new political narrative. Most of the changes were originated by George Wallace. Although largely underrated figure during the 1968 elections, he significantly introduced the conservative, anti-governmental politics. However, unlike Goldwater who was a more doctrinaire conservative, Wallace introduced a more populist feel to the United States political system. As a result of the changes, President Nixon, and other Republicans, after 1968, began to play on fears over security, economic anxiety, crime and integration to reassert Republican’s dominance in the United States politics.
Just like in the case of party organizations, most political commentators did not see any reason to predict the fall of political parties’ influence. It is during this period that saw the rise of incumbency advantage in political campaigns, which introduced candidate-centered politics. The emergence of mass media played a critical role reinforcing this trend. Television became an essential part of political campaigns and went as far as favoring individuals; not parties. This shift from focusing on parties to candidates served to weaken political parties. The change was exacerbated by the change in the functions of political parties, changing trends of mass media, the emergence of direct primaries and the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission US Supreme Court decision of 2010. These introduced independent groups to spend on political campaigns. The new system relied heavily on paying professional workers to assist in conducting campaigns rather than the initial scenario where campaigns were done by party volunteers. In this way, the independent groups found it easier to contribute finances and mobilize other sources of support to aid individual candidates instead of political parties.
The 2016 US presidential campaigns are by far an ideal example of candidate-centered campaigns. During this period, Ted Cruz, a staunch conservative republican did not have an appealing reputation among his Senate colleagues and other members of the Republican Party. However, he acquired prominence from among other things his advocacy for the 2013 government shutdown that aimed to force the Obama administration to consider abandoning the healthcare system. Although Cruz was an outsider, being elected on the Tea Party ticket in 2012, his appeal enabled him to attract considerable influence with adequate financial support mostly contributed by the super PACs. His appeal enabled him to outlast most of the veteran Republican Party politicians during the 2016 campaign including Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor who had established himself as the favorite candidate for the mainstream Republican Party.
Therefore, the challenges that hinder the political parties in performing their traditional roles and the actual change in the nature of these parties is an indication of the era of political party dominance is coming to its ultimate end. According to the available evidence indicated in the text, the responsible party model has lost its initial strength. Therefore, since 1968, America has been experiencing a post-political party era characterized by decreasing significance of political parties despite their role of being loose organizing structures within the national government.