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Grant Park

Grant Park: The Democratization of Presidential Elections, 1968–2008

Candice J. Nelson
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 149
  • Book Info
    Grant Park
    Book Description:

    In the forty-year span between 1968 and 2008, the United States underwent great change in nearly every avenue of life -economics, social mores, demographics, technology, and, of course, politics. The way Americans chose Richard Nixon as their president was very different from the way they chose Barack Obama. The process of selecting Obama was more open and inclusive in a number of ways. InGrant Park, Candice J. Nelson examines the democratization of the presidential election process over four turbulent decades.

    Nelson examines her topic through the metaphor of Chicago's famous Grant Park. During the tumultuous Democratic Party convention of 1968, thousands of young people and African Americans rioted in Grant Park after being excluded from the nomination process. In 2008, on the other hand, thousands again jammed the park, but this time they were celebrating the convincing victory of their first African American president.

    A lot had to happen in American politics during that forty-year period before Obama could emerge victoriously from the Windy City. InGrant Park, Nelson explains how changes in technology, finance laws, party rules, political institutions, and the electorate itself produced the stunning turnaround, and how presidential selection might change again heading toward November 2012 and beyond.

    "The presidential election of 2012 will bear little resemblance to the 1968 election. Americans will have more opportunities to participate in the election, and the electorate will be more diverse. While the campaign finance system continues to challenge the democratization of presidential elections, the overall picture of presidential elections is one much more democratic than demonstrators faced in Grant Park in the summer of 1968." -FromGrant Park

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2185-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the forty years between the 1968 and 2008 presidential elections the United States changed as a country and so did the way in which presidents are elected. The presidential election process became much more democratic over those years. In 1968 the nomination process was dominated by backroom politics; by 2008 the nomination process was one in which millions of people could vote for nominees through primaries and caucuses. In 1968 both major party nominees were white men; in 2008 an African American was the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, and a woman was the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee. In...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Campaign Finance
    (pp. 9-24)

    The passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 began a process that fundamentally reformed the way presidential campaigns in the United States are financed. Beginning with the 1976 election, presidential candidates were, for the first time, eligible for partial public funding of their nomination campaign and full public funding of their general election. Public funding enabled candidates who did not have personal wealth, access to wealthy contributors, or high name recognition to compete for the presidency. This chapter examines the campaign finance process between 1976 and 2008, the costs of presidential campaigns during that period, and how the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Nomination Process
    (pp. 25-44)

    The forty years between 1968 and 2008 saw a profound change in the way the Democratic and Republican Parties nominate their candidates for president. For much of the nation’s history the nomination process was controlled by political parties. Delegates to the national nominating conventions were chosen by state conventions controlled by party and elected officials—usually mayors, governors, and senators.¹ In 1968, as opposition to the Vietnam War raged in the United States, the makeup of the delegates to the Democratic convention began to show signs of the changes to come. Theodore White describes the delegates to the 1968 Democratic...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Nominating Conventions
    (pp. 45-58)

    The tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention and the lack of transparency in the nomination of Hubert Humphrey led to the reforms of the nomination process. And it was not just the nomination process that changed; the nominating conventions themselves also changed, evolving from being the culmination of the nomination process to becoming the kickoff of the general election. As the nomination process changed and the presumptive presidential candidates for each party became known well before the nominating conventions, the historical role of the conventions—deliberation among the delegates to select the party’s presidential candidate—changed. However, the conventions still play an...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The General Election
    (pp. 59-72)

    Three events characterize the evolution of presidential general elections between 1968 and 2008. The first is the winnowing of states that candidates campaign in. Between 1968 and 2008 the number of contested states declined, until only a dozen or so states see fervent campaign activities; the majority of states are considered noncompetitive for one party or the other. The second is the return of presidential debates. After the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates candidates eschewed debates for several election cycles. The debates returned in 1976 and by 1988, with the creation of the Commission on Presidential Debates, became an established part of...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Role of Technology
    (pp. 73-86)

    The period between 1968 and 2008 saw an expansion of the opportunities for Americans to engage in the political process, first with the growth of television from just three networks to a vast array of cable channels and then with the development of the Internet.

    The number of American households subscribing to cable television grew from 16 million in the late 1970s to more than 65 million in the late 1990s.¹ In 1979 C-SPAN was created, to provide coverage of the House of Representatives and other public affairs programming. In 1986 C-SPAN2 was created, to expand coverage to the U.S....

  10. CHAPTER SIX Changes in Election Laws
    (pp. 87-96)

    The forty-year period between 1968 and 2008 saw changes in election laws in the United States—changes that ended discriminatory practices, expanded the eligible voting population, made it easier for citizens to register and vote, and addressed problems with election administration in states and localities.

    The first changes in election laws were aimed to end discriminatory practices that disenfranchised minorities, particularly African Americans, during more than half of the twentieth century. Despite being guaranteed the right to vote by the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1870, by the early 1900s provisions had been put in...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Changing Electorate
    (pp. 97-107)

    The four decades between 1970 and 2010 saw population shifts in the United States that had implications for presidential elections. Over the forty-year period the population of the United States increased by 105 million, from 203 million in 1970 to just over 308 million in 2010. However, the growth in population was not even throughout the country. Each decade from 1970 to 2010 saw substantial increases in the population in the southern and western states, while the population in the Northeast and the Midwest increased much more slowly. In the most recent decade, between 2000 and 2010, the population in...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Looking toward 2012
    (pp. 108-118)

    In the late winter/early spring of 2007 the electoral playing field for the 2008 election had begun to take shape. By then both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had announced their candidacies for the Democratic nomination, as had John Edwards. On the Republican side, the field also had largely taken shape, though John McCain didn’t formally announce his candidacy until April.

    Four years later—by mid-February of 2011—the Republican field remained wide open, though at least a dozen candidates were being prominently mentioned as possible candidates. Some of these, however, did announce their intention not to run, among them...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Conclusion
    (pp. 119-124)

    Between 1968 and 2008 presidential elections in the United States became more democratic. More Americans had the opportunity to participate in the political process, and their participation became more open and transparent. Reforms occurred in the way elections are financed, conducted, and administered, and the electorate itself became more diverse. This chapter examines the state of presidential elections on the eve of the 2012 election.

    Perhaps the most stubborn area for the democratization of presidential elections is campaign finance. For every reform of the campaign finance system there have been developments that allow large, and in some cases undisclosed, contributions...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 125-138)
  15. Index
    (pp. 139-149)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 150-150)