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Even today, when it is often viewed as an institution in decline, the national party convention retains a certain raw, emotional, populist fascination. Bifurcated Politics is a portrait of the postwar convention as a changing institution—a changing institution that still confirms the single most important decision in American politics. With the 1988 elections clearly in mind, Byron E. Shafer examines the status of the national party convention, which is created and dispersed within a handful of days but nevertheless becomes a self-contained world for participants, reporters, and observers alike. He analyzes such dramatic developments as the disappearance of the contest over the presidential nomination and its replacement by struggles over the publicizing of various campaigns, the decline of party officials and the rise of the organized interests, and the large and growing disjunction between what is happening at the convention hall and what the public sees—between the convention on site and the convention on screen. He argues that, despite its declining status, the postwar convention has attracted—and mirrored—most of the major developments in postwar politics: the nationalization of that politics and the spread of procedural reform, a changing connection between the general public and political institutions, even the coming of a new and different sort of American politics. Bifurcated Politics tells the story of most of the postwar conventions, along with the nominating campaigns that preceded them. But it also develops a picture of the changing American politics around those stories. It will become the definitive study of the national party convention.
Shafer Byron E. :
Byron E. Shafer is Glenn B. and Cleone Orr Hawkins Chair of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
At once, this book provides us with an intelligent and closely argued analysis of the causes of the declining role of nominating conventions, an overall theoretical concept that ties together its main argument (the notion of bifurcated politics), and an analysis of the larger fabric of contemporary American politics as seen through the 'window' of the convention. An ambitious and comprehensive guide to the protean world of presidential selection.
Bifurcated Politics is a fresh and penetrating examination of the national party convention during four decades of fundamental change in the party system. With striking skill and insight, Shafer has written an exemplary institutional analysis, moving from the interplay of altered environmental forces and deliberate 'reform' to the ascendancy of organized interests and of the mass media inherent in the weakening political parties. Above all, the book looks at the convention and through it to the changing national politics surrounding it—a rare and valuable contribution to understanding and to constructive reflection.
Byron Shafer has achieved the improbable: this new work of intellectually exciting scholarship excels his landmark Quiet Revolution. A brilliant case study of how purposive political action brings about unintended political and social consequences.
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