Political Campaigns

… or why in America campaign-finance reform never succeeds

In the summer of 1787 a sweaty group of politicians was debating the clauses of a proposed constitution in humid Philadelphia. Read more >>

A year ago we were in the midst of a presidential campaign most memorable for charges by both sides that the opponent was not hard enough, tough enough, masculine enough. That he was, in fact, a sissy. Both sides also admitted this sort of rhetoric was deplorable. But it’s been going on since the beginning of the Republic.

Just before George Bush announced his running mate in 1988, a one-liner going the rounds was that he should choose Jeane Kirkpatrick to add some machismo to the ticket. Read more >>

To keep Upton Sinclair from becoming governor of California in 1934, his opponents invented a whole new kind of campaign

The American political campaign as we know it today was born on August 28, 1934, when Upton Sinclair, the muckraking author and lifelong socialist, won the Democratic primary for governor of California. Read more >>

The distasteful questions we ask our presidential hopefuls serve a real purpose

Has the press gone too far?” is a question that has been asked more frequently in this presidential campaign than any other. Read more >>

It’s not surprising that Democrats seek to wrap themselves in the Roosevelt cloak; what’s harder to understand is why so many Republicans do too. A distinguished historian explains.

It took place in 1948, and it was orchestrated—with difficulty—by the program director of a faltering Portland, Oregon, radio station. He persuaded two Republican candidates to argue formally about an actual issue with no intervening moderator.

In October 1984 President Ronald Reagan and Sen. Walter F. Mondale came together on the same platform in Louisville, Kentucky, and again in Kansas City, Missouri. Correspondents tossed questions at them; each answered. Read more >>

Here is how political cartoonists have sized up the candidates over a tumultuous half-century.

AMERICANS HAVE BEEN turning out political cartoons since the dawn of the Republic, but in the nineteenth century the drawings tended to be verbose and cluttered, their characters trailing long ribbons of speech balloons as they stumbled ov Read more >>

The ground rules have changed drastically since 1789. Abigail Adams, stifled in her time, would have loved being First Lady today.

ONCE AGAIN the candidates gear up for a national election; not only the candidates but their wives too. And pity the ladies! Read more >>

A noted historian argues that television, a relative newcomer, has nearly destroyed old—and valuable—political traditions

TELEVISION HAS BEEN accused of many things: vulgarizing tastes; trivializing public affairs; sensationalizing news; corrupting the young; pandering to profits; undermining traditional values. Read more >>
More than any other single event, Richard Nixon’s dogged pursuit of Alger Hiss made the young congressman from California a national figure. Read more >>

Presidential candidates stayed above the battle until William Jennings Bryan stumped the nation in 1896; they’ve been in the thick of it ever since

The most confident prediction that can be made about the 1980 presidential campaign is that the nominees will invest enormous energy, time, and money in stumping the country. Read more >>
Our forebears were much given to singing. They sang themselves through revolution with “The Liberty Song” and “Yankee Doodle,” and afterward each struggle of the young nation inspired songsters to extol in music and lyric the virtues of freedom. Read more >>

Their homely symbols tell us more about voter behavior than party platforms do

Beneath the gaudy exterior and hoopla of American political parades of the nineteenth century is concealed a sober truth about ourselves. The banners used in such parades were designed to convert onlookers to a new political faith or to reinforce existing beliefs. Read more >>
It isn’t every day that one can see a man pushing a peanut with his nose along the main street of an American town. Read more >>

Who runs the country? Administrative agencies. Who runs the administrative agencies? Well, there was this road they were going to put right through the old Rockefeller place, and …

While Bryan stumped up and down the land, McKinley let the voters come to his lawn in Canton—and they came

In 1896, the depression which had followed the Panic of ’93 was in its third year. Debt, business failure, unemployment, and labor unrest were spreading; to many, revolution seemed just a step away. Read more >>