Mark Stricherz attributes the ongoing electoral failures of the Democratic Party to its adoption of abortion and cultural radicalism. In his book, Why the Democrats are Blue: Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People's Party, he blames the cultural revolution in the Party of Al Smith on the McGovern commission and the resulting party rules aimed at destroying the power of the party bosses. Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews him at National Review Online.
His analysis is spot on. The other neglected aspect of the transformation of American politics into highly partisan, ideological bitterness is campaign finance reform. The McGovern rules required extensive primaries and caucuses in the presidential nominating process. This meant candidates needed lots of money to run. Organization was not enough. Campaign finance reforms forbade very large donations. Large donors were more interested on picking a winner than on ideological purity. They worked well with the bosses. Campaign finance reform shifted fundraising to the collection of large numbers of contributions in the $10 to $250 range. The candidate who could excite large numbers of committed ideologues to cough up $250 ($500 a couple) had the advantage. That combined with the low turnouts characteristic of caucuses and primaries handed the nominating processes over to the most ideologically committed. Hence our polarized politics.
Bring back the bosses!
Mark's Blog is called In Front of Your Nose: A Catholic & Populist Review of Politics & Culture. The tittle is an allusion to George Orwell's essay.