The CNN Original Series “Race for the White House” captures the dramatic twist and turns of America’s presidential elections past. Executive producers Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti offer a six episode series featuring coverage of JFK vs. Nixon; Lincoln vs. Douglas; Clinton vs Bush; Bush vs Dukakis; Jackson vs Quincy Adams; and Truman vs. Dewey. To learn more about the latter, read Andrew E. Bush’s “Truman’s Triumphs: The 1948 Election and the Making of Postwar America.” Even readers knowledgeable about Truman’s 1948 victory will discover new findings in this fresh and revealing account of that dramatic race.
A: We wanted to help Americans understand campaigns in the 21st century from the inside and we wanted to help people involved in populist or participatory campaigns win their elections. Some campaign techniques haven’t changed since Cicero or Abraham Lincoln were elected, others are radically different. There aren’t any good books about the 21st century campaigns and their challenges to democracy so we wrote “Winning Elections in the 21st Century.”
Q: How have your own political views changed since writing this book, or have they?
A: We haven’t changed our personal political philosophies but we have come to understand the ways in which campaigns are run today in much greater depth. We believe that fundamental reforms like public financing have to be made if our democracy is to endure.
Q: What are some campaigning strategies and techniques that the Everyman can learn to better assess candidates’ readiness to hold office?
A: It is likely that any candidate that can’t master the techniques of running a modern election won’t be effective in running a modern government either. But the candidate with the most money is not necessarily the best candidate and in our book we show how candidates with less money can still get their message to the voters and win. In “Winning Elections in the 21st Century,“ we show “how the sausage is made” and demystify the process so voters can make real choices on the merits of the candidates.
Q: Are there any aspects of the information age that are changing the way politicians campaign and Americans vote?
A: Voter analytics and social media have fundamentally altered how campaigns are run. They can enhance getting information about the candidates and the issues to the voters and can help campaigns find supporters that might otherwise have been bypassed. On the other hand, these same tools can be used to create a false candidate persona and fake stands on issues that only pander to small groups through “narrowcasting” and micro-targeting.
Q: What do you hope people will take away from Winning Elections in the 21st Century?
A: We need to use the tools we provide in “Winning Elections in the 21st Century“ to elect the best possible candidates to public office and we need to reform our political system to insure our democracy continues. Young people, especially should know it is not impossible to elect good candidates, and getting involved in their campaigns is important and worthwhile.
–Dick Simpson and Betty O’Shaughnessy are the authors of “Winning Elections in the 21st Century.”
The Los Angeles Times highlights the Mendez v. Westminster case as Philippa Strum, UPK author of “Mendez v. Westminster: School of Desegregation and Mexican-American Rights,” explores the important role Latinos play in the upcoming election. As Strum states, “In the coverage of the 2016 election cycle, you’ll hear this time and again: Latinos—immigrants and their families—are playing an important role in electing the next U.S. president. They are the largest minority group in the nation, and they are poised to make a major impact on American democracy.”
Similar to the number of possible presidential personalities that have engulfed America’s upcoming election, the election of 1824 has been commonly viewed as an interesting battle of wills involving the likes of John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and William H. Crawford, and establishing Old Hickory as the people’s choice–yet, through “bargain and corruption,” deprived him of the presidency. In “The One-Party Presidential Contest,” Donald Ratcliffe reveals that Jackson was not the most popular candidate and the corrupt bargaining was a myth. The election saw the final disruption of both the dominant Democratic Republican Party and the dying Federalist Party, and the creation of new political formations that would slowly evolve into the Democratic and National Republicans (later Whig) Parties—thus bringing about arguably the greatest voter realignment in US history.
Bringing to bear over 35 years of research, Ratcliffe describes how loyal Democratic Republicans tried to control the election but failed, as five of their party colleagues persisted in competing, in novel ways, until the contest had to be decided in the House of Representatives. Initially a struggle between personalities, the election evolved into a fight to control future policy, with large consequences for future presidential politics. The One-Party Presidential Contest offers a nuanced account of the proceedings, one that balances the undisciplined conflict of personal ambitions with the issues, principles, and prejudices that swirled around the election. In this book we clearly see, perhaps for the first time, how the election of 1824 revealed fracture lines within the young republic—and created others that would forever change the course of American politics.