The Life of the Parties

The Life of the Parties

Activists in Presidential Politics

by Ronald Rapoport, Alan I. McGlennon and John Abramowitz

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

256 pages, tables

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN: 9780813115597
  • Published: February 1986



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Commentators, especially since the Democratic party reforms following 1968, have expressed serious concerns about the role of party activists in the American political system. Have they become so concerned with ideological purity that they are unable to nominate strong candidates? Are activists loyal only to particular interest groups, with little concern for the parties as institutions? Are the reformed nominating procedures open to takeover by new activists, who exit the party immediately after the presidential nominations fight? With such an unrepresentative set of activists, can parties adjust to changing environments?

Based on a survey of more than 17,000 delegates to state presidential nominating conventions in eleven states in 1980, this pathbreaking book addresses these questions in a comprehensive way for the first time. Heretofore most of the generalizations about party activists in the presidential nomination process have been based on studies of national convention delegates, in particular those attending the 1972 conventions. But those delegates were atypical activists, as this book shows. The state of the activist stratum of the parties differs from what many of the critics have suggested.