Nelson examines her topic through the metaphor of Chicago's famous Grant Park.During the tumultuous Democratic Party convention of 1968, thousands of youngpeople and African Americans rioted in Grant Park after being excluded from thenomination process. In 2008, on the other hand, thousands again jammed thepark, but this time they were celebrating the convincing victory of their first AfricanAmerican president.
A lot had to happen in American politics during that forty-year period before Obamacould emerge victoriously from the Windy City. In Grant Park, Nelson explains howchanges in technology, finance laws, party rules, political institutions, and theelectorate itself produced the stunning turnaround, and how presidential selectionmight change again heading toward November 2012 and beyond.
"The presidential election of 2012 will bear little resemblance to the 1968 election.Americans will have more opportunities to participate in the election, and theelectorate will be more diverse. While the campaign finance system continuesto challenge the democratization of presidential elections, the overall picture ofpresidential elections is one much more democratic than demonstrators faced inGrant Park in the summer of 1968." From Grant Park
Candice J. Nelson is an associate professor of government at AmericanUniversity in Washington, D.C., where she also serves as academic director of theCampaign Management Institute. Among her previous books are The Money Chase,written with David Magleby, as well as Campaign Warriors and Campaigns andElections American Style, both of which she edited with James Thurber.
The contributors approach the topic from several different perspectives, including the increasing use of "spin doctors" and the resulting loss of influence of state and national political parties. The book investigates the role of these paid advisers: who they are, what they do and why, and how they feel about their work. The contributors discuss the consultant's relationship with candidates and parties, and analyze the effect of their efforts on election outcome.
Almost $450 million was spent in both the 1986 and 1988 congressional campaigns, much of it coming from wealthy contributors and political action committees (PACs). Increasing criticism of the current system will undoubtedly force Congress to keep campaign finance reform on it's legislative agenda.
Using public opinion, election and campaign spending data, extensive interviews, and a knowledge of practical politics, Magleby and Nelson examine the central issues in the campaign financing debate: the cost of congressional campaigns, financial participation by the political parties and PACs, existing and proposed limits on contributions and expenditures, public financing, and the role of the Federal Election Commission. They propose a comprehensive package of reforms that will undoubtedly serve as a guide for future legislation.