chapter  15
22 Pages

Presidential Campaigns: History and Overview

Electoral campaigns playa critical role in democratic societies. As Paolo Mancini and David Swanson observe, election campaigns, "select decision makers, shape policy, distribute power, and provide venues for debate and socially approved expressions of conflict ... Symbolically, campaigns legitimate democratic government and political leaders, uniting voters and candidates in displays of civic piety and rituals of national renewal.,,1

Election campaigns provide people with the opportunity to give feedback to their political leaders, "to talk back to political elites," as Marion Just and her colleagues note.2 Yet campaigns vary greatly in the extent to which they fulfill their democratic mission. Some campaigns have reaffirmed democratic principles and provided a forum for national debate. They have brought citizens into the process and forged confidence in the democratic system. Others have trivialized democratic principles, offered only a superficial debate of pressing issues, and reduced citizens' faith in democracy.