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Election Process and Political Parties, Role of the Media in the Electoral Process

presidential hopefuls, Senate candidates, national parties, campaign money, Republican House

The media, especially television, have played a role in the increasing cost of campaigns because candidates spend a large amount of money on advertising. Today individual candidates spend more money on media advertising than ever before. In 1860 the Republicans spent only $100,000 on Abraham Lincolnís presidential campaign and on those of all Republican House and Senate candidates. In 1988 Republican candidate George Bush spent $70 million, just on the presidential race. During the 1998 elections, a 60-second spot on prime-time television cost as much as $100,000 every time it ran. As a result, campaigns have become more expensive, forcing candidates to concentrate more on fund-raising and less on presenting issues to voters.

The media have also played a role in the declining importance of political parties because the media permit candidates to present themselves to the electorate without any aid from their political parties. Candidates running for office use the media to gain popularity. By appealing to the public through the media, candidates erode the authority of political parties. National party conventions, which officially nominate candidates for president and vice president, used to be exciting meetings where the party leaders decided who would receive the nomination. Today presidential hopefuls have become independent political entrepreneurs who go to the people rather than to party leaders. Although candidates still rely on parties for campaign money to a certain extent, the power of the media has focused attention much more on individual candidates rather than on the parties they represent. This has made personal campaign organizations more efficient moneymaking tools than the national parties. This individualism tends to undermine loyalty to the powerful and historically significant institution of political parties, which many now believe to be a broken branch of government.

Article key phrases:

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