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Unformatted text preview: 44 Polirir: by Other Mean: concerted effort to bring new voters into the electorate. This ef- fort was limited in scope, but it played an important part in the Republican party’s capture of both houses of Congress in 1994. The GOP’s gains from this limited strategy of mobilization demon- strate what could be achieved from a fuller mobilization of the na— tional electorate. How extraordinary, then, that politicians stop short of at- tempting to expand the electorate to overwhelm their foes in com- petitive elections. Why is this? To expand upon a point made earlier, a large part of the answer to this question is that the de- cline of political party organizations over the past several decades strengthened politicians in both camps who were linked with and supported by the middle and upper middle classes. Party or- ganization is an especially important instrument for enhancing the political influence of groups at the bottom of the social hierarchy—groups whose major political resource is numbers. Par- ties allowed politicians to organize the energies of large numbers of individuals from the lower classes to counter the superior fi- nancial and institutional resources available to those from the mid- dle and upper classes. The decline of party organization that resulted in large measure from the efforts of upper— and middle-class ”reformers" over the years has undermined such politicians as union officials and De— mocratic and Republican ”machine” leaders who had a stake in popular mobilization, while it has strengthened politicians with an upper—middle- or upper—class base. As a result of these reforms, today's Democratic and Republican parties are dominated by dif- ferent segments of the American upper middle class. For the most part, contemporary Republicans speak for business and profes- sionals from the private sector, while Democratic politicians and political activists are drawn from and speak for upper-middle—class professionals in the public and not-for—profit sectors. Both sides give lip service to the idea of fuller popular partic- ipation in political life. Politicians and their upper-middle—class constituents in both camps, however, have access to a variety of dif- } ; i i_ Electoral Decay and Institutional Conflict 45 ferent political resources—the news media, the courts, universities, and interest groups—to say nothing of substantial financial re- sources. As a result, neither side has much need for or interest in political tactics that might, in effect, stir up trouble from below. Both sides prefer to compete for power without engaging in full- scale popular mobilization. Without mobilization drives that might encourage low-income citizens or minorities to register and actually to vote, the population that does vote tends to be wealth— ier, whiter, and better educated than the population as a whole. There are marked differences in voter turnout linked to ethnic group, education level, and employment status. This trend has created a political process whose class bias is so obvious and egre- gious that if it continues, it may force Americans to begin adding a qualifier when they describe their politics as democratic. Perhaps the terms ”semidemocratic," “quasi-democratic," and “neoderno— cratic” are in order to describe a political process in which ordinary voters have as little influence as they do in contemporary Amer- ica. As we shall see, the consequences of these undemocratic po- litical patterns reverberate throughout the American political system. ...
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