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The Permanent Campaign Essay Research Paper The

?The Permanent Campaign? Essay, Research Paper

?The Permanent Campaign? was written by Norman J. Ornstein and Amy S. Mitchell.

This article appeared first in The World & I, in January 1997.

Norman Ornstein is regarded as one of our nation?s foremost experts on Congress.

Mr. Ornstein received a Ph.D.. from the University of Michigan, he writes for the New

York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and he has a regular column in Roll Call

newspaper called ?Congress Inside Out?. Mr. Ornstein is also an election analyst for

CBS and appears frequently on television shows including the Today Show, Nightline

and the Mac Neil/Lehre News Hour where he has been a consultant and contributor for

fifteen years.

Mr. Ornstein is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public

Policy Research and is also an advisor and member of the Free TV for Straight Talk

coalition. The coalition is a group of 80 leaders from the worlds of politics, corporations,

broadcast journalism, the entertainment industry and public interest groups. They

support giving political candidates free air time on TV to promote their political views

without the media?s input. He has authored or co-authored recent books such as How We

Can Get Out of It, Debt and Taxes: How America Got Into Its Budget Mess, and

Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy.

Amy Mitchell is a journalist whom graduated from Georgetown University, she

has written may articles concerning government and the media and was a congressional

associate at the American Enterprise Institute for four years. She is now the staff director

of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. The CCJ is an organization of editors,

producers, reporters, and producers whom are concerned with the future of the media.

They believe that right now is a crucial moment in American journalism and it is time to

sit down and talk about the core principles and function of journalism.

The Article ?The Permanent Campaign? takes a look at the way the American

political system has evolved over the years. When George Washington was president he

did not campaign any before he was put in office. When he was in office he only made a

few public appearances and when he did he didn?t speak a word. During Washington?s

era political campaigning was considered undignified.

Now the whole philosophy has changed. Before the 1992 election was even over

the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report ran a story on the possible Republican

hopefuls for the 1996 campaign. We have gone from a country who denounced

campaigning to one in which candidates start campaigning for seats that haven?t even

been decided in the current elections.

Andrew Jackson changed everything in the election of 1824 when he decided he

would give his personal opinion on the issues. He received the most popular votes and

the most electoral votes but the House of Representatives cheated him out of a legitiment

victory when they elected John Quincy Adams president. Jackson ran again the next

term and won the election and changed the presidency forever. After Jackson?s success

future candidates for president now have to find a way of responding to the people and

still try to accommodate their political parties? tradition of silence.

By the 1880?s the trend was to bring the issues and candidates to the people.

Soon candidates began to travel by train and do ?whistle-stop tours? where they would go

from town to town and make speeches. In 1892 Grover Cleveland gave his nomination

speech in Madison Square Garden in front of a huge crowd. Traditionally these speeches

were given only to the party leaders. This effort to bring the candidates closer to the

voters had dramatic effects on the way elections were being conducted, many states

started having primary elections to judge the parties? candidates popularity.

After the riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 reforms

were finally made and now candidates would be chosen directly by the voters in the

primaries instead of the party officials just using the elections as a poll to the popularity

of the candidates, then making their own decision as to who to choose as the candidate.

After the advent of the television the political system changed once again. The

people could now here and see the candidates every day, even live. This took great skill

by the candidates and their staff to figure out ways to use the media to their advantage.

The radio was also becoming a great way to talk to large numbers of people. With all of

the media exposure that a candidate receives these days every candidate by 1980 had a

full time media strategist on had to control spin. Ronald Reagan is a great example of a

candidate who used the media to his advantage. Reagan always seemed to feel at home

in front of the camera and he controlled the involvement he had with the media for his


Political polling was introduced in the 1920?s and it would also prove to change

the way candidates campaigned. In recent elections George Bush made his pollster,

Robert Tetter, the chairman of his re-election committee. Teeter?s polls showed that

people had little interest in health-care issues so Bush neglected speaking on the issue

and it hurt him in the election. While Bush was in office the Republicans used Teeter?s

polls to set party policy and the polls also helped shape some White House policy.

Bush?s reliance on the polls, however, was pale in comparison to the amount of polling

the Clinton White House has done. During his first year in office the Democrats spent

$1.9 million on polls compared to Bush?s first year total of about $400,000.

When the Republicans won control of both houses of Congress their success was

based largely on the ?Contract With America,? an agenda based on numerous polls

conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz. The contract used terminology that was shown

to be effective and easy to understand by the people according to the polls. Democrats

and the Republicans now rely heavily on frequent polls done to assess public opinion in

hopes to gain voters. Some people totally discredit even the most scientific polls but

there is no question that these polls are here to stay.

How did we go from being a country that denounced any campaigning at all to

one that demands media exposure of our political system almost constantly? My answer

is that it just took time for the democratic process to be fully understood.

For the first fifty or so years in our country voters elected the people that their

political party wanted them to vote for. This seems to me to not convey the spirit of

democracy which is to have the government ran by the people the voters choose. When

candidates decided to talk directly to the people, voters began to listen to the actual

candidates instead of their party leaders. The advent of our communications systems has

given us a greater understanding of the world around us and therefore we are able to

make better decisions on who to vote for because it is easier to find information on

candidates with the same viewpoints that you may have.

Today candidates know the people are not going to just vote on a smiling face and

winning personality, people now demand (or should demand) to know where candidates

stand on issues. With the Internet, TV, and radio anything a candidate says can be

scrutinized almost immediately. Candidates know that they are always being watched so

they have to act like they are campaigning all of the time.

I believe that if media scrutiny of our candidates continues to escalate at the rate

that it is now it could only be detrimental to our political system and more importantly

our government. While it is great that we know more about our candidates than we ever

have before, there needs to be some sort of a line as to what the media will report.

More often than not our media tends to focus on the negative aspects of our

government and our political system. We never hear stories about how welfare helped a

single mother get back on her feet after a layoff or a divorce, all we hear from our media

is how some people have six welfare children.

We are at a point now that our media can control the destiny of a political

candidate, if some reporter gets an unfounded report on a political candidate and runs a

story that may not even be true people are still going to listen to the story and more

newspapers etc., will cover the story because they think that the story may sell. When

they discover that the accusations are not true most of the time they have already labeled

that candidate as ?immoral? or whatever, so when they recant the story on the back page

of the Food section the damage is already done. All that these types of stories do is

degrade our government officials and our political candidates, when this happens it

promotes a general distrust of our government. When our society really begins to

completely distrust anything and everything our government tells us this country will be

in major trouble.

I believe that if we scrutinized our media as much as we do our candidates our

country would be much better off. We have become a country of instant gratification and

short attention spans. When we want information we want it now and we want it fast.

People need to start considering the sources of the information that streams so easily

throughout the country in our media. The line between fact and political opinion is

becoming harder and harder to distinguish every time you read a newspaper.

In conclusion whoever controls the media controls the vote. If the media likes

you and decides not to dredge into your past personal life you have got it made, but the

second they turn on you and start reporting on negative aspects of your life you are more

than likely doomed politically. Hopefully in the future our society will start to look at

what a candidate could do, or has been doing, in office instead of what they have done in

their bedroom.


1. ?The Perminent Campaign?, Norman J. Ornstein and Amy S. Mitchell. American

Government 98/99,pp. 89-93. Duskin McGraw-Hill.




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