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Television and Politics

The media in the time of the writing of the Constitution was a much smaller and more timid institution. Today, the media has become dominated by the electronic media, and especially by television, which has become powerful in ways not envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Television has become the conduit of choice for political candidates, and this has altered the style of the political debate, leading to the sound-bites and attack ads that have been so criticized in recent years. Television did not set out to shape the political debate and did not intend to cheapen that debate as seems to have occurred. It might be argued that the media lacks power because it does not seem to be in control of the capabilities it wields, but those capabilities are themselves considerable and have had a massive influence on how Americans conduct themselves in elections and between elections.

Political parties are something of a problem in any analysis of the American political system because in a way the parties have been grafted onto the underlying political structure. Political parties are not mentioned at all in the Constitution and may not have been intended at all by the Founding Fathers. They did institute constitutional constraints and institutional reforms that have produced a weak party system in the United States. Political parties are already subject to a form of direct democracy as candidates are hired and fired by the constituent and not by the national party.

The United States operates with a federal form of government, and the primary effect of this on the party system is to make it not one national two-party system but fifty state party systems, with each state having demographic, ideological, structural, and electoral peculiarities. The system is seen as chaotic by some and as too structured by others who feel that the individual parties, while they may look different, at heart are interested only in protecting their ow...

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Television and Politics. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:44, May 21, 2019, from