As the parties have given up on their core functions, wealthy donors with ideological agendas have filled the void they’ve left.
Democrats suffered losses up and down the ballot on Nov. 8, bolstering Republican dominance of both national and state governments. A presidential campaign launched with high hopes wound up adding to the party’s demoralizing string of defeats in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Outside of a candidate named Barack Obama, Democrats have not had much success on election days since 2008.
The party needs to change, but how? Media attention has focused on the race between competing factions to take over the Democratic National Committee. The press will obsessively cover the “dramatic” picking of a party chair in Atlanta this weekend, where 447 voters will choose the new superhero to return the party to power.
It’s the wrong battle, though, because the DNC cannot be the instrument for the party’s revival. Thanks to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001, the national parties have lost power to the growing role of outside money. Formal party structures have become empty vessels overshadowed by external ideological networks of wealthy individuals and organizations on the right and left.
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