Boris HeersinkNov 23, 2023
National Party Organizations and Party Brands in American Politics
The Democratic and Republican National Committees, 1912-2016
Oxford University Press 2023
Political Scientist Boris Heersink’s new book guides the reader through over a century of politics and national parties in the United States. Heersink’s work is both qualitative and quantitative and approaches the national party organizations—the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee—from the perspective of American political development. This is a fascinating study of the way that the national parties operate when their party is in the White House or when their party is out of power in terms of the presidency. Heersink has mapped out the activities and approaches of the national parties through a host of different resources, from the available archival papers of party chairmen and women, to newspaper coverage of national party activities and events, to other media mechanisms that the parties individually, or mirroring each other, pursued to shape and promote their “brand.”
National Party Organizations and Party Brands in American Politics (Oxford UP, 2023) tells us a lot about how the parties, from 1912 through to the contemporary experiences, have thought of their role in relation to electoral politics, especially from the top of the ticket to those running for lots of different offices. Heersink makes an interesting argument around the idea of party branding – and how party chairmen/women have worked to develop coherence within the national party and the many state and local parties whom they collaborate with and often serve. The difficulty for American political parties has long been the lack of coordination capacity and Heersink details the difficulties in coordination and various different paths that parties have taken over the years to try to create a clear “brand” for themselves and their voters/intended voters. This clarity helps voters to understand what it is a candidate stands for or supports given their party affiliation.
National Party Organizations and Party Brands in American Politics details many of the creative ways that the parties found to communicate with party officials and elected representatives and candidates who were far from Washington, D.C. The research also makes note of the shifts and changes that the parties engaged in as the media environment shifted and changed, from radio and print media, to television, to 24-hour cable news networks, to talk radio, and now to social media. The rise of the presidential primary in the latter part of the 20th century comes to influence the ways that the national parties operate and also how they are limited in their capacities. This is an expansive exploration of the ways that national parties operate in the United States, and it carries the reader through to our current political landscape and how that landscape contributes to the dynamics around the 2020 and 2024 election cycles.
Lilly J. Goren is a professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-host of the New Books in Political Science channel at the New Books Network. She is co-editor of The Politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (University Press of Kansas, 2022), as well as co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012). She can be reached @gorenlj.bsky.social