Grant Park

The Democratization of Presidential Elections, 1968–2008

Candice J. Nelson ,

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Grant Park: The Democratization of Presidential Elections, 1968–2008

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In the forty-year span between 1968 and 2008, the United States underwent greatchange in nearly every avenue of life—economics, social mores, demographics,technology, and, of course, politics. The way Americans chose Richard Nixon as theirpresident was very different from the way they chose Barack Obama. The process ofselecting Obama was more open and inclusive in a number of ways. In Grant Park,Candice J. Nelson examines the democratization of the presidential election processover four turbulent decades.Nelson examines her topic through the metaphor of Chicago’s famous Grant Park.During the tumultuous Democratic Party convention of 1968, thousands of youngpeople and African Americans rioted in Grant Park after being excluded from thenomination process. In 2008, on the other hand, thousands again jammed thepark, but this time they were celebrating the convincing victory of their first AfricanAmerican president.A lot had to happen in American politics during that forty-year period before Obamacould emerge victoriously from the Windy City. In Grant Park, Nelson explains howchanges in technology, finance laws, party rules, political institutions, and theelectorate itself produced the stunning turnaround, and how presidential selectionmight change again heading toward November 2012 and beyond.“The presidential election of 2012 will bear little resemblance to the 1968 election.Americans will have more opportunities to participate in the election, and theelectorate will be more diverse. While the campaign finance system continuesto challenge the democratization of presidential elections, the overall picture ofpresidential elections is one much more democratic than demonstrators faced inGrant Park in the summer of 1968.”—From Grant Park
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