Author (Your Name)

Cary Gibson, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.




In 1942, prominent political scientist E.E. Schattschneider said of the importance of the nomination to political parties: "Unless the party makes authoritative and effective nominations, it cannot stay in business...The nature of the nomination procedure determines the nature of the party; he who can make nominations is the owner of the party."l Statements such as this articulate the importance of the nominating power to political parties: the ability to make effective nominations is an integral part of their function in the electoral system. However, throughout this century, American political parties have been witness to a startling decline in their ability to make nominations for office. Once, the party organization was the primary instrument through which a candidate sought nomination. Approval from the party was essential to obtaining the nomination and the party often rewarded those who moved up through its ranks. Now, however, party approval is no longer necessary in order to gain nomination. The direct primary enables potential nominees to make their appeals directly to the electorate and bypass the party altogether. Consequently, the party organization can no longer guarantee that its preferred candidate will win the nomination. It can no longer make "authoritative and effective nominations" as E.E. Schattschneider suggests it should. The power to make nominations rests in the hands of the primary electorate and the party elite have been relegated to the sidelines.


United States -- Congress -- Elections, Political parties -- United States -- History, Political parties -- Influence, Primaries -- United States