t is perhaps the central irony of our politics today: We live in an incredibly polarized and partisan moment, but our political parties have never been weaker.
As odd as it sounds, political parties in democracies have an important anti-democratic function. Traditionally, the parties shaped the choices put to voters. Long before voters decided anything in the primary or general elections, party bosses worked to groom good candidates, weed out bad ones, organize interests, and frame issues.
In the modern era, the story of party decline usually begins in the aftermath of the 1968 presidential election. The move toward primaries and the democratic selection of delegates took power away from the bosses.