My first one was the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. It was a terrible year: the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and there were violent demonstrations in the big cities. We thought it couldn't get worse. But then rioting broke out at the convention and the country seemed to be coming apart. Somehow it didn't, and in -- exactly nine months after that convention, my first daughter was born. She later told her mom, `I guess it wasn't all fighting in the streets out there.'
The turmoil brought reforms which evolved into the system we have today, where candidates are selected in statewide primaries instead of at the community level. The intention was to give more people a voice in the process. The result has been the opposite. As campaigns discovered they could reach more voters on television than at the grassroots, campaigns moved from the community to the TV screen. Collecting money to make commercials became the driving force, leaving the average voter with less influence, not more. Power shifted to those who gave the most money. A new class of professionals who catered to the money people -- the commercial makers, the pollsters and consultants -- grew rich in what had once been an amateur enterprise.
Yes, it was more than fighting in the streets in Chicago. It was the end of an era, an era of politics that was imperfect, to be sure. But we replaced it with a system that depends mostly on money rather than people. And that is far worse.
By Bob Schieffer