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Partisan Realignment POLS 125: Political Parties & Elections.

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1 Partisan Realignment POLS 125: Political Parties & Elections

2 The election, so far as the City and State of New-York are concerned, will probably stand, hereafter as one of the most remarkable in the political contests of the country; marked, as it is, by far the heaviest popular vote ever cast in the City, and by the sweeping, and almost uniform Republican majorities in the country. The New York Times November 7, 1860 1860

3 We had quite a line at the election. I never knew New York City to go against the Democrats before, but they got a good scare this time. I dont believe we will be bothered with any more silver bills or boy orators for some time. Charles C. King New Brighton, New York November 29, 1896 1896

4 A Sharp Right Turn: Republicans and Democrats Alike See New Era in 80s Returns The Washington Post, November 6, 1980 1980

5 1994 Tsunami is the Japanese word for great wave caused by underwater seismic shock. What was the shock that caused the conservative wave of 1994? No inchoate choler at incumbents; not lust for change for changes sake; not negative advertising used by both sides; not solely disappointment with the character or personality of Bill Clinton. The quake was caused by the majoritys belief that government is growing too big, intrusive, domineering and remoteand wasteful of tax dollars at all levels… William Safire, November 10, 1994

6 Realignment Theory Realignment theory provides a framework for understanding patterns of partisan change, characterized by long periods of stable political alignments that are disrupted periodically by dramatic events that produce critical elections. Classic examples include the years 1860, 1896, and 1932 (some scholars add 1800, 1828, 1968, and 1980).

7 Realignment Theory A critical election occurs when there is a sharp and durable electoral realignment between parties. Realignments do not take place during a critical election, but gradually. A realigning era is a cumulative process that responds to new national problems as they arise. A party system is that long period of relative stability in voting patterns that follows a realignment. It represents a time of normalcy, or politics-as-usual.

8 V.O. Key E.E. Schattsneider

9 The Vocabulary of Realignments Critical election Realigning era Party system Periodicity

10 Realignment Theory Party system Realigning era Critical election

11 Realignment Theory American national elections can be sorted into two kinds: realigning and non- realigning These elections fall into patterns (e.g., periodicity) Oscillation in and out of the cycle takes roughly 30 years Oscillation is caused by a strengthening and weakening of party identification Voter turnout is unusually high in realigning elections

12 Realignment Theory Third parties tend to form A new issue, or cluster of issues, replaces the old There is an increase in ideological polarization Realignments are associated with major changes in government policy Realignments bring on long spans of unified government Voters express themselves effectively and consequentially during electoral realignments, but not otherwise

13 Mayhew calls this a grand, even magnificent interpretative structure… but is it true?

14 Characteristics of a Realignment 1.A partisan realignment is precipitated by the rise of a new political issue, or cluster of issues. 2.The new issue cuts across the existing line of party cleavage. 3.The new issue is powerful enough to dominate political debate and polarize the community. 4.The major parties take distinct and opposing policy positions that are easily understood.

15 Characteristics of a Realignment 5.If the existing political parties attempt to straddle the new issue, a 3rd party may form to address it. 6.The intensity of the election is high. Citizens care deeply about the new issue, and this results in higher voter turnout. 7.The realignment process may extend over a length of time both before and after a critical election, but it the end it produces a fundamentally new political agenda, and a new partisan majority.

16 Classic Realignments: 1860 The discussion of slavery dominated American politics throughout the 1850s. The issue cut squarely across the major political parties of the timethe Whigs and the Democratsand split the country North/South. The election of 1860 marked the final downfall of the Whig Party, and the ascendance of the modern Republican Party.

17 Classic Realignments: 1860

18 Old line of party cleavage WHIG PARTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY New line of party cleavage REPUBLICAN PARTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY Northern Democrats Anti-Slavery North Southern Whigs Pro-Slavery South 1860

19 Classic Realignments: 1896 The election of 1896 reflected growing class and regional cleavages in the American electorate. The most important issue at stake was monetary policy. Currency backed by the gold standard tilted the economic scale in favor of industrial elites in the East, and against Western farmers. Free silver would have allowed the repayment of debt in cheaper dollars.

20 Classic Realignments: 1896

21 Classic Realignments: 1932 Following the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression split the parties along class and ideological lines. The election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 created a new and lasting Democratic majority centered around a social welfare state at home and interventionism abroad.

22 Classic Realignments: 1932

23 The Periodicity of Realignments Notice how these critical elections occurred with regular frequencyevery 30-40 years. Why? Because of generational change: 1 st generation: Their party identity is forged in crisis. They are likely to have a strong and emotional commitment to a political party that will last the remainder of their lives. 2 nd generation: Children of the realignment generation may follow their parents party affiliation, but with less intensity and determination. 3 rd generation: These are children of normal politics. Having grown up during a period of stability, their party allegiance is weak.


25 If generational change makes realignment possible, and if our last realignment was in 1932, why havent we experienced a critical election since then? Theory suggests that we are ripe for a realignment… Like Waiting for Godot… 1968: War in Vietnam, Civil Rights movement, Johnsons Great Society 1980: Reduction in government spending and taxation, expansion of national defense 1994: Partisan shift in the balance of power in Congress favoring the Republican Party 2000-2008: A secular realignment into Red and Blue states?????

26 Dealignment? As elections become more candidate-centered, political parties become less important. No one party dominates. The country is evenly divided. Voters are more cynical about politics. Citizens increasingly engage in split-ticket voting. In recent years we have seen a major deviation from the cyclical pattern that has up until this point characterized American political history. According to some scholars, instead of re-aligning, voters have stayed dislodged. Why?



29 The Presidential Vote, 1948-2004


31 The phrase red state, blue state was voted the Word of the Year in 2004 by the American Dialect Society.

32 2008 election results by state

33 2008 election results, by county

34 2008 election results cartogram, adjusted for population

35 The 49 Percent Nation BLUE STATES: Metropolitan, educated, black, Northeastern, Rust belt, West. RED STATES: Rural and suburban, religious, South and Midwest. God-fearing and gun-loving. In 2001, Michael Barone wrote a now famous essay titled The 49 Percent Nation. In it he argues that there are now two Americas, almost evenly divided, split by geography, as well as social, religious and cultural differences.



38 The Two Americas What divides us? RELIGION - According to Barone …the two Americas apparent in the 48 percent to 48 percent 2000 election are nations of different faiths. One is observant, tradition-minded, moralistic. The other is unobservant, liberation- minded, relativistic. GEOGRAPHY – As Barone points out, Democratic candidates do well in the Northeast, in Rust Belt states, and on the west coast, especially in densely populated urban areas where Clintons personal peccadilloes raised few hackles. Meanwhile, Republicans thrive in the rural and suburban South and Midwest.

39 A Comparison of Red State and Blue State Voters, 2004 RED STATE VOTERS BLUE STATE VOTERS DIFFERENCE RELIGION Protestant69%41%+28% Catholic16%35%-19% Jewish, other, none 15%24%-9% CHURCH ATTENDANCE Weekly or more 54%34%+20% Seldom, never 32%53%-21% GUN OWNING HOUSEHOLD 53%22%+29% PRO-CHOICE ON ABORTION 46%69%-23% OPPOSE GAY MARRIAGE OR CIVIL UNIONS 51%26%+25% APPROVE OF IRAQ WAR60%45%+15% VOTED FOR BUSH60%44%+16%

40 Purple America Today, Barone says we are a 51 percent nation, given Bushs 51-48 victory over John Kerry in 2004. But Red and Blue state designations can be misleading given the narrow margins by which some states are won. A better approach shows variations of degree. Should we use this map to criticize the Electoral Colleges winner-take- all approach?

41 Purple America In this 3D version of the purple America map, height represents voter density (e.g., voters per square mile). It was almost as if two different Americas were voting… Michael Barone, 2001

42 Purple America cartogram, 2004

43 Whats Next? External eventsExternal events Shifting demographicsShifting demographics Ideological positioningIdeological positioning Candidate charismaCandidate charisma How long can a near 50/50 split in the electorate last without a clear break in one direction or the other? Did we finally see that break in 2008?

44 Whats Next? Might external events alter the 50/50 equilibrium (e.g., aftermath of 9/11, the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina)?Might external events alter the 50/50 equilibrium (e.g., aftermath of 9/11, the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina)? Will a shifting population break the 50/50 impasse? It may depend on whether urban Democratic voters who move to pro-Bush states make those regions more liberal, or are instead assimilated into Red State culture.Will a shifting population break the 50/50 impasse? It may depend on whether urban Democratic voters who move to pro-Bush states make those regions more liberal, or are instead assimilated into Red State culture. Are we deeply divided into opposing camps, or rather evenly divided right down the middle? The answer to that question may hold the key…Are we deeply divided into opposing camps, or rather evenly divided right down the middle? The answer to that question may hold the key… How long can a near 50/50 split in the electorate last without a clear break in one direction or the other? Did we finally see that break in 2008?



47 Is breaking the 50/50 split really what we want? Is it what is best for the country? As columnists David Broder and Dan Balz note The partisan wars have severely limited Washingtons ability to accomplish big things.

48 Whose Emerging Majority? Judis and Teixeira believe that the Democratic Party will build a new majority coalition whose members are educated professionals, working women, minorities, and middle-class Americans who live in urban areasplaces they term ideopolises. In contrast, Casse insists that a Republican majority is emerging. He argues that the party has reinvented itself, moving away from traditional conservative themes such as limited government, reduced spending, and local empowerment, while embracing moral issues and an aggressive foreign policy. Would either of these trends constitute a realignment?

49 Potential Realignment: 2008? …[T]he view that 2008 marks a historic realignment is favor of the Democrats is misleadingor at least premature. Obamas victory offers no guarantee of a realignment. It is only an opportunity to bring one about. Paul Starr

50 2008 Election Results by State

51 Here's how America has changed in 4 years:

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