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Chapter 7 POLITICAL PARTIES: Winning the Right to Govern American Political Development/Historical Focus: Critical Elections © 2011 Taylor & Francis
Critical Elections in American Politics Political scientists Walter Dean Burnham, V.O. Key, and David Brady have added to the literature exploring electoral realignment and the effect changes in party loyalty have on elections. These distinct changes in party loyalty among voters resulting in a lasting electoral realignment are termed critical elections. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
Critical Elections in American Politics Three periods of sharp electoral change in which a complete realignment occurs characterized by a unified and dominant political party controlling the Senate, House, and Presidency for at least a decade: The Civil War Realignment of 1860 The 1890s realignment The New Deal realignment. Each critical election is characterized by political parties offering clear and distinct policy platforms and is evaluated by the electorate based on these differences. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
Critical Elections in American Politics In Critical Elections and Congressional Policy Making, William Brady identifies five tenets of the aforementioned electoral realignments. Dominance of local issues is momentarily softened by "national cross- cutting issues" The "nationalization of issues during critical election periods creates majority parties that are relatively united on major policy issues." The government is controlled by a single party, for a relatively lengthy period of time, in order for policy changes to be implemented. A large number of freshmen congressmen are elected; in turn, the committee system is "inundated with new members replacing old ones" in leadership positions. Critical elections stipulate that the majority party actually acts upon national issues. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The Civil War Realignment The first period of critical elections, the Civil War Realignment, occurred between 1854 and 1860. 1848-1874: House elections highly sectional; dominating national issues of slavery, Western expansion, nationalistic economic growth, immigration, protective tariffs. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The Civil War Realignment Democrats: opposed protective tariffs, the expansion of homestead legislation; supported the Kansas- Nebraska Act of 1854. Whigs: soon to become the Republican Party, favored Western expansion, tariffs to protect American manufacturing, the admission of Kansas as a slave- free territory. 1856: Republican Party emerged as a national party opposing slavery and directly challenging Democratic platform calling for the non-interference by Congress with slavery in states, territories, and DC. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The Civil War Realignment As a result of the parties’ distinct stands on national issues, the Democratic Party began to lose House seats in the Northeast and Midwest. Brady cites an across the board change of -5.26 in the critical period away from the Democratic Party in the North suggesting that "national electoral factors were benefiting the Republican Party." In the Midwest, the votes for Democratic congressman were even lower. The Republicans gained 35 House seats and averaged 66% of the vote over Democratic candidates. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The Civil War Realignment Republicans became the majority party in 1856, attained unified control of the government in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln elected. Republicans controlled Congress and presidency from 1860 to 1874. New 2-party system emerged: Republicans united on issues of slavery, secession, civil rights, expansionist banking policies and tariffs. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The Civil War Realignment New majority party enacted significant policy changes: slavery was abolished; blacks were enfranchised and were elected to public offices in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states; Homestead Acts granted blacks the opportunity to settle in the Western territories. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 1896 Realignment Second critical election period, 1894-1896, pitted agrarian matters against industrial interests. Republican leadership supported pro-industrial legislation (increased railroad construction, high immigration quotas, protective tariffs, and the maintenance of the gold standard). Democrats eradicated the Gold-Democrats, led by President Cleveland, from the party and coalesced in supporting the exchange of silver for gold, tariffs favoring free trade to assist cotton producers, and an isolationist foreign policy advocated by the Populist candidate, William Jennings Bryan. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 1896 Realignment 1884-1894: excluding the heavily Democratic South, the regions of the United States were very competitive. In 1894, Republicans gained 6% of the vote in the Northeast, West, and North-Central States with the assistance of the Populist Party splitting the Democratic vote. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 1896 Realignment In the critical period of 1894-1896, Republicans gained votes in every region except the South. Republican acquisition of 5.5% of the swing vote compared to the Democratic loss of -7.6% in the East, Midwest, West, and North-Atlantic regions. The votes-to-seats ratio in the House indicates a 5% change in both the1894 and 1896 elections and an astonishing 80% committee membership turnover between 1892 and1896. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 1896 Realignment The 1890s realignment led to 34 years of Republican dominance in national affairs. As a result, pro-industrial policies were implemented: The Dingley Tariff of 1896, the gold standard, international military intervention resulting in The Spanish-American War, increased subsidies for railroads, and increased immigration quotas favored by the Republicans. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The New Deal Realignment The third era of realignment occurred due to the Great Depression. The critical election of 1932 provided the voters with a stark choice Democrats: nominated Franklin Roosevelt as their presidential candidate and called upon the federal government to take an active role in assisting the states with debt relief and social programs Republican incumbent: Herbert Hoover, who believed that any relief should come from state governments. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The New Deal Realignment Despite the fact that 72 House Democrats resigned or chose not to run for re-election between 1931 and 1933, the Democrats captured 8.95% of the swing vote in virtually all House districts and in traditional Republican regions such as the Northeast and Midwest. The Democratic gain was around 10% nationally as a result of the "solid South" increasing its Democratic support from 86.7% to 90%. During the New Deal realignment there was an unprecedented turnover of House committee members © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The New Deal Realignment Public overwhelmingly supported government intervention in the economy; number of people voting was twice as high in 1932 than in 1928. An across-the-board realignment enabled Democrats to control Congress and presidency for 14 years; New Deal coalition of Southerners, urban workers, minorities, the unemployed, northern industrialists, Farmers. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The New Deal Realignment New majority passed: agricultural assistance bills the McNary-Haugenism Act infrastructure projects (Tennessee Valley Authority, The Public Utilities Act) reciprocal trade agreements the Fair Labor Act the extension of unemployment benefits. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
De-alignment Politics and Divided Government 1968- present Since the Nixon years, there has been no pronounced dominance by either major party. Divided control over the Congress and the presidency has been the norm. Also, the rise of independents, decline of the Democrats, and only marginal increases in Republican identification have characterized these politics. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
De-alignment and Divided Government A vacillation between the two parties has characterized modern politics where the public mood causes shifts of control over policymaking on a regular basis. Recent events are intrinsic of this. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 2006 Mid-term Elections The results of the 2006 midterm election suggested the possibility of significant defections from the Republican Party. Only one Republican incumbent in the New England states, Chris Shays (Conn.), won reelection; 5 Republican incumbents were defeated in the Senate As a result, the Democrats regained control over both houses of Congress. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 2006 Mid-term Elections Public discontent with the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War led to anti-war Democrats gaining the support of weak-leaning Republicans and Independents. Some senior Republicans in Congress—Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Arlen Spector (Penn.) in the Senate and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Ron Paul (Tex.) in the House— have broken with the President over increased spending, further U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and a variety of scandals attributed to the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress. The Southwestern and upper Plains states became increasingly more Democratic © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 2006 Mid-term Elections Under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, and Harry Reid, an unpopular leader of the Senate, Democrats have yet to find a national leader or salient issue, other than the Iraq War, on which to attract swing voters to the Democratic Party. As of June 2007, the 2008 Presidential election was the first election since 1952 to have neither an incumbent President nor former Vice-President as a candidate. This scenario should provide political excitement, establish a new record for campaign spending and redefine the modern presidential campaign. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 2008 Election In the 2008 nomination process, then Senator Obama built up a popular delegate lead principally relying on a caucus over primary strategy, emphasizing his community organizational skills. This was a fundamental break with the past, in which candidate nominations have been increasingly decided by primary elections, not party organization driven caucuses. Obama’s employment of this is a further cooptation of candidate over party-centered politics, as now the main remaining instrument of party influence is in the hands of candidate organizations. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
The 2008 Election The implications: evidence of a further democratization of the electoral process but a means of greater top down control, this time from candidates themselves. Though Senator Clinton had higher popular vote totals than Senator Obama, she lost because of the indirect method of presidential nomination through delegates and the re-empowering of caucuses at the expense of primaries. © 2011 Taylor & Francis
2008 Outcome by Parties
2010 and Beyond The president’s approval has fallen with hesitation over his domestic and foreign policies. The Tea Party Movement re-energized Republican Party politics with its anti-tax, anti-government agenda. Disaffection with the Democrats looks to help the Republicans in the short term. But, the electorate is fickle and Republicans now control the House, while the Democrats retain the majority in the Senate (though with a smaller margin). © 2011 Taylor & Francis
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