Party realignment and dealignment

New Deal Coalition

The Solid South refers to the dominant support enjoyed by the Democratic Party in the southern states white supporters in the southern states who largely rejected the Republican Party due to its role in the civil war and support for the abolition of slavery. It also included recent immigrants, such as those from the Irish and Italian communities, who were mainly based in northern cities.

However, following the establishment of the New Deal by President F. D. Roosevelt ( left) in the 1930s, the Democratic Party widened its support base to include a number of new groups. These included blue-collar workers, who benefited massively from the range of government-funded programmes established under the New Deal and the protections it introduced for trade unions; and various minority groups, especially the poorer racial and ethnic minorities, who benefited from the increasing benefits and jobs created by the programme.

Breaking the Solid South

The 1960s saw a realignment of the party positions following the Democratic support for the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and the exploitation of this by the Republicans. The Democrats in the South, previously regarded as pro-segregationists, saw their dominance eroded by the Republican 'Southern Strategy' adopted by Richard Nixon, which actively targeted the conservative states in the South.

Recent ideological partisanship

Increasingly the parties have become more polarised. The Democrat become the party of the liberal left, while the Republicans have become more clearly that of the conservative right.

A number of commentators point towards the highly partisan nature of US politics today, with many blaming this on the loss of a spirit of compromise which had previously been seen in Washington. Indeed the heated negotiations between the Republicans and Democrats over the 2013 fiscal cliff, which would have seen budget sequestration and wide ranging tax increases, shows this lack of conciliation. Many people point towards the fact that moderate views within the Republican Party have been sidelined, as shown by the fact that Mitt Romney had to move increasingly to the right to secure the party's nomination in 2012, particularly distancing himself from the 'Romneycare' system he introduced while he was governor of Massachusetts. Similarly, the loss of many conservatives from the Democratic Party, whose numbers fell to just 14 members following the 2012 election, shows how the party has become increasingly dominated by those on the left. Indeed one CNN contributor, John Avalon, claimed in 2012 that US politics was 'more polarised than at any point in recent history' with many now claiming that the USA is a politically divided society, in which the Republicans have become a largely right-wing conservative party in stark contrast to the more left-wing liberal Democratic Party.

A widening gulf between “red states” and “blue states.” may be the result of factors such as the increased influence of religion and the changing nature of the media. The authors show that while the severity of the country’s “culture wars” is often overstated, significant fissures have opened. This book was written before the election of Trump.

Red Nation Blue Nation.

Partisanship in Congress

Partisan Dealignment

Red nation was characterised as white, overwhelmingly Protestant (and specifically, evangelical) but often joined by Catholics (because of the abortion issue). wealthy, rural or suburban, and unmistakably conservative. In Red America, voters are suspicious of big government and and tries to interfere with things which would be better left to private businesses and individuals. Red voters tend to think that federal income tax should be cut, and think many federal services create a lazy and dependent population. Red America is pro-life, pro-guns and pro-traditional marriage, and is opposed to Obamacare. Red America gets its news from the Fox News channel and listens to conservative talk radio featuring such hosts as Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. Red America loved George W. Bush but loathed the Clintons and Barack Obama.

Blue Nation , is more diverse :a rainbow coalition of white, black, Asian and Hispanic Americans. Less religious than Blue America. Blue America contains more urban liberals' and professionals- particularly in the arts. In Blue America, the majority of voters have an optimistic view of what government can achieve to solve problems, and they tend to think that federal income tax should be increased on the more wealthy in order to protect federally funded services. Blue America is pro-choice, favours gun control legislation, is pro same-sex marriage and is supportive of Obamacare. Blue America gets its news from CNN and watches Saturday Night Live on NBC. Blue America loved Barack Obama, loathed George W. Bush and hates Donald Trump.

A survey of some of the issues which have divided the Parties sine 2008

  • health care reform – Republicans in Congress were united in their opposition to the passage of ‘Obamacare’ and the Republican-controlled House of the 112th Congress passed legislation 33 times attempting to repeal it. Trump promised to repeal it but largely failed.

  • level of federal spending and taxation – Republicans opposed the stimulus package passed in 2009 and there have been a series of confrontations subsequently over e.g. the raising of the debt ceiling, the extension of the payroll tax ‘holiday’ and the extension of the Bush tax cuts The fiscal cliff. In December 2020 weeks of deadlock delayed the second Covid relief bill with Republicans objecting to the high levels of spending proposed by the Democrats.

  • the Dodd-Frank bill (Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010) reforming the finance industry following the bank crisis of 2008 – Mitt Romney and Trump pledged to repeal it In the end Congress modified some parts of the Act without repealing it as Trump had promised.

  • START ( A treaty with Russia to reduce stock piles of atomic weapons) ratification – a majority of Senate Republicans voted against START ratification in December 2010

  • Iran Deal: In 2015, Iran agreed a long-term deal on its nuclear programme with a group of world powers known as the P5+1 - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. However, in May 2018, US President Donald Trump abandoned the landmark deal and in November that year, he reinstated sanctions targeting both Iran and states that trade with it.

  • gay rights – Republicans were opposed to the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in December 2010 and the intention of the administration announced in February 2011 to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act- Republicans opposed the Obergefell v Hodges decision to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act in North Carolina

  • national security The proposed closure of Guantanamo Bay – Republicans were critical of the administration’s plan to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court, abandoned in 2011. and of the alleged lapses in security which led to the murder of the US ambassador in Benghazi in 2012

  • nominations – the President’s nominations to the Supreme Court and his administration were routinely opposed by Republicans- repeated use of the filibuster led Harry Reid to adopt the 'Nuclear Option'

  • immigration reform – the DREAM Act was nearly unanimously opposed by Republicans in the Senate in 2010 . Obama's 2014 DOPA and DAPA Executive Orders

  • ‘Fast and Furious’ – the Republican controlled House conducted a lengthy and highly critical investigation into a mishandled government anti arms smuggling operation

  • union rights – Democrats have been critical of the attempts by a number of Republican governors, e.g. Governor Walker of Wisconsin, to remove union rights from state employees in the first few months of 2011

  • 2016 Republican controlled Senate refused to conduct hearings on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court. In 2020 they backed Trumps nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

Evidence that the Republicans are more Conservative

Since the Republican resurgence in the 1994 midterm elections, in which the Republicans promoted their Contract with America, the Republican Party has moved more sharply to the right. Although some historians point to Barry Goldwater's presidential bid or the election of Ronald Reagan as the beginning of the move to the right. The Contract with America was a manifesto of conservatism and committed party members to vote on a series of issues, such as cutting taxes and balancing the budget. This was further entrenched by the activities of Newt Gingrich, then House Speaker, to enforce a greater degree of party discipline in Congress through the actions of party whip Tom 'The Hammer' DeLay; and with the implementation of the K Street Project, which attempted to increase the number of conservative PACs and lobbyists in Washington.

· Despite claims that he was a 'compassionate conservative', during the era of George W. Bush's social conservatism, he restricted access to federally funded abortion services and blocked attempts to introduce stem cell research in the USA.

· There has been opposition to Obama's key policies. For example, almost every single House Republican voted against both the 2009 economic stimulus package and the 2010 Healthcare Act.

· Recent partisan voting in the Republican-dominated House has seen both the passage of the fiscally conservative Paul Ryan Budget, which was supported by all but ten Republicans, and measures to ban abortions after 22 weeks, which gained the support of all but six Republicans.

· There were further primary challenges to moderate Republicans in 2012, such as the Tea Party backed candidates Richard Mourdock, who unseated six-term Republican Senator Dick Lugar in Indiana, and Ted Cruz, who defeated the more moderate David Dewhurst in the Texas Senate primary.

· Hyperpartisanship ( The idea that the two main US political parties are deeply polarised and in continual conflict. It is seen in the intense disagreements between both Democrats and Republicans, and the adversarial and combative language they use in the media.)has been seen in the decision of moderate Republican Olympia Snowe not to stand for re-election in 2012. She claimed her decision was driven by the 'atmosphere of polarisation' which now pervades Congress.

· In 2010 the Republican National Committee ran for office on a conservative 'Pledge to America'. It also required GOP candidates to support a 'purity' resolution, which required them to adhere to a conservative ideological platform, in order to secure party funding.

· In the 113th Congress 93% of House Republicans have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, laid down by the fiscally conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, which binds them 'to oppose any and all tax increases'.

· since the 1980s, the Republicans have united around the Reagan agenda of limited government (tax cuts, reduced government spending, deregulation) social conservatism and assertive foreign policy, to the extent that liberal Republicans have been banished from the party

· However some of the social conservative agenda has been partly abandoned - hostility to abortion rights remains party policy but, as public acceptance of same sex marriage has grown, national Republicans have moderated their opposition, so that none of the 2016 presidential candidates are promising a constitutional amendment banning it

· the Tea Party-influenced populist wing of the party is at odds with the business/Wall St establishment over several issues, including immigration reform, Common Core, both of which business favours and Tea Party politicians reject; Tea Party politicians promoted the government shutdown in 2013 which business was opposed to

· Tea Party-backed candidates, backed by groups such as the Club for Growth, have challenged incumbent ‘RINO’s Republican in name only_seen to be insufficiently conservative and too much part of the Washington establishment, defeating e.g. Sen Richard Lugar in Indiana in 2012 and House majority leader Eric Cantor in Virginia in 2014.

The impeachment of Trump became a partisan issue as Republicans refused to hear witnesses and unanimously backed the president.

In December 2020 the Covid Relief bill was held up in Congress as Republicans objected to its high level of spending

Rand Paul make the Conservative case for low tax and limited government.

Evidence that the Democrats are more liberal

In 2006 the Democrats wrested control of the House and Senate from the Republicans with a clearly liberal 100 Hour Plan (The commitment by Democrats to use the first 100 hours of legislative time in Congress to pass a number of liberal measures. These included the establishment of affordable healthcare and the raising of the minimum wage.)

The Democrats have supported a range of bailout, fiscal stimulus, and job creation measures, including: the 2009 economic stimulus plan, which gained the support of all but 11 House Democrats; the $85 billion taxpayer bailout for car manufacturers and Obama's 2011 job creation plan, which would have spent $447 billion on stimulating employment in the USA The 2020 Covid stimulus bills.

Democrats have consistently called for increased taxes on the most wealthy in order to pay off the national debt. This has been seen by Obama's continual calls for tax rises on individuals earning over $200,000 and his 2014 Budget proposals, which called for Congress to enact legislation in which the rich would pay no less than 30% of their income in taxes.

· In contrast to the Republicans only one representative is a signatory to Grover Norquist's Tax Payer Protection Pledge in the 113th Congress.

· In December 2010 the Democrat-controlled Congress repealed the controversial 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy, which prohibited openly gay persons from serving in the military. In the vote every single Democrat senator voted for the repeal.

· Following recent massacres in Aurora and Newtown the Democratic Party has led the way in trying to introduce gun control measures. This has seen the passage of strict laws through the Democratic-controlled state legislature of Colorado which limit the availability of certain ammunition magazines and require strict background checks on those purchasing fire arms in the state.

The decline of Dixiecrats and the Blue Dog Coalition have produced a more liberal Democrat party in Congress. Blue Dog Democrats have faced challenges from more liberal opponents in recent primary elections, such as the defeat of Pennsylvanian Representatives Jason Altmire and Tim Holden who were criticised by liberal activists for their opposition to the new healthcare law and climate change legislation.

However, Democrats remain less united than Republicans

· President Obama alienated liberals by initiating a ‘surge’ in Afghanistan and air strikes on Libya and ISIS in Syria, by approving the extension of the Bush tax cuts and by conducting the mass surveillance programs of the NSA revealed by Edward Snowden

2016 Bernie Sanders opposes Trans Pacific Partnership- and forces Hilary to change her mind

· the role of the ‘Blue Dogs’ and moderate senators in removing a ‘public option’ from health care reform to the dismay of liberals; the role of pro-life Democrats in promoting the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, pitting them against pro-choice groups such as NARAL