Party realignment and dealignment

Not all elections carry the same level of interest and importance in the analysis of voting behavior. The most significant ones are referred to as 'realigning elections.' Political realignment takes place when a specific group of voters shifts allegiance to a new political party or candidate, resulting in enduring effects and establishing a voting behavior trend for a considerable period afterward. These events are also known as 'critical elections.' 

The two primary realignments in US politics since 1945 are : 

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.

Increasing Polarity & Core Supporters

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.

Core Supporters

Why did Trump Win 2016?

Both major political parties heavily depend on their core voter groups. While shifts in voting behavior may occur during realigning elections, these core voters remain the foundation of each party's backing. The crucial electoral strategy is to retain their support without becoming overly influenced by them, as a party in the United States that appeals solely to a small portion of the electorate cannot aspire to win nationwide elections. Consequently, the parties strive to unite various diverse yet complementary groups, while also attracting the more moderate and independently thinking voters essential for success. This requires a delicate balancing act in politics. Embracing more extreme policies favored by core supporters poses a risk of alienating mainstream voters. However, parties cannot disregard their fundamental support base, as this could lead to demotivation in campaigning, contributions, and overall active backing of the campaign. The primary concern with the core supporters is not so much them defecting to the opposing side, but rather 'defecting to abstention' (choosing not to participate and vote).

Example: White evangelical Christians tend to be Republican but Public sector labour unions tend to be Democrats

The MAGA Base & Trump's takeover of the Republican Party

The MAGA movement, also known as Make America Great Again, believes that the United States was once a great nation but has lost its status due to foreign influence. This influence comes from immigration, multiculturalism within the country, and globalization, which is the increased integration of national economies. MAGA supporters aim to restore the country's greatness through policies that prioritize the interests of America. These policies involve implementing economic protectionism, reducing immigration, especially from developing nations, and promoting what they see as traditional American values.

Trump gained strong support from conservative white working-class voters. They were drawn to Trump's background as a businessman, believing it indicated his understanding of economics. His lack of prior government experience also appealed to them, as it suggested he was free from the corruption associated with Washington, D.C. Additionally, they embraced his populist message, which accused Democratic "elites" of controlling the federal government. Despite Trump's billionaire status, his wealth reinforced his credibility in the eyes of these supporters. They admired his confrontational personal style, characterized by aggressive behavior and name-calling, which endeared him to them as a relatable figure rather than a typical politician.

“It’s the Trump mystique,” he said. “It’s his grip on everything.” 

Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist, characterized  Trump's control of the Republican Party

The Panel Study of the MAGA Movement (PSMM)  

The demographic composition of the MAGA movement is overwhelmingly white, male, Christian, retired, and over 65 years of age. They’re attracted to the following groups, ones that include gun rights, charities, pro police, anti-lockdown, pro-life, and “stop the steal.” They’re extremely politically active, all in support of the Republican Party. However, only roughly 60 percent are solid Republicans, the rest either “lean” Republican or Independent. The MAGA movement overwhelmingly believes Trump’s election fraud claims, would have supported him for a “third term”(had it been an option), and don’t believe that voting should be made easier. They’re also of the opinion, to a large degree, that Covid-related restrictions should be eased, that Americans are overreacting to the pandemic, and that Trump told the truth about the threat to American public health posed by the pandemic. Further, responses to our survey suggests that MAGA is populated with a good number of racist, sexists, and nativists. Finally, on the Capitol Riots, the vast majority of MAGA supporters blame Antifa for the riots, not Trump (he bears almost no responsibility, according to them) 

“Insurgency” chronicles the astonishingly swift transformation of the Republican Party, from the genteel preserve of pro-business elites to a snarling personality cult that views the Jan. 6 insurrection as an exercise in legitimate political discourse. Peters, a political reporter for The New York Times, depicts mainstream Republicans’ surrender to Trumpism as a form of political self-flagellation. From 1969 to 2008, Republicans occupied the White House for all but 12 years. And yet “one of the more peculiar features of American conservatism is that despite decades of Republican rule, many true believers grew embittered and resentful of their party. They thought it was run by weak-willed leaders who compromised and sold out once they got in power.” 


How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted

By Jeremy W. Peters 


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


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, and 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 seem 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

Trump easily defeated rivals for the nomination as the Republican candidate in the presidential election of 2024- firmly indicating that he still controls the Republican party.

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. 

Divisions within the Democrats

 · 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 opposed 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