Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s

By Everett Carll Ladd; Charles D. Hadley | Go to book overview

Introduction

Views from the Tripod

In ancient Greece, when the priestess of Apollo at Delphi made ready to deliver an oracle, she positioned herself upon a special seat supported by three legs, the tripod. Prophecy was important to the Greeks, and so it has been, in varying forms, to all peoples. We do indeed strain to see the future, knowing that one day it will be our present.

In the United States today, a society far more secular than ancient Delphi, the prophecy most attended to concerns the political future, and falls in the province of news commentators and social scientists. Especially because society and polity are now beset by such sweeping change and extreme turbulence, the question of where the system is heading has become notably compelling. And because political parties do not merely reflect the structure of societal conflict but are primary instruments for translating conflict into political responses, they are appropriately a principal focus for political prophecy.

Out of the massive amount of recent commentary on American political parties—changing electoral configurations, partisan realignment, new patterns of conflict between party elites and ranks and file, and the like—a small group of reasonably distinct projections as to the emergent

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