Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States

By James L. Sundquist | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Aftershocks of the New Deal Earthquake--in the North

MOST OF WHAT HAS APPEARED as party realignment in the decades since the 1930s--including much of what is happening at the present time-- has to be understood as simply a later phase of the realignment of the 1930s, a phase during which the new alignment settled into place. Various barriers prevented the electorate from conforming all at once, in every state and locality, to the new rationale of the party system that was established in the 1930s. As the barriers were removed, local realignments occurred. These appeared sometimes almost as independent changes in the party system, but since the essential result of each change was to bring a state or locality into conformity with the alignment established in the country as a whole in the 1930s, each must be considered an integral part--no less so merely because it was delayed--of that realignment episode. The deferred realignments are like aftershocks of the earthquake that changed the shape of the party system in the New Deal era.

The aftershocks occurred earlier in the North, later in the South, but they had the same character and origin in the two regions. In the North, delayed realignment brought resistant areas of one-party Republican domination into consistency with the two-party alignment. In the South, the process correspondingly converted one-party Democratic areas into areas of two-party competition. As the North became more Democratic, the South more Republican, the trends appear as mirror images. The process in the North is near completion, but it may require several more decades to run its course in the South. What has happened in the North therefore provides one important set of guides for predicting the future of southern politics.

In the northern states where realignment was delayed, a typical two- stage pattern can be described. The first stage was, of course, the New Deal period, when a strong tidal movement to the Democrats was expressed at all levels of voting but most heavily for Roosevelt at the top

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