SINCE THE ESTABLISHMENT of the current two-party system in the United States, American electoral politics have been characterized by a persistent pattern of relatively long periods of great stability in electoral outcomes, lasting about forty years, interspersed with shorter periods of sharp and decisive change. Usually, but not invariably, this realignment makes what had been the minority political party the new majority party. America is now primed for its next political realignment or makeover.
Each of the five major political realignments in U.S. history has been triggered by a crucial event, such as the Civil War or the Great Depression that then became the subject of extensive examination. But the real driving forces behind this constant and predictable shift in the fortunes of America's political parties and in its political institutions and public policy are underlying changes in generational size and attitudes and contemporaneous advances in communication technologies. Technology serves to enable these changes by creating powerful ways to reach new voters with messages that relate directly to their concerns. But without new generations, with their new attitudes and beliefs and a passion for communicating in new ways, advancements in technology would have little impact on political outcomes.
Today, our political institutions face another test from these same twin forces of change. A new generation, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, is coming of age in unprecedented numbers. The Millennials bring with them a facility and comfort with cutting-edge communication and computing technologies that is creating the same kind of bewilderment and bemusement that parents of television-addicted Baby Boomers felt in the 1950s and 1960s. Every generation defines itself first by making it clear how and why it is unlike the generation that preceded it. Then, as it moves into positions of power and influence in society, the