Realignment and Party Revival: Understanding American Electoral Politics at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century

By Arthur Paulson | Go to book overview

Introduction:
Realignment and the Revival of Political Parties

Observers of electoral change in American politics over the last half of the twentieth century have noted persuasive evidence of dealignment and party decay. As if "waiting for Godot," political scientists and journalists who have taken up the language have been frustrated in the search for the sort of partisan realignment that has periodically restructured the electoral environment and the party system. 1 Not so long ago, the concept of realignment, introduced in the classic work of V. O. Key, was central to studies of American elections. Now, it is almost as paradigmatic for scholars, impatient for evidence of a new realignment, to conclude that dealignment and party decay have rendered the concept useless.

This book enters into a two-pronged debate, first on the usefulness of the concept of realignment in understanding electoral change, and second, on the prospects for party decay versus party renewal in American politics. My central thesis is that the dealignment of recent decades should not be equated with the decline of political parties, per se. Rather, dealignment should be understood as realignment by other means, and

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