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

By Arthur Paulson | Go to book overview

4
Ideological Polarization and Party Change: Realignment of the Factional Systems, 1964-1972

The umbrellas of both major parties have historically covered the ideological spectrum, providing shelter for both the multifactional system of the Democratic Party and the two-faction system of the Republican Party. The result, until the 1960s, was two parties that were ideologically almost indistinguishable. The Democrats, with a working-class appeal, were somewhat more progressive on economic issues; but given the electoral strength and veto power of the Solid South, the Democrats were also somewhat more conservative on cultural issues, particularly race. The post-Reconstruction system of white supremacy in the south was authored by southern Democrats, but it was maintained by Democrats everywhere in the interest of preserving their tenuous national coalition. The Republicans, on the other hand, had a greater upper-class and middle-class bias, and were more conservative on economic issues. At the same time, as the party of Lincoln without the presence of an autonomous southern faction, the Republicans were generally more liberal on cultural issues, particularly race, again until the 1960s.

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