Realignment and the Study of American Elections
The previous chapters have provided evidence that American political parties are not in decline, and that realignment remains a useful concept in electoral analysis. Certainly American political parties as they were structured in the nineteenth century and persisted into the twentieth have decayed as institutions. But the revival of political parties seems to be a reality at the turn of the twenty-first.
The realignment of the 1964-1972 period was defined as dealignment by most political scientists, because most of its evidence portrayed the decay of a party system more than a century old. Fewer voters were identifying with either major party, more voters were splitting their tickets, and divided government was becoming a more frequent result of American elections. But the realignment of that time was, nevertheless, the most profound realignment in American history. The south, once the solid base of the Democratic coalition, shifted dramatically toward the Republicans, suddenly in Presidential elections and more slowly in Congressional elections. The decay of the political parties of