swing voters. Now they are Republicans and are being replaced as the swing vote by political moderates. Candidates will still have to appeal to partisan ideologues to win nominations. But they will then have to appeal to the moderates, or lose general elections. Thus, the new, ideologically polarized party system will not, in the long term, tear at the fabric of American democracy. Although it is too soon to tell, realignment of the early twenty-first century may yet produce the first American responsible party system.
American political parties have persisted for so long precisely because they have so frequently been capable of change in a changing polity. Nationalized and ideologically polarized political parties are probably here for the foreseeable future, and there will be plenty of time for party and policy elites, and for voters, to practice working with them. Certainly nothing like parliamentary responsible parties and party government will emerge in the United States anytime soon, but the parties of the twenty-first century will not much resemble the American parties of the nineteenth century either. More than the declining political parties did, the new political parties are likely to resemble responsible parties. If so, they will represent an opportunity to achieve the sort of issue-oriented process of conflict and consensus-building that has previously been characteristic of American politics only periodically, during times of critical realignment.