Since the periodicity of critical realignments has been remarkably precise, the theory presented in the previous chapters can be subjected to something of a test in relatively short order. The critical elections that have marked the realigning turning points have occurred exactly every thirty-six years since 1860: in 1896, 1932, and if the definition asserted in this book is correct, in 1968. If that remarkable consistency should continue, we can expect another realigning election in 2004.
Of course, history is not actually as neat as the categories historians and social analysts create to understand it. Realignments reach critical proportions over relatively brief periods of time, spanning two or three elections, like 1896-1900, 1928-1936, or 1964-1972. The elections between these periods do not offer stasis, either. Rather, they exhibit relative electoral stability marked by secular realignment. If the periodic nature of the process holds, we are on the eve of yet another critical realignment.
This epilogue discusses the coming election of 2000 as a laboratory for the theory of realignment and party change presented in this book.