The 104th Congress may therefore be the first of a new era (perhaps like the Republicans emerging and becoming the leading party in Congress in 1855 but failing to become the new majority party nationwide until 1960). Or it might turn out to be the last Congress fighting the politics of the sixth party system, with the shape of the seventh party system not well formulated for another several election cycles. Alternatively, current party institutions may prove to be incapable of establishing and maintaining a stable era that would constitute a new party system like those we have known in the past. Or minimally, it is possible that the United States is entering into a seventh party system unlike anything in our previous experience as a nation. The only certainty about the future when seen from the vantage point of an old and aging alignment is that the future is entirely uncertain-and that conflict in the emerging critical era remains, for the moment, a fiercely contested effort to define the politics of the next generation.