Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

The 2000 Election in Realignment Perspective


									The 2000 Election in Realignment Perspective Arthur Paulson Southern Connecticut State University

The legal and political controversies surrounding the 2000 Presidential election obscured the analysis of electoral stability and change in that election. Certainly, the outcome of the Presidential election would seem to indicate more stability than change. First, although the result was less than convincing, the Republican was elected President, which has been the case more often than not since the 1960’s. Second, in 2000, like the previous four Presidential elections, the Republican ran strongest in the south and interior west, while the Democrat ran strongest in the northeast quadrant and on the west coast. What was relatively unusual in 2000, in the context of the electoral order since 1968, was the fact that the election resulted, however narrowly, in unified government, with the Republicans winning both houses of the Congress in addition to the Presidency. This unified outcome may be a hint of a developing realignment in American politics. This paper analyzes the 2000 election in realignment perspective. I have previously argued that there is strong evidence of realignment and party revival in American politics at the turn of the twenty-first century.1 Dealignment theorists missed what was the most profound electoral realignment in American history between 1964 and 1972, because they saw that realignment as fundamentally ideological and insufficiently partisan or persistent. They argue that the electoral change of that time resulted in the end of the New Deal era and was followed by three decades in which the rule was divided government. Divided government, however, should not be understood as electoral chaos. Rather, it has been a persistent electoral order in which the swing vote

2 has been composed mostly of conservative Democrats, disproportionately southern, who voted Republican for President and Democratic for Congress. The three decades after 1964 also involved a long secular realignment in which those conservative Democrats have shifted to the Republicans in Congressional elections as well. The result is a new ideologically polarized party system in which there will be more party line voting and unified government in the early twenty-first century than there was in the late twentieth.

Realignment and Dealignment in American Politics Introduced in the classic work of V.O. Key, the concept of realignment brings historical perspective to electoral analysis, locating patterns of stability and change and distinguishing long-term from short-term trends.2 A rich body of literature has developed around the concept, generated especially by the early work of Walter Dean Burnham, James L. Sundquist, Everett Carll Ladd, Gerald Pomper, and Clubb, Flanigan and Zingale.3 The literature presents a broad consensus about the characteristics of realignment. First, critical realignment involves significant and relatively persistent shifts in the makeup of the coalitions supporting the two major parties. Whereas secular realignment evolves incrementally over extended periods of time, critical realignment appears suddenly, over no more than two or three Presidential elections.4 Second, critical realignment is usually accompanied by relatively high issue salience among voters and ideological polarization within and between the parties. Realignment often seems to begin as an internal factional struggle is resolved within one or both major parties. Third, the shift of “decisively large minorities” of voters from one party coalition toward the other results in new majorities in Presidential and Congressional elections,

3 spreading among national, state, and local levels.5 Fourth, this new “normal” majority enables party leaders to establish a relatively stable governing coalition. This new governing coalition, in turn, shapes an agenda that sets new directions in public policy and redefines the salient issues of American politics for an extended period of time. Finally, critical realignment occurs with remarkable periodicity. A broad consensus in the literature places precious realignments in the 1830s, the 1860s, the 1890s, and the 1930s. The periodicity of realignments may reflect waves of economic modernization and political development, with new issues and interests accompanying the decline of old partisan alignments and the rise of new ones.6 Emerging electoral coalitions reflect varying combinations of vote switching, voter mobilization, and generational change.7 Dealignment and Party Decay. For elections over the last half century, the realignment model has been at least as confusing as it has been enlightening. Realignment was widely anticipated in the 1960s, and there is strong evidence of significant electoral change at that time. Three decades had passed since the New Deal realignment. Increased issue voting in the electorate and ideological polarization within and between the major political parties seemed to indicate an approaching realignment.8 But observers who were waiting for a critical realignment were apparently disappointed. For most analysts, electoral change in the 1960s and early 1970s, though important, was insufficiently partisan and perhaps even insufficiently persistent to qualify as realignment.9 A near consensus has emerged in electoral analysis around the theory of dealignment. Dealignment theorists acknowledge evidence of the passing of the New

4 Deal party system in the 1960s and 1970s, but they point out that there was no new normal partisan majority, no new stable governing coalition, and no emergence of a new policy agenda. Although the Republicans won the Presidency in five out of six elections starting in 1968, that did not constitute realignment, according to dealignment theorists. First, instead of control of all branches of government by a single party, a “two-tier” party system had emerged,10 marked by increased split-ticket voting,11 divided government, increasingly autonomous trends in elections for national and state office, and candidatecentered elections with a structural electoral bias in favor of incumbents of both parties, particularly in the United States House of Representatives.12 The notion of a Republican realignment was further shaken when Democrat Bill Clinton was elected President twice. Second, instead of the increased voter turnout found in past realignments, there has been a sizeable and consistent decline in voter turnout since 1960, a mark of the declining capacity of political parties to mobilize the general electorate.13 To the degree that the function of political mobilization is being performed in the American system, it is increasingly done by interest groups more than by political parties. Interest groups have been for some time playing an increasingly important role in nominations, elections, and policy formulation, to the detriment of the role of parties. Issue activists have come to manipulate nominations in both parties, using parties to articulate interests. The result is a decreased capacity of party leaders to aggregate interests, either for making broad appeals to the electorate, or for the purpose of governing.14 Finally, over the last half century or so, there has been decreasing evidence that political parties or governing coalitions are “solidly anchored in the electorate” as

5 Burnham would expect in a realigning period.15 The series of Republican Presidential victories did not translate into majorities of American voters identifying themselves as Republicans. Indeed, Americans are increasingly disassociated from political parties and likely to identify themselves as independents.16 What emerges from the dealignment thesis is a picture of electoral disaggregation and party decay. In his classic work on critical elections three decades ago, Burnham posed the question of whether realignment is even possible under such conditions:17 Since at least the mid-1960’s, increasing evidence has been accumulating that a nationwide critical realignment may be in the making. Yet electoral disaggregation has very obviously undergone immense, almost geometric expansion in the same period. Since the two processes are inversely related to each other – electoral disaggregation carried beyond a certain point would, after all, make critical realignment in the classic sense impossible – an analytical dilemma arises when one considers the two sets of phenomena together. Burnham’s dilemma is logically central to the analysis of realignment and dealignment. Dealignment theorists argue that realignment is, indeed, impossible; that, as Burnham stipulated, realignment requires strong parties, and party decay by definition means dealignment of the electorate. Drawing on Burnham’s work, Joel Silbey traces dealignment and party decay back to 1893 and considers the last half century as a period of “postalignment.” Burnham’s dilemma informs Silbey’s logic: “The cyclical pattern of realignment does not extend to non-party, anti-party or post-party periods.” Silbey thus concludes that “realignments are not the normal dynamic of the American political order.”18 Reconsidering Realignment and the Party System. If the relationship between realignment and electoral disaggregation is as inverse as Burnham has said it is, and if political parties are in decay as the consensus in the literature suggests, the concept of

6 realignment would, indeed, seem to be moribund. Certainly, under conditions of party decay, realignment “in the classic sense” would appear unlikely. But, ironically, to expect realignment to occur necessarily “in the classic sense” renders ahistorical a concept which was developed precisely for the purpose of lending historical perspective to electoral analysis. Given the structural change reported by advocates of the dealignment thesis, however, realignment should be expected to appear in altered form. Burnham, for example, observes a new realignment in the 1990s.19 I do not take issue with empirical observations of dealignment in the electorate; these trends have been demonstrated conclusively. However, realignment and party decay should not be considered, by definition, mutually exclusive. Nor should dealignment and party decay be considered to be irreversible, linear processes. Viewed instead as part of a dialectical process, the dealignment of the last half of the twentieth century may yet serve as the stimulus to realignment and the renewal of political parties in the twenty-first. However altered the form of its appearance, realignment remains a useful analytical tool. Regardless of terminology, very significant electoral change in the 1960s and another wave of change that seems to be developing at the turn of the century would indicate that periodic sea change in aggregate voting behavior remains characteristic of the American political system.

Realignment and the Current Electoral Order The following analysis is built around five propositions offering a realignment perspective on the American electoral environment at the turn of the twenty-first century. 1. The most compelling electoral realignment in American history occurred in Presidential elections between 1964 and 1972.20 A dramatic illustration of

7 realignment in Presidential elections is provided by comparing the electoral map of the 2000 election, which was almost a “perfect tie,” with the 1916 election, which was almost as close.21 See Figure 1. Indeed, both elections were so close that many Americans went to bed on election night with the wrong impression as to who had won. In 2000, Republican George W. Bush was narrowly elected, carrying all of the south and most of the west. Vice President Albert Gore, his Democratic opponent, carried most of the northeast quadrant. By comparison, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson, the incumbent Democrat, was narrowly re-elected, carrying all of the solid south and most of the west. Republican Charles Evans Hughes carried most of the northeast quadrant. The two elections present a remarkable mirror image of each other. If the comparison of the electoral maps of 1916 and 2000 amounted to a unique mirror image coincidence, it would be a curiosity of only passing interest. But the reversal across a century represents a persistent pattern of state electoral behavior. There has been a consistent political geography throughout the history of American Presidential elections, with states aligning according to ideology and political culture, reflecting an enduring clash between “traditional” and “modern” values in American politics.22 Race, from slavery to civil rights, has been the most persistently at the core of this divide, but the debate has extended across a wide range of issues, including the ratification of the Constitution, state vs. national authority, isolationism (or nationalism) vs. internationalism in foreign affairs, and abortion. When state level data is examined, the realignment of the 1964-1972 period appears to be a partisan inversion of all previous alignments. The south, historically solid for the Democrats since the end Reconstruction, shifted toward the Republicans in Presidential elections, and is now almost as solidly

8 Republican. The northeast, once the most Republican section of the country, is now the most Democratic. The west, essential to Democratic Presidential victories through 1948, is now just as essential to Republican victories. This electoral change resulted, at the very least, in the decline of the New Deal party system and, as one author put it, “the collapse of the Democratic Presidential majority.”23 Table 1 presents correlations that make numerical what is visual on the electoral maps of 1916 and 2000. Going back to the realigning election of 1896, Table 1 correlates the Republican vote by state in every Presidential election with 1916, 1964 (the nomination of Barry Goldwater for the Presidency) and 2000. The Democratic vote by state in every Presidential election is correlated with 1916, 1972 (the nomination of George McGovern for the Presidency) and 2000. Through 1944, the last Presidential election won by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the state level electoral coalitions in each party uniformly correlate positively and strongly with each other across elections. The correlations become low and uneven between 1948, the year of the Dixiecrat revolt, and 1960. The mirror image on the map is quantified by the fact that most elections through 1944 correlate negatively with most elections starting in 1964. Table 2 compares the coalitions of states in Presidential elections between the 1896-1944 period and the period since 1964. Table 2 reveals a significant degree of cross-cutting realignment, between the two periods, verifying the changes in the map. The Republicans gain in the south and interior west, while the Democrats gain in the northeast quadrant. 2. The realignment of the 1960s occurred because of the resolution of factional struggles within both major parties in favor of the more ideological factions.24 That is, the partisan inversion of state coalitions in Presidential elections is a reflection of

9 the ideological inversion of the major political parties in the last half of the twentieth century. Indeed, electoral realignment has always been associated with the birth of a new political party (the Democrats in the 1830s and the Republicans in the 1850s) or a decisive shift in factional power within a major party (the Democratic nominations of William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and Alfred E. Smith in 1928). Between 1964 and 1972, for the first time in a century, there were decisive factional shifts within both major parties at the same time. The major American political parties are better understood as factional systems, rather than as rational-acting organizations. The Republican Party has historically been a bifactional system, divided between its relatively moderate-to-liberal Wall Street faction, and the more conservative Main Street faction.25 The more complex Democratic Party has been a multifactional system: The party regulars, including labor and the big city organizations with their urban working class base; the more middle class reformers; and the more conservative faction, based historically in the south. The first two factions are relatively liberal, and there was little to choose between them until they took over the Democratic Party during the New Deal. Since then, party regulars usually have prioritized economic interests, while the reformers have emphasized the causes of emerging social movements. Each of these two factions have often offered the open door through which relatively disenfranchised groups have been mobilized into the electorate, such as with the “rainbow coalition” popularized by Jesse Jackson. The south was once, of course, the factional home of white supremacy in American electoral politics. Today’s southern Democrats are centrists, often found in the Democratic Leadership Council, which was the factional home of Bill Clinton.

10 Prior to the middle of the twentieth century, the American party system featured two major umbrella parties, which were not very distinct ideologically. The Republican Party, generally more conservative on economic issues, was also the party of “modern” values, and more liberal on racial issues. The Democratic Party, generally more progressive on economic issues, was also the party of “traditional” values, and more conservative on racial issues.26 Since the 1964-1972 realignment, the Republican Party has become the conservative party; the Democratic Party has become the liberal party. Since ideological interests and activists gained influence over Presidential nominations between 1964 and 1972, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have consolidated power within their parties. The major parties at the national level came to reverse ideological roles: The Democrats became the party of modern values and cultural tolerance, the Republicans the party of traditional (or “family”) values. Ideological realignment within and between the major parties, reaching critical proportions in the 1964-1972 period, had an immediate impact on the Presidential electoral coalitions of the major parties and has certainly structured electoral realignment since that time. Using state Presidential election data, Table 3 illustrates the relationship between ideological alignment of the 1964-1972 period and partisan realignment between the Presidential elections of 1916 and 2000. States which voted more Democratic than the country in all three Presidential elections between 1964 and 1972 are sorted as “liberal;” states voting less Democratic than the country in all three elections, more Republican than the country in 1964 and 1972, and casting a larger combined vote than the country for Nixon and Wallace in 1968 are sorted as “conservative.” All other states are sorted as “moderate.” Predominantly, “liberal” states voted Republican in 1916, and

11 Democratic in 2000, while “conservative” states voted Democratic in 1916 and Republican in 2000. Only six states voted for the same party in both Presidential elections, four of them in the center of the ideological alignment of 1964-1972. This ideological dimension is central to the partisan realignment in Presidential elections between the 1896-1944 period and the 1964-2000 period, illustrated on Tables 1 and 2. Ideological polarization between the parties has led ironically and more gradually to ideological homogenization within the parties since the 1960s, extending and nationalizing the realignment of that period. Tables 4 and 5 summarize factional divisions in contests for Presidential nominations, using the ideological alignment of states introduced above and presented on Table 3. For the Republicans, the factional realignment was relatively sudden, with the nomination of Barry Goldwater for the Presidency in 1964. Prior to that year, the Presidential nominations of Wendell L. Willkie, Thomas E. Dewey and Dwight D. Eisenhower had been delivered by the relatively liberal Wall Street faction. The revolt of the conservative Republicans in 1964, while promoting the landslide electoral defeat for the GOP that year, laid the foundation for the nomination and election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency in 1980, the subsequent “Reagan Revolution,” and the electorally successful “Contract With America” in 1994. Richard M. Nixon was nominated in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 by almost exactly the same coalitions that had nominated Goldwater in 1964. Gerald Ford, a moderate Republican, narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan for the nomination in 1976 only because Ford was the incumbent President. Reagan paid no cost for his insurgency, however, because it represented an electoral majority within the Republican Party. In

12 1980, Reagan, like Goldwater in 1964, clinched the Republican Presidential nomination in advance of the convention. But whereas Goldwater had to battle against resistance all the way to the convention, and liberal Republicans never really rallied behind him, Reagan was unopposed by the time the 1980 convention met, and the party was united. Since 1980 contests for the Republican Presidential nomination have been contests between moderate conservatives and ultraconservatives. By 1988, there was little evidence of ideological factionalism in the distribution of the vote in Republican Presidential primaries. In the 2000 primaries, George W. Bush inherited the coalition which supported Goldwater and Reagan in 1964 and 1980. The process of internal factional realignment was slower in the Democratic Party than in the Republican Party. For the Democrats, the process involved the nomination of Alfred E. Smith for the Presidency in 1928, only four years after the 103-ballot convention which declined to oppose the Ku Klux Klan; the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Presidency in 1932 and the New Deal which followed; the end of the two-thirds rule at Democratic National Conventions in 1936; the endorsement of civil rights by the Democratic National Convention and the ensuing Dixiecrat revolt in 1948; the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the antiwar demonstrations and procedural reforms passed at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; and the nomination of George McGovern for the Presidency in 1972. Since the 1964-1972 period, liberal Democrats have dominated the Presidential nominating process, although they have not always secured the nomination. In 1984 and 1988, moderate-to-conservative Democrats were eliminated early in the primaries, and liberal Democrats contested each other for the nomination. The initial nominations of

13 Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992, both southern moderate Democrats, were won because they were able to unite moderate-to-conservative Democrats against the divided liberals in the early primaries. Their renominations were won because they were incumbent Presidents, in Carter’s case against the stiff challenge of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Finally, Vice President Albert Gore, another southern moderate, won the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2000 largely because he was a virtual incumbent. While southern moderate Democrats like Carter, Clinton and Gore have been instrumental in moving the Democratic Party back toward the ideological center in recent years, their emergence has nonetheless played a major role in the ideological polarization between and ideological homogenization within the parties. Their victories have eliminated the old “white supremacy” faction of the Democratic Party. Even in the south today, the Democratic Party is the more liberal of the two major parties. Today, voters who once would have supported George Wallace are practicing Republicans, no longer a factor in Democratic primaries. This ideological homogenization within the parties took about thirty years to reach fruition, initiated by ideological polarization and critical realignment at the Presidential level, followed by a long secular realignment leading to ideological polarization between the parties at the Congressional level. Factionalism remains, but the ideological alliances which once crossed party lines have given way “culture wars” waged mostly in partisan terms. 3. Increased split ticket voting between Presidential and Congressional elections has been structured by ideological polarization between the national parties,

14 as well as incumbency advantages in Congress.27 Most explanations of split ticket voting and divided government derive from the dealignment/party decay model. According to the dealignment analysis, the increase in split ticket voting and divided government has been accompanied by a decline in party identification on the part of voters, a decline of voter turnout, a decreasing role of political parties and an increasing power of issuespecific interest groups in candidate recruitment and campaign fund raising, the emergence of a candidate-centered electoral system, and almost insurmountable incumbency advantages in elections for the U.S. House of Representatives.28 The overwhelming reality of Congressional elections since the 1960s is the rate at which incumbents are re-elected to the House of Representatives – consistently over 90 percent. It makes intuitive sense that the incumbency advantage, by itself, explains much of the split ticket voting between Presidential and Congressional elections. As incumbents build solid electoral bases of support in their Congressional districts, elections for the House become more “insulated” from other electoral trends, and less correlated with the vote for President. The result is the “two-tier” party system. Until the 1990’s, the two-tier system usually produced a Republican President, while Democrats, aided by the advantages of incumbency, retained control of Congress. Certainly the electoral change of the 1960s was one of dealignment. But dealignment should be understood as realignment by other means, or as James Q. Wilson put it, “realignment at the top, dealignment at the bottom.”29 The swing vote in the electorate was not a vote of non-partisan moderates. Rather, the pattern of outcomes would indicate that the swing voters were disproportionately conservative Democrats, from the south, voting Republican for President and Democratic for Congress. The

15 resulting governing coalition was a conservative one, because conservative Democrats held the swing votes in Congress, as well as in the national electorate. Had a Republican majority been necessary to pass the Reagan tax cut, for example, it would never have passed. Table 6 examines split outcomes in contested Congressional districts between the results of Presidential and House elections since 1972.30 Certainly there is some evidence supporting the hypothesis that the electoral insulation of House incumbents promotes divided outcomes between Presidential and Congressional elections. But the difference appears to be accompanied by important qualifications. First, until 1988, divided outcomes occurred with slightly greater frequency in contested districts with incumbents running for re-election to the House than in districts with open seats. But the difference is surprisingly small, and since 1992, that difference has diminished noticeably, almost to the point of disappearance. It would appear that over the last decade or so, incumbency has little to do with split ticket voting, at least in contested Congressional districts. Of more importance to understanding the impact of ideological polarization between the parties on split ticket voting, divided outcomes have not taken place uniformly in Congressional districts where incumbents are running for re-election. Rather, split tickets are most frequent where House incumbents are not in ideological harmony with their party’s national leadership. Specifically, divided outcomes tend to appear most frequently where moderate-to-conservative Democrats and moderate-to-liberal Republicans are running for re-election to the House. This has been the case across three decades for moderate-to-conservative Democrats, who retained their seats in the House even as Republicans elected Presidents and carried their districts, particularly in the

16 south. Over the last decade or so, moderate Republicans have been elected to the House almost entirely from districts carried by the Democratic nominee for President. When House incumbents are ideological misfits of either party, divided outcomes in their districts are the rule rather than the exception. On the other extreme, where partisan ideologues, conservative Republicans or liberal Democrats, are running for re-election to the House, split ticket outcomes are rare, and since 1988, occur even less frequently than in open seat districts. These findings seem to support the conclusion that ideological factionalism has more to do with split ticket voting between Presidential and Congressional elections than incumbency per se. The same pattern is found in split ticket outcomes between the Presidency and the Senate since 1972. Only there, incumbency advantages are historically smaller than in the House, and split outcomes occur no more frequently where incumbent Senators are running for re-election than in open seats. Indeed, despite greater incumbency insulation in the House, split ticket outcomes occur more frequently between the Presidency and the Senate. Table 7 presents the coalitions of states for President and the House of Representatives in Presidential election years between 1964 and 1992.31 Table 8 presents the same data for the era between 1896 and 1944. It is evident that since 1964, there has been an increased structural tendency toward split tickets. Between 1896 and 1944, no states which voted most of the time for one party for President voted for the other party for the House. Split tickets tended to occur in states where both Presidential and Congressional elections were closely contested. Since 1964, some of the most Republican states in Presidential elections have been among the most Democratic states

17 in Congressional elections. These extreme split ticket states tend to be southern and conservative, and they tend to be states that were among the most Democratic in the 1896-1944 coalition. The 1968 election serves as an excellent model for predicting split ticket outcomes between the Presidency and the House over the coming generation. The model is based on the observation that the electoral sea change in Presidential elections between 1964 and 1972 was not accompanied immediately by the same electoral change in Congressional elections. Indeed, inclusion of the Wallace vote in the Democratic coalition makes the 1968 election look very much like a New Deal election, while inclusion of the Wallace vote in the Republican coalition creates the appearance of subsequent Republican Presidential victories. According to the model, one would expect Nixon voters in 1968 to vote Republican tickets thereafter, and Humphrey voters to vote Democratic tickets. Wallace voters would be expected to vote Republican for President and Democratic for the House. The result would be a Republican landslide for the Presidency and a Democratic landslide for the House. At the state level, in such an election, the prediction would be that states in which Humphrey outpolled Nixon and Wallace combined in 1968 would vote for the Democratic ticket, while states in which Nixon polled a majority would vote for the Republican ticket. In states Wallace carried, or where he held the balance of power in 1968, the model would predict a split outcome: Republican for President and Democratic for the House. Table 9 shows that between 1972 and 1992, while Republicans were winning four of six Presidential elections and Democrats consistently retained control of the House, the 1968 model serves as an

18 excellent predictor of state level split ticket outcomes between the Presidency and the House. Finally, Table 10 gives further indication of both the ideological polarization of the major parties in Presidential elections and the role of conservative Democrats as ticket splitters between the 1960s and the 1990s. The swing states between Presidential and Congressional elections are generally moderate-to-conservative, with the more conservative states tending to vote Republican for President and Democratic for the House. Nine of the eleven states of the once Democratic solid south fit that description between 1964 and 1992. 4. The “realignment at the top” of the 1960s has spread to the bottom in the 1990s.32 The conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats who gained control of Presidential nominations in the 1964-1972 period have since consolidated their power over nominations at the state level and in Congressional elections. In the south, the 24th Amendment to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act have brought blacks in large numbers into the electorate. The emergence of Democrats like Carter, Clinton and Gore in place of Democrats like George Wallace has only hastened the departure of conservative Democrats to the Republican Party, among both party elites and voters. These conservative Democrats, who had been the voters most likely to split their tickets, were by the 1990s more likely to vote the Republican ticket. The “two-tier” characteristic of the party system has thus been softened as the Presidential and Congressional parties come to resemble each other more. In 1994, when the Republicans gained control of both house of Congress for the first time in four decades, they also won a majority of House seats in the south for the

19 first time ever. The national Republican coalition in the Congressional election very much resembled the Republican coalition in Presidential elections over the previous thirty years. Tables 11-14 illustrate partisan coalitions of states in House elections across the twentieth century. Taken together, they reveal the relative persistence of Congressional election coalitions. Table 11 shows that the 1916 election correlates strongly and positively with all other elections between 1896 and the 1960s, indicating almost no state level change. Thereafter, the correlations begin to decline, but do not actually become negative until the 1990s. The critical realignment in the 1964-1972 period in Presidential elections, indicated on Table 1 simply does not appear in Congressional elections on Table 11. Nevertheless, as the correlations for 1916 begin to decline in the mid-twentieth century, the correlations for 1994, uniformly negative through 1944, begin to grow. Tables 12-14 illustrate the slowly changing coalitions of states in Congressional elections. Table 12 shows that the 1896-1944 coalition remained much more intact between 1964 and 1992 than did the historic coalition of states in Presidential elections. Some northern states, previously reliably Republican, have become more competitive, but the south is still mostly solid for the Democrats. A comparison with Table 2 shows that nothing like the mirror image change in Presidential elections has taken place in Congressional elections. Indeed, Tables 12 and 13 show that the coalition of states in House elections between 1964 and 1992 is somewhat closer to the 1896-1944 coalition than it is to the coalition that emerges starting with the 1994 election.

20 Table 14 shows that the mirror image found across the gap of a century in Presidential elections (Table 2) has finally been replicated in House elections after 1994. The result is that in 1996 and 2000, the coalitions of states in Presidential and House elections have become very similar. See Table 15. Apparently, what James Q. Wilson called “realignment at the top, dealignment at the bottom” would be better understood as “critical realignment at the top, secular realignment at the bottom.” The same pattern is revealed in relationships between Presidential elections and elections for the U.S. Senate, illustrated on Tables 16-18. Coalitions of states in Presidential and Senate elections were highly correlated before 1944; between 1964 and 1992, the association declines considerably. At the turn of the twentieth century, however, there is a restored tendency for states to support the same party for President and the Senate. This outcome does not necessarily mean that we are headed for a persistent national Republican majority. What it does mean is that we now have coinciding party coalitions in Presidential and Congressional elections.33 The long term result is likely be a decrease in split ticket voting and the frequency of divided government, and a revival of a tendency toward unified control of the Presidency and Congress by a single party. 5. We now have two major political parties that are, by standards of the American experience, ideologically polarized.34 In the spring and summer of 1944, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt was preparing to run for a fourth term, and after Wendell L. Willkie had been defeated for renomination for President in the Republican primaries, the two planned to meet to discuss what they might do to produce a deliberate realignment of the party system along ideological lines. FDR, according to the account

21 of his aid, Samuel Rosenman, was enthusiastic. The President instructed Rosenman to set up a meeting with Willkie, commenting: I think the time has come for the Democratic Party to get rid of its reactionary elements in the South and to attract the liberals in the Republican Party. Willkie is the leader of those liberals. He talked...about a coalition of the liberals in both parties, leaving the conservatives in both parties to join together as they see fit. I agree with him one hundred percent and the time is now - right after the election.35 Willkie indicated his interest in a meeting. “Both parties are hybrids,” Willkie told Rosenman. According to Rosenman, Willkie was interested in a realignment of the parties, “...between all the liberal forces on the one hand and all the conservative forces on the other.”36 Because both FDR and Willkie preferred to wait until after the election to meet, no meeting ever took place. Willkie died before the election at the age of 52, after a series of heart attacks, and Roosevelt died in office the following year, no action having been taken. Nevertheless, their vision seems to have become reality. The seizure of power within their parties by conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, and the electoral realignment in Presidential elections between 1964 and 1972, have been followed by elite realignment. The party-switching parade at the leadership level started mostly with liberal Republicans becoming Democrats: Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon, Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York, Rep. Ogden Reid of New York, and Rep. Donald Riegle of Michigan, for example. Then there were the conservative Democrats becoming Republicans: Sen. J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Rep. John Bell Williams of Mississippi, and former Gov. John B. Connally of Texas led the early waves; Rep. Phil Gramm of Texas followed in the 1980's. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama and Sen. Ben

22 Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado led another wave conservative Democrats into the Republican Party after the 1994 Congressional election. Most recently, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, a moderate-to-liberal Republican, became an independent and joined the Democratic caucus in the Senate after the 2000 election. Party switching at the top has been a reflection of the spread of “realignment at the top” to the “bottom.” Party elites and active party electorates today are polarized everywhere in the country: Democrats are generally more liberal than Republicans, even in the south, and Republicans are generally more conservative than Democrats, even in the northeast. Put in ideological terms, before the 1960s, conservative Democrats, like George Wallace, were clearly more conservative than moderate-to-liberal Republicans, and liberal Republicans, like Nelson Rockefeller, were clearly more liberal than moderate-to-conservative Democrats. Today moderate Democrats are clearly liberals, even if not liberal Democrats; and moderate Republicans are conservatives, even if not conservative Republicans. Ideological alliances rarely cross party lines as once they did. The umbrella political parties, born in the nineteenth century, have indeed declined, but the result is not post-partisan politics; it is more likely to be a new, more ideologically polarized party system, to a degree that seems historically almost unAmerican. This is the reality that defines the electoral environment in which the 2000 election was conducted, and will continue to shape American electoral politics, at least until the system is shaken by still another wave of realigning change.

Ideological Polarization in the 2000 Presidential Election The 2000 election revealed an America both evenly and deeply divided. Although the Republicans elected a President and retained control of Congress, the result

23 was so narrow and controversial as to leave them with a “perfect tie…governing without a mandate.”37 According to Michael Barone, the United States at the turn of the twentyfirst century in “the 49% nation…” better understood as “two nations, of almost equal size, between which there is little intercourse and sympathy, which are ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings…”38 As Gerald Pomper put it, “Not only two candidates, but virtually two nations confronted each other in the election of 2000.” Pomper went on to describe the electoral map:39 While Gore and Bush received essentially identical support in the total popular vote, they drew this support from very different constituencies. The electoral map illustrates the cleavage….Bush…swept the interior of the nation, including great swaths of the nation’s territory in the south, border, plains and mountain areas. Gore won only 20 states…almost all on the geographical fringes of the nation – bordering the Atlantic Ocean (north of the Potomac), the Pacific Ocean, and the Great Lakes. Reflecting the sharp geographical divisions…the vote varied considerably among the nation’s regions and states. While Gore won as much as two-thirds of the votes in New England, he won fewer than one in three in the mountain states… The fact that the national vote was so close puts this geographic division in bold relief, but we have seen there is nothing new about it. The Republican has run strongest in the south and interior west in every Presidential election since 1984, and the Democrat has run strongest in the northeast quadrant and on the west coast in all of those elections. The same pattern, in fact, goes back to 1964 in all Presidential elections but three, in which the south broke the pattern: 1968, when George Wallace of Alabama was a third party candidate, and 1976 and 1980, when Jimmy Carter of Georgia was the Democratic nominee. Indeed, Rhodes Cook of Congressional Quarterly has referred to the electoral map of recent elections and identified the “Republican L” of the south and interior west.40

24 Indeed, the political geography pitting the northeast quadrant against the south and interior west is a century old. What is relatively new is the partisan divide, dating back to about 1964. A century ago, the “Republican L” of today would have been the “Democratic L” of William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson. Barone has argued that “In early twenty-first century America, the divide is not economic, but cultural.”41 He takes the argument too far, by assuming that the cultural divide reflected on the map is mutually exclusive with a class divide. Historically, in fact, there has been as association between the cultural and economic dimensions of regional partisan support, in relationships of center and periphery in the American political economy.42 The geographical division in the 2000 election appeared along with a number of “gaps” in the vote: a revived class divide, the continuing gender gap, an urban-rural divide, a religious divide, and a particularly severe, continuing race divide. See Table 19. What Barone seems to be doing in his analysis is reading the historic ideological polarization on cultural issues into the current electoral environment. He is correct to do so. But by excluding economic issues and class interests from the divide, he misses the importance of what has happened to our party system. Whereas the old umbrella parties once offered Americans a party that was relatively progressive on economic issues but conservative on cultural issues (the Democrats) and a party which is relatively conservative on economic issues but liberal on cultural issues (the Republicans), we now have a liberal party and a conservative party. The Presidential Election: Racing to the Middle. Ironically, in 2000, both major party candidates for the Presidency, Democrat Albert Gore and Republican George W.

25 Bush, attempted to avoid or neutralize the culture conflict in an effort to appeal to the middle of the road in the ideological spectrum. Both were to some extent frustrated in those efforts, and the cultural divide evident on the electoral map appeared in the extreme. Although Republicans who supported the impeachment of President Clinton may have appeared to be extremists, the Monica Lewinsky affair and impeachment process may have had a hand in frustrating both Gore and Bush in their appeal to moderates, by increasing the salience of moral and character issues. Without regard to a conscious effort by the candidates to the contrary, this may have increased the Republican vote among voters with “traditional” values, and the Democratic vote among those with “modern” values. Indeed, according to VNS exit poll data, among voters who identified personal honesty as the most important characteristic in a Presidential candidate (about one in four), 80 percent voted for Bush.43 As expected, Gore polled 59 percent among voters who considered the economy the most important issue.44 But he did not make a play for a retrospective vote on the economic performance of the Clinton administration, which certainly would have benefited him. Instead, starting at the Democratic National Convention, Gore made more of a populist appeal to working class voters by promising to “fight for you” against “powerful interests.” Motivated in part by the presence of Ralph Nader in the race, and in part by a wish to distance himself from Bill Clinton, Gore failed to promote his status as a Clinton-style “New Democrat” and probably cost himself centrist votes while promoting the polarization of the electorate.

26 The Republican Presidential Primaries. If Gore had to deal with fellow Democrat Bill Clinton, Gov. Bush had to deal with a fellow Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. The Republican Presidential primaries did not do Bush any good in his race to the center, and probably also contributed to the polarization of the electorate in November. Bush began the election year with a considerable bankroll, the endorsement of the party establishment, and a strategy to present himself as a “compassionate conservative.” The plan was to secure the Republican Presidential nomination without a major fight, and then run in the general election as a moderate Republican, appealing to the center. Even if the plan did not work perfectly, Bush apparently anticipated that his leading opponent for the nomination, if one survived into the primaries, would be a conservative Republican, such as Steve Forbes or Pat Buchanan. According to the strategy, Bush would win that contest, his status as a moderate fortified. But Bush himself was collecting the money from conservative interests, who were intent on a Republican victory in the election. Forbes, who had run in the 1996 primaries as a “pro-choice” Republican, had the money to make the race, but lacked credibility among ultraconservatives. No other candidate to Bush’s right was able to stay viable, and his only surviving opponent was John McCain. The fact that moderate Republicans considered McCain as an alternative to Bush is an indication of how conservative the Republican Party has become, because McCain has a solidly conservative voting record in the Senate. But his reputation as an insurgent, which made him attractive to independents and Democrats who could vote in cross-over

27 primaries, both established the viability of his candidacy, and made his nomination highly unlikely. The electoral map of the contest between Bush and McCain, like the subsequent map between Bush and Gore, is shaped by the ideological alignment of 1964-1972. Except for his home state of Arizona, McCain scored all of his victories in the northeast quadrant of the country where, historically, liberal Republicans have won primaries. Bush rebounded from his early defeat in New Hampshire by winning South Carolina and Virginia, then clinched the nomination with victories in New York, Ohio and California. Bush did particularly well in states that supported conservative Republicans Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan in nomination contests between 1964 and 1980. Interestingly, three states which his father had won against Reagan in 1980 voted before George W. Bush clinched the nomination in 2000: Michigan, Connecticut and Massachusetts. He lost all three. See Tables 20-23. Bush had survived the primaries. In fact, he had won by a rather decisive margin. But he had not able to unify the party without a fight, and he had to appeal to his right to do it. It only gave him a longer trip to make when he tried to dash back to the center for the general election. He had to run more as a conservative Republican than he had intended.

Ideological Polarization and Party Tickets in the 2000 Congressional Election Divided government has been the rule in American politics now for almost half a century. Narrow as it was, the Republican victory in the Presidential and Congressional elections of 2000 represents only the third time in nine Presidential elections that the same party has won the Presidency and both houses of Congress. The data analysis

28 drawn from my previous studies of split ticket voting and presented above, on Table 6, suggests however, that split ticket voting in recent elections has been related to ideological factionalism in a changing party system, and that ideological polarization between the parties may promote a revival of party line voting and unified government.45 That analysis is replicated for the 2000 election below. The Presidency and the House. Tables 24 and 25 present the relationship between incumbency in the House and ideology on the one hand, and split ticket voting on the other, in the 2000 election. The 2000 election is a particularly useful case for this analysis for three reasons. First, both the Presidential and Congressional elections were very close nationally, offering a meaningful comparison of the party coalitions on the Presidential and Congressional levels. Second, and very related, no Presidential landslide influenced party line or split ticket voting. And third, the House was closely divided before the election, leaving neither party with a disproportionate incumbency advantage. The data presented on both tables support the theory presented above. Split ticket voting and divided outcomes between the Presidency and the House are most common where moderate Republicans and moderate-to-conservative Democrats are running for reelection to the House, and least common in Congressional districts with open seats, and where conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are running for re-election. Table 25 sorts incumbents by their ideological relationship to their House caucuses, across party lines. Where partisan ideologues, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, are running for re-election to the House, divided results between the Presidency and Congress occur in only 14 percent of the districts. Where moderates of both parties are seeking re-election, divided results occur 48 percent of the time. Where

29 ideological misfits, all conservative Democrats, are running for re-election, divided results occur in three of the four districts. Indeed, all three conservative Democrats who faced a contest were re-elected while Republican George W. Bush was carrying their districts in the Presidential election. The Presidency and the Senate. Incumbency advantages are not as great in the Senate as in the House, but ideology seems to have had the same impact on party line and split ticket voting in the 2000 election. The Senate data is not as significant as the House data, because there are fewer cases, and because almost all of the incumbent Senators running in 2000 were partisan ideologues. Altogether, there were twenty-eight incumbent Senators running in 2000, twenty-six of whom were partisan ideologues, either conservative Republicans or liberal Democrats. Divided results occurred in only five of the twenty-six states where partisan ideologues were running. The other two Senators were both moderate-to-liberal Republicans who won while Democrat Albert Gore was carrying their states. One was Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who was defending the seat long held by his father, John Chafee, the veteran liberal Republican who had died in office; the other was James Jeffords of Vermont, whose subsequent departure from the Republican caucus handed control of the Senate to the Democrats.

The Controversies of 2000: Elite Behavior in the New Party System Two very unusual events in American political history surrounded the election of 2000. One occurred prior to the election, one after the election. Both had an impact on how the election shaped governing coalitions, and both provided evidence of patterns of elite behavior in the new party system.

30 Impeachment. The impeachment of President Clinton in 1999 was certainly a rare event in American history; so rare, in fact, that no living American had ever witnessed a previous impeachment of a President of the United States. Indeed, impeachment was meant to be a rare political and constitutional event, reserved for the most extreme of offenses by a President against the constitutional order. The closest event to impeachment in the memory of most Americans would be the Watergate affair, which led to the resignation of President Nixon. Watergate took place at the end of the 1964-1972 realignment in Presidential elections, before ideological polarization had spread to the Congressional parties. Therefore, Watergate was somewhat less uniformly partisan than “Monicagate.” Many southern Democrats remained supportive of President Nixon until almost the end of the process, and some Republicans, including Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Sen. Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, were harshly critical of the President early in the process. As late as July 1974, when the House Judiciary Committee began its hearings on Watergate, it was unclear that the votes for impeachment would be found. The White House was counting on a number of southern Democrats to vote against impeachment, while advocates of impeachment were hopeful of finding support from moderate-to-liberal Republicans. Only the resignation of President Nixon, encouraged at an Oval Office meeting by Goldwater, Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, and House Minority Leader John Rhodes, all Republicans, prevented the bills of impeachment from going to the floor of the House of Representatives.

31 The impeachment of President Clinton was conducted not only on very different issues, but also in a very different political environment. Whereas Watergate was visibly an exercise in the separation of powers, the Clinton impeachment seemed much more like a parliamentary motion of no confidence. Had it been literally that, of course, the President would have been removed from office on an almost entirely party line vote. The fact that, constitutionally, this remained impeachment conducted in a bicameral legislature, rather than a vote of no confidence conducted by the lower house of parliament, prevented his removal. Bill Clinton was saved by the fact that he was the President, not a prime minister. The impeachment of President Clinton probably would not have taken place at all in the old party system. The fact that it did take place in the new party system reflects not only the personalities involved, but the new party system itself. To Republicans who impeached President Clinton, he represented the ascendancy of a permissive counterculture which they detest. To Democrats who defended him (regardless of their view of his personal conduct), the pro-impeachment Republicans present a threat of using government to pass judgment on personal moral choices, a threat that, if it were to come to pass, would endanger the very foundations of a free society. As Walter Dean Burnham has put it, these are “either-or” issues.46 They are nothing new in American politics, but they were once fought more within than between parties. Now, they are fought mostly between political parties that are ideologically polarized. Florida. The Presidential election of 2000 ultimately turned, of course, on the 25 electoral votes of Florida. The state was officially awarded to Bush by 537 votes, and with it, the Presidency.

32 Two issues of the Florida controversy particularly reflect the polarization of the new party system. First, the recount controversies contained a heavy racial content. Who was being “disenfranchised” by the methods of counting across the counties? Who was being denied “equal protection?” Apparently, there was a “racially disparate impact” among the various local methods of printing ballots, casting votes, and counting votes. Even if it is never clear what that impact was, the racial flavor to the post-election debate reflects the race gap that has developed between the parties since the 1960’s. Second, whether motivated by partisan politics or not, the intervention of the courts correlated with ideology and party. The Florida Supreme Court, relatively liberal in its make-up, effectively sided with Gore. The Supreme Court of the United States, in Bush v. Gore, effectively decided the election, 5-4, for Bush. Of course, the legal issues and the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court were not that simple. A 7-2 majority decided that the recounting methods amounted to a denial of equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. But the five who provided the remedy of stopping the recounts were the conservative majority on the court, and their decision in Bush v. Gore seemed to go against their own proclamations of states’ rights and state immunity made in numerous decisions in recent years.47 The role of the judiciary in deciding the election, however, is ironically appropriate to the new party system. The courts have, after all, been the subject of many of the “either-or” debates in American politics since the 1950s. Starting with civil rights, moving through criminal justice issues, and on to the abortion debate, constitutional issues of strict vs. loose construction and judicial activism or restraint in applying the 14th

33 Amendment have central to campaign debates and Senate battles on judicial appointments. What is most interesting about the Florida controversy, however, is the likelihood that it would not have happened in the old party system. When Richard M. Nixon lost the Presidency to John F. Kennedy in 1960 by only a little over 100,000 votes, he did not offer an extended challenge to the controversial results in Illinois and Texas. We know enough about Nixon that his decision could not have been the result of timidity and an unwillingness to do hard political infighting. The political environment of his decision was different. The end of the Eisenhower era was a time of elite consensus, and party leaders were inclined to support whatever electoral results were most stabilizing. In the new party system, that kind of commitment is no longer shared across party lines, at least not to the degree that would have been necessary to keep the Florida controversy behind closed doors.

The Last Realignment and the Next The realignment of 1964-1972 did not produce a new normal majority party in American politics, but it was realignment nonetheless. It left behind an electoral order in which Republicans normally won Presidential elections, and the Democrats normally won Congressional elections. The swing vote in both Presidential and Congressional elections, as well as in Congress, were conservative Democrats, and the outcome was a relatively stable, conservative governing coalition. In the 1990s, most of these conservative Democrats became, by voting behavior if not party identification, Republicans. The new and apparently growing swing vote seems more genuinely moderate in political attitudes, leaning toward libertarian positions on

34 both economic and cultural issues. These small government voters, thus, tend to be fiscal conservatives who are environmentalists, pro-choice on abortion, and relatively liberal on civil rights. Historically liberal Republican in their voting behavior, these voters gave relatively strong support to John B. Anderson in 1980, and Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. Large numbers of them voted for President Clinton on the Democratic line in 1996, but Republican for Congress. These voters are apparently moderates who find Republicans to be too dogmatic on the right, and Democrats too dogmatic on the left. This change in the complexion of the swing vote, from the populist to the libertarian, or from the “Reagan Democrat” to the “soccer mom,” contains the seeds of a potential realignment at the turn of the twenty-first century. This realignment would not necessarily mean that most voters had themselves been “realigned” to new partisan habits. Rather, there would be more stable partisan bases to electoral coalitions in an ideologically polarized party system: A large and perhaps growing independent vote in the center, surrounded by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans. The partisan voters would vote the party ticket more than has been the case in the post-New Deal party system, while the independent moderates would divide similarly in Presidential and Congressional elections. Less frequently divided government would be the result. However, even if there is periodicity to electoral change, as realignment theory suggests, there is no inevitability to election outcomes. Certainly, party and policy elites are presented by the electoral context of the turn of the twenty-first century with both opportunities and dangers. While there is some evidence of a developing realignment, the actions of elites, and policy outcomes, will determine electoral winners and losers, and whether a stable partisan majority will actually emerge in the near term future.

35 Political Parties and the Outlook for American Democracy Political scientists have generally agreed about the importance of political parties to democracy. E. E. Schattschneider expressed the consensus with his oft-cited remark that “democracy is unthinkable save in terms of parties.”48 As long ago as 1950, the American Political Science Association Committee on Political Parties advocated reforms to develop a responsible party system in the United States, and speculation about such as system has been renewed by the emergence of a conservative party and a liberal party since that time.49 It is a question of continuing analytic interest in political science as well as an important normative issue for those interested in the outlook for American democracy in the twenty-first century. While it is hardly likely that there will soon produce a genuinely responsible party system with party government in the United States, it is just as unlikely that party decay will lead to a post-party system. Certainly the umbrella parties of the nineteenth century have declined, but they have been replaced by new, more ideologically polarized political parties. The emergence of the new party system makes the responsible party model appear more likely than it ever has in the American experience. We conclude, therefore, with an assessment of the requisite conditions for the development of a responsible party system in the United States. 1. A responsible party system requires political parties which offer the electorate clear ideological and/or programmatic alternatives. Ideological polarization between the parties in the United States has created a very close approximation to this condition, although this is clearly more the case when issues are presented in cultural terms than when they are presented in economic terms. The major political parties remain umbrella

36 parties to some extent, but the umbrellas of each party cover interests which are more ideologically homogenized than has historically been the case. Put in functional terms, the umbrella parties were quite good at interest aggregation; the new parties are better at interest articulation. Both parties remain coalitions of interests, but the Republican Party is a conservative party and the Democratic Party is a liberal party. Even if aiming at the electoral center, both parties are starting from opposite sides of the middle, which is a new reality in American political life. 2. A responsible party system requires that elected executives and legislators have fundamentally the same electoral base. For most of American history, unified control of the executive and legislative branches by a single party has been the rule. The electoral coalitions behind a party’s candidates for executive and legislative offices were very similar. During that time, however, parties were factional coalitions which did not usually offer clear ideological or programmatic alternatives. For the last half century the new rule has been increased split ticket voting and the frequency of divided government. The executive and legislative branches of government had very different electoral bases. Now, for the first time in the American experience, other than for brief periods of critical realignment, we have a parties which offer relatively clear ideological or programmatic alternatives, and which appeal to similar electoral coalitions to win executive office and legislative majorities. The electoral basis of a responsible party system is in place. However, the constitutional presence of staggered elections means that divided government will remain a possible outcome of American elections. In addition, incumbency advantages in elections for the U.S. House of Representatives have been

37 institutionalized in the political system. Many of the aspects of candidate-centered campaigns have likewise been institutionalized. Accordingly, while split ticket voting is likely to continue to decline in the ideologically polarized party system, party line voting is unlikely to recover to its former heights. Unified control of the executive and legislative branches of government will certainly not occur all of the time, but it is likely to occur most of the time in the early twenty-first century. 3. Responsible parties require a functional, if not constitutional, fusion of powers between the executive and legislative branches, allowing majority parties to govern, and minority parties to provide organized loyal opposition. The United States has developed something resembling a responsible party system without developing party government. Historically, American government has resembled party government rarely, during times of critical realignment, when majority parties could assemble inter-branch, partisan governing coalitions. Divided government sometimes meant gridlock, but not always, as bipartisan coalitions could at times be assembled behind important policy innovations. Today, the Congressional parties are as polarized ideologically as the Presidential parties, and a much closer relationship between unified government and legislative productivity is likely to emerge. On the one hand, the United States will not have party government in the sense that a parliamentary system might. The separation of powers system will ensure that elected officials remain in office, whether or not governing coalitions are effective, until constitutionally and regularly scheduled new elections are held. There is no opportunity for a vote of no confidence, causing a new election of the executive and legislative branches. On the other hand, American government is likely to

38 function more like party government when one party wins unified control of the executive and legislative branches. Ideological polarization between the parties will make factional withdrawal from governing majorities unlikely. The American party system today resembles the responsible party model more than it ever has. It remains to be seen whether this will be healthy for American democracy. Evaluating party systems (and larger social systems) does not lead to a simple conclusion that one system is good and the other bad. Rather, it is a matter of balancing the advantages and disadvantages of the systems being compared. In the case of the declining umbrella parties in American politics and the ideologically polarized parties emerging in their place, it is a matter, at least initially, of balancing the value of consensus against the value of conflict. Conflict is not by definition contrary to national unity; indeed, conflict is necessary to democracy. When unity is preserved by avoiding conflict, that unity becomes an artificial consensus that is doomed to be destabilized by the issues avoided. Indeed, in recent years, it has often seemed that cultural issues have been used to avoid the hard realities of economic issues in need of resolution. So far, ideological polarization between the parties in the United States has produced a pronounced bitterness in the tenor of public discourse. Today’s political rhetoric too often leaves the general impression that speakers on either side believe themselves to be morally superior to their adversaries. Such an attitude hardly facilitates the open debate so essential to democratic life. The sometimes vicious discord of recent years would seem to present a normative argument against ideologically polarized parties. But this conclusion is valid only if we

39 consider national unity a value to be maximized, even at the expense of the healthy conflict that is central to democratic politics. To function in the public interest, the political process must be capable of addressing the most controversial of issues, even, and indeed especially, when their resolution will require vigorous conflict along the way. In any case, these new parties are here to stay, at least until still another fundamental realignment has taken place. The question is whether the leaders of these new parties will, indeed, be responsible.

40 Notes
Arthur Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival: Understanding American Electoral Politics at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000). The current paper relies heavily on the book. 2 V.O. Key, “A Theory of Critical Elections,” Journal of Politics 17 (1955), pp. 3-18. 3 See, for example, Walter Dean Burnham, Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics (New York: Norton, 1970); Jerome M. Clubb, William H. Flanigan, and Nancy H.Zingale, Partisan Realignment: Voters, Parties and Government in American History (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990); Everett Carll Ladd, “The Shifting Party Coalitions – 1932-1976,” in Seymour Martin Lipset, ed., Emerging Coalitions in American Politics (San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1978); Ladd with Charles Hadley, Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s (New York: Norton, 1978); David G. Lawrence, The Collapse of the Democratic Presidential Majority: Realignment, Dealignment and Electoral Change from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997); Gerald Pomper, “From Confusion to Clarity: Issues and American Voters, 1956-1968,” The American Political Science Review 66 (1972): 415-428; Pomper with Susan Lederman, Elections in America: Control and Influence in Democratic Politics (New York: Longman, 1980); Shafer, ed., The End of Realignment? Interpreting American Electoral Eras (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991; James L. Sundquist, The Dynamics of the American Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1983). 4 Key, “Secular Realignment and the Party System,” Journal of Politics 23 (1959), pp. 198-210. 5 Burnham, Critical Elections, p. 67. 6 See particularly Burnham, Critical Elections; Ladd with Hadley, Transformations of the American Party System; and Sundquist, The Dynamics of the American Party System. 7 See Kristi Andersen, “Generation, Partisan Shift, and Realignment: A Glance Back at the New Deal,” in Norman H. Nie, Sidney Verba, and John R. Petrocik, The Changing American Voter (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976), and The Creation of the Democratic Majority: 1928-1936 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). 8 See, for example, Burnham, Critical Elections; Pomper, “From Confusion to Clarity;” Kevin Phillips, The Emerging Republican Majority (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1969); and Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenburg, The Real Majority (New York: Howard-McCann, 1970). 9 See, for example, Burnham, “American Politics in the 1970s: Beyond Party?” in Jeff Fishel, ed., Parties and Elections in an Anti-Party Age (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Burnham, “American Politics in the 1980s,” in Burnham, The Hidden Crisis in American Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982); Burnham, “The Reagan Heritage,” in Pomper, et. al., The Election of 1988: Reports and Interpretations (Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1989); Ladd, “The Shifting Party Coalitions;” Ladd, “The Brittle Mandate: Electoral Dealignment and the 1980 Presidential Election,” Political Science Quarterly 96 (1981), pp. 1-25; Ladd, “Like Waiting for Godot in Shafer, ed., The End of Realignment?;” and Ladd with Hadley, Transformations of the American Party System. 10 Ladd with Hadley, p. 266; Ladd, “Like Waiting for Godot,” p. 31. 11 See especially Walter De Vries and V. Lance Terrance, The Ticket Splitter: A New Force in American Politics (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Ferdmans, 1972). 12 See Burnham, “Insulation and Responsiveness in Congressional Elections,” Political Science Quarterly 90 (1975), pp. 411-435; Barbara Hinckley, Congressional Elections (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1981); Gary C. Jocobson, The Electoral Origins of Divided Government: Competition in U.S. House Elections, 1946-1988 (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990); Thomas E. Mann, and Raymond E. Wolfinger, “Candidates and Parties in Congressional Elections,” The American Political Science Review 74 (1980): 617-632; and David R. Mayhew, “Congressional Elections: The Case of the Vanishing Marginals,” Polity 6 (1974): 295-317. 13 David Broder, The Party’s Over (New York: Harper and Row, 1971); Ladd, Where Have All the Voters Gone? The Fracturing of America’s Political Parties, 2nd ed. (New York: Norton, 1982). 14 See particularly William Crotty, American Parties in Decline, 2nd ed. (Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman, 1984), especially pp. 142-196. 15 Burnham, “The Reagan Heritage,” p. 16. 16 See especially Martin P. Wattenberg, The Decline of American Political Parties (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).


Burnham, Critical Elections, pp. 91-92. Joel H. Silbey, “Beyond Realignment and Realignment Theory,” in Shafer, The End of Realignment? 19 Burnham, “Realignment Lives: The 1994 Earthquake and Its Implications,” in Colin Campbell and Bert A. Rockman, eds., The Clinton Presidency: First Appraisals (Chatham, NJ: Chatham House, 1996), pp. 363-395. 20 Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival, Introduction and Chapter 1. 21 I draw the term “perfect tie” from James W. Ceaser and Andrew E. Busch, The Perfect Tie: The True Story of the 2000 Presidential Election (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2001). 22 J. Clark Archer, Fred M. Shelly, Peter J. Taylor, and Ellen R. White, “The Political Geography of U.S. Presidential Elections,” Scientific American 259 (1988), pp. 44-51; Archer, Shelly, Fiona M. Davidson, and Stanley D. Brunn, Political Geography of the United States (New York: The Guilford Press, 1996), particularly Chapter 9; Burnham, Critical Elections; Daniel J. Elazar, American Federalism: A View from the States (New York: Harper and Row, 1984; Richard Jensen, “Party Coalitions and the Search for Modern Values,” in Seymour Martin Lipset, ed., Emerging Coalitions in American Politics; Ladd with Charles Hadley, Transformations of the American Party System, particularly pp. 129-177; George Rabinowitz and Stuart Elaine MacDonald, “The Power of the States in U.S. Presidential Elections,” The American Political Science Review 80 (1986), pp. 65-87; Harvey L. Schantz, “Sectionalism in Presidential Elections,” in Schantz, ed., American Presidential Elections: Process, Policy and Political Change (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), pp. 9-50; William Schneider, “Democrats, Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives,” in Lipset, ed., Emerging Coalitions in American Politics; James L. Sundquist, The Dynamics of the American Party System. 23 Lawrence, The Collapse of the Democratic Presidential Majority. 24 Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival, Chapters 2-6. 25 The Wall Street vs. Main Street terminology is commonly used, but my own introduction to the terms came from Nelson Polsby, “Coalition and Faction in American Politics: An Institutional View,” in Lipset, ed., Emerging Coalitions in American Politics 26 Jensen, “Party Coalitions and the Search for Modern Values,” in Lipset, ed., Emerging Coalitions in American Politics. 27 Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival, Chapter 7. 28 See notes 9-12 above. 29 James Q. Wilson, “Realignment at the Top, Dealignment at the Bottom,” in Austin Ranney, ed., The American Elections of 1984 (Durham, NC: AEI/Duke University Press, 1985). 30 See Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival, Chapter 7 and Paulson, “Ideology and Party Revival in the 2000 Election,” paper presented at the Northeastern Political Science Association convention, Philadelphia, 2001. 31 1992 is selected as the final election for inclusion on Table 7 because 1994 is treated as a realigning Congressional election, as argued below. See Burnham, “Realignment Lives.” 32 Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival, pp. 189-224. 33 Michael Barone refers to this phenomenon as the “convergence” of Presidential and Congressional elections. See Barone, “Introduction: Life, Liberty and Property,” in Barone with Richard Cohen and Grant Ujifusa, eds., The Almanac of American Politics 2004 (Washington, DC: National Journal, 2003), pp. 21-48. 34 Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival, Chapter 10. 35 Ellsworth Barnard, Wendell Willkie: Fighter for Freedom (Marquette, MI: Northern Michigan University Press, 1966), pp. 480-481. 36 Ibid., p. 481. 37 Ceaser and Busch, The Perfect Tie, particularly pp. 20-23. 38 Michael Barone with Richard Cohen and Grant Ujifusa, The Almanac of American Politics 2002 (Washington, DC: National Journal, 2001), pp. 21-45. 39 Gerald M. Pomper, “The Presidential Election,” in Pomper, et. al., The Election of 2000 (New York: Chatham House, 2001), p. 132. 40 Rhodes Cook, “Dole’s Job: To Convince His Own Party,” Congressional Quarterly Guide to the 1996 Republican National Convention, August 3, 1996, p. 7-11. 41 Barone, et. al., p. 29.



The economic basis of the electoral map can be seen especially in the realignment of 1896. See particularly Burnham, Critical Elections and Sundquist, The Dynamics of the Party System. 43 Pomper, “The Presidential Election,” in Pomper, et. al., The Election of 2000 (New York: Chatham House, 2001), p. 138. 44 Ibid. 45 See Paulson, Realignment and Party Revival, pp. 172-224. 46 Burnham, Critical Elections, p. 141. 47 See, for example, U.S. v. Lopez (1995), Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida (1996), Alden v. Maine (1999), and University of Alabama v. Garrett (2001). 48 E.E. Schattschneider, Party Government (New York: Rinehart, 1942), p. 1. 49 American Political Science Association Committee on Political Parties, Toward a More Responsible Two Party System (New York: Rinehart, 1950).


To top