Critical Elections and RealignmentBy: Mevlana Hursid (Editor), Sanjana Rahman, Dan Byrd, and Kyle Waldron




The political landscape is usually altered when "voters make dramatic shifts in partisan preferences" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). "During these party realignments, existing party affiliations are subject to upheaval: many votes may change parties, and the youngest age group of voters may permanently adopt the label of the newly dominant party" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus).

After a realignment a critical election takes place, "which may polarize voters aound new issues and personalities in reation to crucial develpoments, such as a war o an economic depression" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). Important critical elections have taken place, which is known as the "three tumultuous eras" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). Starting off with Thomas Jefferson, "in reaction against the Federalist party's agenda of a strong, centralized federal government, formed the Democratic- Republican Party, which won the presidency and Congress in 1800" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). Then, during the year of 1860, the result of a crisis towards slavery, was that the Whig Party "dissolved" and the Republican Party started to become more popular and eventually won the presidency. Lastly, the result of the Great Depression "caused large numbers of voters to repudiate Republican
1928 Election.png
What does this map depict in regards to the election of 1928? This map is showing that President Hoover (R) has won the Election and the numbers incorporated in each state shows how many Electoral votes the states have.
Party policies and the Democratic party" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus).



Critical Elections are not the only time "when changes in partisan affiliations are accommodated" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). Secular realignments, does not rely on "convulsive shocks to the political system but on slow, almost barely discernible demographic shifts- the shrinking of one part's base of support and the enlargement of the other's, for example- or simple generational replacement" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). However, in years to come, this process will stay with the older generation and a new process will take in action with the newer generation. This connects to Burnham's views where he states that, "when assessing the existence of critical elections, critical realignment signifies an abrupt coalitional change among the mass-based electorate (as opposed to secular realignment, which describes a gradual change in voter coalitions)" (Summary of Burnham: Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics).
EC.png
How does this map compare to the Election of 1928? As shown in the map, the Election of 1932 was won by President Roosevelt (D). In the last election, more voter were Republicans, while in this election most of the voters were Democrats.


An example that portrays this "phenomenon" occurred during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the southern states, traditionally Democratic stalwarts since the Civi War, shifted dramatically toward the Republican Party" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). In this process, the Democratic that came from the southern states were portrayed as "the most conservative of the New Deal coalition," where they went against the "civil rights reform" and "affirmative action" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus). As the Democratic Party viewed every issue that in a liberal way, the voters who were from the south started believe and share the same values of the Republicans.

Many consider the 2012 Presidential and Congressional elections as a political realignment. At the beginning of this election season, the Republican Party was confident that they could make more gains in the House of Representatives, win the Senate, and take the presidency (John F. Harris). However, this is not what happened. The Republicans were stopped in their tracks in the House, lost seats in the Senate, and did not gain the presidency. Many political analysts, such as Martin Harris, suggest that the United States moved from a "center-right" nation to a "center-left" one.
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Vocabulary Words:1.) Party Realignments: "dramatic shifts in partisan preferences that drastically alter the political landscape"
2.) Critical Elections: " an election that signals a party realignment through voter polarization around new issues ad personalities"
3.) Secular Realignments: "the gradual rearrangement of party coalitions, based more on demographic shifts than on shocks to the political system"


Section Review:

1.) What is the difference between party realignments and secular realignments?
2.) What happened during the Election of 1928 and the Election of 1932? Why was there just a dramatic change?
3.) Circle True or False: Critical Elections are the only time "when changes in partisan affiliations are accommodated" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus).
4.) Circle True or False: A critical election is "an election that signals a party realignment through voter polarization around new issues and personalities" (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus).
5.) Explain the "three tumultuous eras" and how they changed the voters views (O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus).


Related Articles:
Harris, John F. "'04 Voting: Realignment-Or a Tilt?" Washington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2012.
"WikiSummary, the Social Science Summary Database." Summary of Burnham: Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.


Works Cited
O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus. American Government: Roots and Reform. New York: Pearson Longman, 2011. Print.
Palazzolo, Dan. "The New Deal Realignment." Lecture. Youtube. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.