Realignment & Reality
There is a familiar story about the last century of American politics. The election of President McKinley in 1896 began a Republican era that lasted until 1932, when the nation “realigned” itself in favor of Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrats. That era ended in 1968 or maybe 1980, starting a new period of either Republican rule or “de-alignment,” depending on the interpreter. The great hope of liberals in 2008 was that Barack Obama’s election would realign the country yet again.
Sean Trende, a writer for the website RealClearPolitics, reinterprets this history in the service of arguing that there is less to realignment than meets the eye. The New Deal coalition, on his telling, dominated American politics for a very short period, ending with FDR’s failed purge of conservative Democrats in 1938. Much more longlasting was the Eisenhower coalition, which built a formidable majority by adding suburbanites, working-class Catholics, and Southerners to the existing Republican base.
About the Author
Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor at National Review and a columnist for Bloomberg View.