An Ideological Realignment Driven by Demography
Political scientist John Sides argues:
The term “realignment” gets thrown around casually, sometimes suggesting nothing more than “something big is happening.” But the term has a more precise meaning—indeed, it must have a precise meaning in order for it to mean anything. A realignment is predicated on three things. First, there has to be a dramatic and permanent shift in the party coalitions. Second, the shift in coalitions needs to usher in an extended period of party control. Third, the shift in control needs to bring about a notable shift in policy. One can see how the “New Deal coalition” approximates this definition, since it ushered in decades of one-party dominance in Congress, particularly in the House, and brought about not only the New Deal but arguably the Great Society. No such thing has happened since Obama was elected in 2008. It is true that the demography of the country is changing slowly, and groups that have tended to vote Democratic are becoming more numerous. So the Democratic party coalition has the potential for continuing growth. Will that growth translate into enduring power and policy change? It certainly didn’t in 2010. Yes, the 2010 electorate was not the 2012 electorate. But that’s the point: a realignment doesn’t take midterm elections off.
Under Sides' rubric, Ronald Reagan was not a transformative President. After all, in 1982, Reagan's Republican Party lost 27 House seats and control of the Senate. Indeed, Sides' argument sounds eerily similar to David Broder's assessment of Reagan after the 1982 midterms (via Ezra Klein):
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