Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics has a good round-up of commentary on whether we are in the midst of a realignment in favor of the Republicans, plus a few of his own thoughts. I tend to think of the realignment issue a bit like I think of the stock market. You always know if a party’s stock has been going up or down, but it’s mighty difficult to know if it will keep going up or down. We know that the Republican stock has been going up fairly steadily for many years. The present alignment reflects the present “value” of that stock (and, unlike with real stocks, with no expectations about future value built-in). Whether that value will increase, decrease, or stay about the same depends largely on events that have yet to occur and that are nearly impossible reliably to predict.
Here’s what my conservative cousin from New York, my first tutor in American politics, has to say about the subject:
I have often thought that realignment began in 1968. Skillful Democratic politicians were able to maintain control of Congress and state legislatures for almost three decades despite being out of sync with many of their voters on keys issues such as national security, welfare reform and affirmative action. They did so through superior constituent service and control of the redistricting process. The late Phil Burton referred to the design of the California Congressional map as his contribution to modern art. Of course, when Tom Delay pursued similar tactics in Texas we heard howls of outrage from the same mainstream media that lavished praise on the political savvy of the Democrats.
Tip O’Neil’s famous observation that “All politics is local” is not an aphorism embodying a general truth. Rather it was meant to be a blueprint showing Democrats how to win in districts that supported Ronald Reagan. When Newt Gingrich in 1994 ran a Congressional campaign on national issues with his Contract for America Democratic dominance of Congress ended.
I’m skeptical as to whether Republicans can build upon their majorities. John Kerry’s Northern electoral strategy almost won him the White House. In many major cities the Republican party has almost disappeared. The Democrats actually increased their number of seats in state legislatures in the last election. To my surprise they carried the youth vote.
The political landscape still tilts Republican but narrowly and events in Iraq or an economic downturn could shift the momentum in the wrong direction.