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Generations and presidential campaigns
The pattern for political party realignments seems to be (1) an unstable coalition is formed (2) it wins a "critical" election. (3) A period of heighted political activity, what Daniel Elazar calls “a New Deal” ensues (4) the new coalition turns out to have legs, allowing it to win a third presidential term. (5) the parties then realign to adjust to the new political reality created.

Sometimes steps 3 and 4 can flip order

This sequence comes from Daniel Elazar's generational periodization of American history which works quite well for the periods anchored by critical elections in 1800, 1828, 1860, 1896, and 1932.  (Elazar also considers the Continential conventions in 1774 and 1776 as serving the same function as "a critical election".  Elazar's scheme is a synthetis of Schlesingers' cycle and crtiical election theory. I have combined his scheme with S&H and note that Elazar "half generations" correspond S&H generations and that critical elections mark social moment turnings (2Ts and 4Ts).

The following is an employment of this combined Elazar-S&H scheme to recent history.

For example, (1) during the 1955-1968 period movement conservatism emerged as a unifying ideology for the Republican party.  Civil rights had created a new minority constituency in the Democratic party, but also led to  split which allowed the GOP to (2) win in 1868, as it did in 1860.  Over the 1968-1980 period, middle and upper-class Southern whites began voting Republican at the presidential level giving Republicans strong victories in 1972, 1980 (3) Thus emerged an unstable coalition between big business and big-business-hating Jacksonian populists which gave GOP victories in 1984 and a third GOP term in 1988. (4) This coalition enabled Reaganomics as the “New Deal”.  (5) After this New Deal, as the GOP grew increasingly Southern and populist, northern and more educated Republicans drifted into the Democratic party. Minority populations grew as a % of the electorate, increasing the size of this Democratic constituency.    
(1) In 2008 a new Democratic coalition had emerged of minorities (including immigrants), educated people, and a new generation (millies) who came of political age (age 14-24) during the perceived successful Clinton, unsuccessful Bush  and Obama's more successful adminstration *. (2) They won the 2008 critical election. (3) There followed two active years which serve as a “New Deal”. (4) It now looks like the “Obama collation” will give Democrats a third term. 

Sometimes as part of the post-New Deal realignment (step 5 of one cycle and step 1 of the next) there is a second “New Deal” following the first.  Civil Rights and the great Society was one, which triggered the realignment of the parties around identity politics, rather than economics.  The model holds that Clinton will attempt to try another New Deal, this one oriented away from identity politics as the realignment in this direction is now complete. Economics might be the new axis of political competition.  It could be something else.

*To get a bead on the "core generation" associated with these three administrations, subtract 24 from 2016 and 14 from from 1992 to yield 1978-1992 as a crude estimate for thsi generation.  Folks born between 1995 and 1998 will join this generation if they perceive the Clinton adminstration to be successful and work to give it a second term.  In this case the generational years move to 1978-2000.  Typically these political generations lag the S&H one by a few years. S&H hold that the millie generation extends into the 1980's.  This favors the later ending date for the political version of the millie generation and this "predicts" a Clinton victory in 2016 AND 2020 and a more favorable assessment of it in the eyes of millennials that the realistic alternatives.

Now Neil Howe does not see this because they proposed a mechansim for their cycle that usings a generational constellation and peer personalities that does not work.  The political generational mechanism comes from the  empirically established theory of generational imprinting.

Messages In This Thread
Party realignment as a generational phenom - by Mikebert - 08-12-2016, 06:37 AM

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