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US Political Realignment

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posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 11:47 AM
I would like to make the argument that the United States is no longer, as we are constantly told, a center-right country.

I started thinking about this after being at a friends house and picking up a book on their end table, Voting in American Elections by Walter Dean Burnham. Flipping through it I came across the theory of electoral realignment, and from there I found myself reading up on the subject in the past few days. It's some pretty interesting stuff, if you're into political science and history.

Secondly, I'm one of those baseball fans that loves not only the game but the statistics and analytics, as well. To put that long story short, that is how I first heard of Nate Silver and PECOTA. When he moved into politics, I continued to follow his work at FiveThirtyEight. In the past two Presidential elections his predictions were correct in 99 of 100 states, he was wrong on only Indiana in '08 and the state was decided by less than 30,000 votes and 1.03%, and correct on 66 of 68 Senate races. That's a 98.2% accuracy, which is ridiculous. I only bring this up to point out the accuracy and veracity of polling, particularly when drawing conclusions from a broad array of polls.

So, I'd like to first point out a general trend in Presidential elections over the past 40 years. In this graph blue represents Democrat, red represents Republican, green represents all votes for any 3rd party, and the black points are the electoral turnout percentage:

Point 1: Keep in mind the effect that a genuine 3rd party candidate has had in particular years. In 1980 John B. Anderson garnered 6.6% of the national vote (Anderson's is also a very interesting story). In 1992 and 1996 Ross Perot garnered 18.9% and 8.4% of the national vote, respectively. In 2000 Ralph Nader garnered 2.7%. These are, of course, just the leaders of the 3rd party pack which is present in small percentages in every election.

Point 2: The 1976 election of Jimmy Carter is out of place in the general trend. But remember that this is the Presidential election which followed Watergate and one Richard Milhous Nixon's resignation.

Point 3: Electoral turnout and demographics. Of eligible voters who have yet to register, 83% are made up of citizens 18 to 29 years old, unmarried women, Latinos and African Americans. All of whom tend towards Democrat. Essentially, the more people that vote the higher the disparity of votes between the parties. This is a long term trend that is accelerating.

Just for another view of the data, here's a table of the last 11 Presidential elections and the vote percentages for the two parties:

I believe the trend is clear and we've recently passed the tipping point within the last decade.

Further, issues which most commonly divide Democrats and Republicans like abortion, gay marriage, the death penalty, gun control, religion, and global warming have been trending Democrat.


Gay Marriage:

Death Penalty:

Gun Control:


Global Warming:

Following the 2012 election Republican House leadership claimed they had received a mandate from the American electorate. But neither the results or the actual votes show this. Although Republicans hold a majority in the House they lost 29 seats. Americans cast 59,646,195 (49.2%) votes for a Democratic candidate versus 58,283,047 (48.0%) votes for Republican candidates. The Senate races, due to terms not coinciding like they do with the House, are harder to draw any conclusion from. That being said, Democrats received nearly 48 (53.7%) million votes versus roughly 38 (42.8%) million for Republicans. In the 2008 Senate races we see nearly those same percentages 53.1% versus 45.4%.

Returning to electoral realignment, we may have begun in recent years the trend into a primarily Democratic government. If the theory holds, this Democratic majority may last anywhere from 30 to 65 years before we begin to see it trending back in the other direction.

One thing I had thought fairly odd was the trend in State Governors. Currently there are 29 Republican, 20 Democrat, and 1 Independent. Democratic Governorship has had a high in the last 40 years of 36 in 1976 and a low of 18 in 1996 and 2000. (To clarify, I only looked at Presidential election years since this was not a part of my main point. Governor elections don't necessarily coincide with Presidential elections.) But, even though there are only 20 Democratic Governors the trend appears to be upward from the mid-90's.

As for mid-term elections the voter turnout is always significantly lower then Presidential election years and as I previously stated, the higher the turnout, the more Democratic the votes become. During mid-term elections the voting population is older, more religious and whiter as a whole. The reasons for this are an entirely different topic and would require an entirely new post.


So that's the conclusion I've come to. We are now a center-left country and will likely continue to be for the next several decades. The reasons for this are numerous. Chief among them is our changing national demographics and the inability of Republicans to appeal to these growing groups. Unless otherwise linked, my statistical information has been sourced from both Politico and Ballotpedia and tediously entered into spreadsheets. (I suppose if someone wanted to see tables and tables of numbers I could find a way to make them available.)


posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:04 PM
I think your theory of center left is valid and supported well enough by the numbers and factors ....if one thing is taken as a given. The population numbers, in pure math, are given weight beyond national area as defined by states and their overall representation.

The major cities, almost to a one, are going strongly democrat for party. The rural areas, again, largely without exception, are going republican for party.

I think a good % of both would happily ditch both sides and the extremes each brings with them, but so far the closest we've come was Perot ..and I'm really not sure President Perot would have been a good thing in the end.

So with the Conservative rural America forming a large % of the states and mass with Liberal/Progressive politics forming a good % of the urban areas and literal population numbers by way of it, I suppose just a bit left of center is about right in the average. (Of course Conservartive/Liberal being more mindset than any official party, either way)

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:11 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Thanks for adding to what I was trying to explain, Wrabbit. I was kind of bumping into the character limit there and couldn't get in some of those other points. I was already trying to tie together data when we talked on that Missouri thread a few days ago.

And I agree Perot likely would not have been a good idea.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 12:13 PM
reply to post by LuckyLucian

One thing I tend to watch is for points in history that can be overlapped with current trends and events. From that point, we are currently running an extension of where we were in the mid 1970s...

Let me explain.

Following Vietnam and Watergate, the nation was sick of war, Nixon and of dishonesty in government. This led to the election of Jimmy Carter.

Following 9.11 and Iraq, the nation was sick of war, Bush and what they saw as a cruel and heartless GOP. This led to the election of Barack Obama.

Now, this is where it gets interesting because the parallels seem to cease in 2012.

Carter was under the gun because of a wretched economy, rising gas prices and worsening problems in Iran. The same things were nearly identical for Obama and Carter had even achieved the Israeli-Egyptian peace settlement whereas, Obama never got close to anything like that, anywhere on the planet.

It looked like another one-term-and-out case to match the historic precedent. But, again, it didn't happen that way. Why?

Well, for one, the GOP didn't have a Ronald Reagan ready to challenge. In fact, going into the primaries, it looked as though the Republicans were content to concede the election before it even got close. Their candidates were iffy at best while the conservative voter base was abandoned in apathy. It was only after a lot of hell raising from the right that the party got off its ass... but then, chose to pin the tail on Romney long before the voters had even had a say. It all looked like something right out of Hollywood.

Finally, during the recent State of the Union speech, Google ran a webpage (the nation's pulse, so similar) where one could vote on what was being said in real-time. I spent the next 90-odd minutes watching the public input and saw that it remained in the negative the entire rant. The worst moments came during subjects on global warming and gun control. But then the next day, the report on this 'pulse' was that the nation LOVED everything this man said on every single topic.

That blew me away. Really.

So... there's not a lot of foundation, in my opinion, for some national realignment of anything. In fact, I'm not sure that We the People really have much say in anything anymore. And with more and more digital voting systems coming on line and the media being less and less reliable, one could be left to wonder whether we're not all riding in a handbasket on the way to...


posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 01:52 PM
It seems clear that the republicans are out of touch with what the majority want, the republicans need to learn how to represent the will of the people instead of trying to dictate to the people.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 02:32 PM
reply to post by redoubt

I agree with you about Nixon, Watergate, and Vietnam leading to Carter's election. I also agree that Republicans had terrible candidates in 2012. Perry and Santorum were beyond terrible, Romney was in the middle, and in my opinion the two best candidates never got a real opportunity - Paul and Huntsman.

I agree with you about the lead-up to the '08 election to a point. But I believe you can add in the fact that we were constantly misled on Iraq by the Bush administration. From lying about WMD's to regularly misleading the public by mentioning Iraq in the same sentence as 9/11 hundreds of times. The election also had a lot to do with Bush tax policy, economic policy, energy policy, etc. It's a rather long list.

However, I disagree with Carter/Obama parallels. It's a superficial similarity to which only the similar unemployment rate and agitation of Iran hold water upon any sort of scrutiny.

These singular events have little impact on the long term trends which are driven by changes within American societal attitudes and demographics. I personally don't subscribe to any belief that there's some secret cabal planning the outcome of elections and the downfall of global governments as many on ATS do. I do, however, believe there is a lot of greed in the world and people with undue and ill-begotten influence in high places. I'm not strictly pointing to votes for one party or another but using the data to help tell the story. The point is that Americans as a whole have been trending in a more "liberal" direction than a "conservative" one. Much more similar to trends which led to the rise of the Republican party in the 1860's, the Democrats in the early 20th century, rise of Republicans in the 70's and 80's, etc. The realignment doesn't hinge any single election outcome.

As far as the State of the Union, I didn't watch it and haven't read anything about it either. No offense, but I can't take just one person's subjective opinion about what they saw on Google as fact. And now that I've made a search for what you're describing it seems it wasn't Google but Bing in conjunction with Fox News. So there's no surprise you saw negative reactions to the speech on essentially a Fox News live blog run by Microsoft.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 02:49 PM
reply to post by LuckyLucian

My bad - it was Bing and Fox News, as a matter of fact.

But... understanding the position of Fox News (we all do), that the outcome could have fallen to heavily to the president could almost lead to a questioning of one's own sanity when reading it, lol.,

I appreciate your response (really) but I just can't look at the current domestic landscape with anything but a very doubtful eye. And... this just adds to my long established distrust of politics and its practitioners... and now too, the media.

In sum, trust no one. I don't find all that much comfort there... but there is a certain degree of knowing that you're right.


edit on 23-2-2013 by redoubt because: typo

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 03:02 PM
reply to post by Tardacus

I do think that Republican leadership is very out of touch. Democratic leadership often is as well on quite a few issues. But I strongly believe that the issue isn't representing the will of the people. They should be representing their constituents. This is why we are a republic and not a democracy. A democracy can essentially devolve into mob rule.

For instance, Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk of Illinois. A little over half of Illinoisans support gay marriage while less than a third oppose it. Dick Durbin (D) supports gay marriage. Mark Kirk (R) has not explicitly said he supports gay marriage, but he has voted no on 2 bills attempting to establish marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

On the other hand there is Jeff Flake (R) and John McCain (R) of Arizona. Around 3/4 of Arizona supports gay rights in some fashion - 39% gay marriage, 38% civil unions, while only 21% say they shouldn't be recognized at all. Jeff Flake has consistently voted against his constituency while McCain has left it open to debate at the State level, which falls more in line with his constituents.

posted on Feb, 23 2013 @ 03:17 PM
reply to post by redoubt

I can understand the distrust. I just don't hold that feeling myself. Everyone has their own opinions for their own reasons. I'm more than happy to reply in any civil discussion and I appreciate your reply to my OP (really).

Off topic - check this out. It's been the wallpaper on my phone for at least two years now:

Do you know who the artist is? Your avatar appears to be the same artist and I can't find who it is to save my life!

posted on Feb, 24 2013 @ 02:23 PM
reply to post by LuckyLucian

So that's the conclusion I've come to. We are now a center-left country and will likely continue to be for the next several decades. The reasons for this are numerous. Chief among them is our changing national demographics and the inability of Republicans to appeal to these growing groups. Unless otherwise linked, my statistical information has been sourced from both Politico and Ballotpedia and tediously entered into spreadsheets. (I suppose if someone wanted to see tables and tables of numbers I could find a way to make them available.)

While you managed to show how people have shifted their voting habits, I think you're failing to take into consideration that Republicans aren't right and Democrats aren't left. The leftists in the US would be considered right wingers in just about every other developed nation on earth. This next statement is going to get me a lot of flak, people calling me an idiot, and otherwise denying it. But if you look at their actual policies, Obama lines up very similarly with Reagan on about 90% of issues, yet Obama is considered a leftist. The right in the US has shifted so far right, that once you ignore what party each person belonged to the hero of the conservative movement looks left by todays standards. Because of this massive shift in our right moving even further right, our left has also gone right.

Because of that I find your conclusion to be flawed. Instead what I see is one party losing on issues, and in response taking even more extremist positions. Because of that and the dichotomous nature of a two party system, our left is pulled along and ends up taking "moderate" positions. Outside of political spin doctoring we are very far from a left wing country when lined up with the beliefs of the rest of the world.

posted on Feb, 24 2013 @ 03:39 PM
reply to post by Aazadan

Thank you for your reply, Aazadan. I agree with you, but I feel the point still stands. At least as far as domestic policies and where our society has trended in recent years. I'm not trying to make a case that US Federal laws or our politicians are left of center, only that our population has trended that way. There's a serious disassociation going on in American politics between the population and our elected officials. We are all keenly aware of this.

When comparing the US to most European countries we are very right politically by comparison. And I agree with your assessment of how the right has shifted to the far right and in response the left has moved in some cases right of center. But we're speaking strictly of politicians here. If we were to use the current political spectrum of American politics in DC to place Ronald Reagan within it, you'd likely have to peg him as a true moderate when taking his policies as a whole.

I don't want to get into a "what is left and right" discussion. But I believe the polling of recent years has shown a definitive trend within our population towards what most would consider "left". Gay marriage, gun control, abortion, and the like being key divisive issues currently. These issues hold true even in Europe, so I feel safe assuming these are issues that can be used to make a fair conclusion.

posted on Feb, 25 2013 @ 09:57 PM
Your theory would be sound if Democrats were Left, they aren't. Aside from social issues, such as you listed we are still very much center right and headed more right all the time. We are increasingly authoritarian, we've swung so far Capitalistic that's it's gone completely out of control and Corporations have way too much sway in government. We've been swinging back toward Christianity having too much power as well. Even the media is swinging right.

The political temperature of the US can't accurately be measured by elected party. You need to look at Policy, Lobbies, campaign donations, issues focused on by more than lip service etc...

Your analytics and charts are nice though, I can appreciate the work you put into them.
edit on 25-2-2013 by Kali74 because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 26 2013 @ 12:16 PM
reply to post by Kali74

Thank you for the reply Kali.

I addressed some of this in my reply to Aazadan. To respond to some of your points I would say that political realignment is a process, and one I believe we can currently see happening at a national scale. Since I initially neglected to, I'll post a few links for people interested in understanding political realignment:

Walter Dean Burnham article
A simple summary of populism and realignment

I'd like to point out the mention in that third link of the rise of a third party in times of realignment. Like the rise of Tea Party and Libertarian movements happening now. This has been a response to a broad dissatisfaction with the platforms and policies of the right, as well as the whole. But understand, this is a splintering of the right and possibly precedes the movement of some who self-identify as right to a moderate position, leaving mainly the splintered group as the remaining right.

I don't want to get all wordy about statistics and analytics, but I would argue we are currently in a regression to the mean which will be followed by a continued swing into "left". We know from the past that government doesn't change overnight. It takes quite some time. Some would point to elections like the '94 mid-terms or those in '10 to argue that this realignment isn't really occurring, but as I pointed out in my OP mid-term elections do not give a true representation of the nation's voters. Not that anyone has made that argument on this thread, but it has happened to me in face to face discussion.

Over the years our government and policies have gone right of center, I'm not arguing this point. It's very true. As Aazadan pointed out, over the years the right has moved further right and in response the left has moved right with them in an effort to continue to appeal to a broader number of voters. Over the coming years we should see a movement in government to true center, followed by a move to left of center, completing the realignment with the public as a whole.

I agree we've gone far too capitalist and corporations have too much influence, and if I am going to be very honest I believe what we see from the religious groups may be the last big push they'll have for the next half century and they know this. Having said that, you point to policy, lobbying, and campaign donations just a few sentences later. Policy by a government we agree is currently center-right. Lobbying and campaign donations by capitalist interests and corporations we agree have too much influence. I don't think these are an argument against the realignment we are likely seeing. In fact, they may be some of the things causing the realignment to begin with.

I wasn't trying to accurately measure the political temperature of the US, but to show the direction the political temperature is moving. Some of the indicators that show this are issues that have been focused on by more than lip service. If I recall correctly, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Washington, Maryland, New York and DC allow same sex marriage. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is gone. DOMA no longer being enforced by the DoJ. Legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. Further discussion happening in California, Idaho, Oregon, Illinois, et cetera over legalization. Healthcare reform (which I think was completely screwed up, I'm for single-payer, tort reform, and a more comprehensive overhaul of the healthcare system). Illinois, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico have all either abolished the death penalty or imposed a moratorium since 2007, increasing the number of states without the death penalty to 17, plus DC. I don't consider these to be merely lip service.

posted on Feb, 26 2013 @ 03:34 PM
reply to post by LuckyLucian

Gotcha, that's my fault for not reading beyond your OP. You put this thread together very nicely, it's thought provoking. I think it's definitely true that the majority of people are moving Left, yet our government continues to move Right. I hope your graphics indicate a forced pull back to center, maybe we're even seeing it beginning to happen now.

I'm very far Left (the voiceless Left), many of my friends are and the media that I read and watch covers the outrage against Obama as well as some other Democrats coming from the Left, we're even seeing some outrage from Liberals over things like the Drone Program and the Kill List.

Something to note as well and we won't know the effects until the 2014 midterm elections and the 2016 Presidential election, is that Republicans have re-drawn district lines in many States and will continue up until the election, they also are looking to pass legislation in those States that will change how the electoral votes are awarded, roughly quoting they will award electoral votes per district.

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