The Year of the Realignment

TYLER, GUS

Countdown '76 THE YEAR OF THE REALIGNMENT BY GUS TYLER In retrospect, 1976 is likely to be seen as the Year of the Realignment. The United States appears closer than ever to a political...

...The great gap between Yankee and Dixie no longer yawns so widely...
...A platform that was painted, in the language of Ronald Reagan, in bold colors "without pastilles," was adopted without debate...
...How, then, can millions of voters make informed judgments about a party's performance...
...There has been recurrent discussion about actively encouraging such a development for some 40 years, but it is happening now as the result of unconscious evolution rather than conscious resolution...
...A major argument in favor of one union composed of highly diverse colonies and interests was that this would insure against any single faction becoming a majority...
...Those who expected to govern would have to achieve a coalition of many minorities to win election...
...More important, the Democrats were able to attract workers and blacks...
...In the rural South of the past, the Democrats depended on the man of the soil and on the small-town folk whose political pivot was the county courthouse...
...Party realignment has been the darling of political analysts intent on finding a way to give direction to a perplexed and plural society...
...Besides reinforcing the power of the rich, the Great Compromise actually created an overlapping fourparty system in America...
...In both parties, a real realignment was blocked by internal forces...
...Tennessee went for Reagan and Kentucky for Fordóby one delegate each...
...In the 1940s, it is believed, Franklin Roosevelt discussed the possibility of realignment with Republican Wendell Wilkie...
...Similarly, should Carter remain true to the Democratic platform, and carry the South with him...
...A more important clue to the realignment appears in the startling way the GOP chose its convention delegates...
...out of such a monster might issue a "tyranny of the majority...
...Largely because of the South, the GOP has become more conservative and the Democrats more homogeneously liberal...
...Ford swept the Northeast and the Midwest, losing only Indiana, with its heavy Southern constituency and complexion...
...would develop to determine the course of the nation until the next election...
...He got the ducks all right, but he lost the rest of the country...
...The President was not to be nominated by a party but sanely selected by a house of elders called the Electoral College...
...The Democratic platform, clearly and consistently a document of advanced liberalism, was also ratified unanimously...
...The Founding Fathers frankly feared any large political organization with a clear idea of what it wanted...
...when a national convention writes a platform, virtually nobody is bound by it...
...Pennsylvania's Richard Schweiker became a travesty of Republican progressivism with his confession that he had leaned to the Left as a Senator because that was the only way his constituency would elect him...
...Their image of the party was based on its Washington face, and they were determined to bring their state organizations in line with the national one...
...If, from that starting point, the GOP had reached out for the black vote and the industrial worker, it would have had a mass base in Dixie, and would also have added some liberal legions to its ranks...
...But as early as 1961, Barry Goldwater spelled out the Republicans' Southern strategy: "We're not going to get the Negro vote as a bloc in 1964 and 1968, so we ought to go hunting where the ducks are...
...say Bass and De Vries, "for the Republican party to assume the role of reform in the one-party South, and the GOP increasingly attracted the most reactionary elements of the region to the party...
...The role of Nelson Rockefelleróthe erstwhile symbol of East Coast liberalismówas tragicomic...
...And, as Jack Bass and Walter De Vries note in their recent book, The Transformation of Southern Politics, "the Eisenhower Republicans in the South often included leadership from the professional and business elite and a reform element that perceived the need to develop a two-party system and to challenge entrenched Democratic statehouses that generally were unresponsive to the needs of a changing society...
...And Florida is culturally akin to the North, while Oregon is an historical offspring of New England...
...This year, however, the classic ideologic conflicts within the parties were hardly apparent...
...The great American political chieftains, without exception...
...Should Ford go through with this strategy to "strengthen the core of his party by narrowing its base" (James Reston), he will have moved the GOP further into a tight ideologic mold of conservatism...
...have had to be astute opportunists free from petrified ideas, and expediency has accordingly been the key to their party practices...
...FDR, with his New Deal, confronted the challenge of an industrial and urban civilization...
...And the selection of Walter Mondale as Jimmy Carter's running mate told as much about the soul of the Democratic party as the choice of Dole did about the spirit of the GOP...
...The 1938 election represented a major realignment of party leaders," remarked Cartez A. M. Ewing in 1949...
...Republican Presidents, with their "me-too" appeal to the country at large, have generally been more liberal than theirs...
...All the aspirants for the Presidencyówith the exception of Wallaceówere cast in the liberal mold...
...wrote Wilfred Binkley about 30 years ago...
...To a lesser extent, the same process took place in the Southwest and the West...
...As of now...
...In addition, political scientists have recently contended that realignment is a necessary precondition for "party responsibility...
...Reagan, on the other hand, carried every Southern and Western state with the exceptions of Florida and Oregon...
...Although this looseness was tolerable in the early day of the republic, when we were more a federation than a nation, when the sections were less dependent on one another, and when our natural wealth allowed wide margins for error, a muddle-through method has become dangerous in our present interdependent, hard-pressed circumstances...
...Consequently, the Democratic party has lost much of its conservative stigma in the South...
...see my "The Decline of the Northeast," NL, June 7...
...Carter's rise this year is especially significant, for the shifting balances of power within the two major parties mirror the shifting power centers of the U.S...
...Ergo, argue the visionaries, we need political parties that represent definite philosophies, that will stand for something over the years...
...In effect, he has written off the election and is running to save the party, not to win...
...The conservative Ford's pick of the even more conservative Robert Dole as his Vice-Presidential candidate underscored this state of affairs...
...He devised national solutions because the prime problems could no longer be handled on a local basis...
...Once in the White House, Democratic Presidents, needing the cooperation of Congress, have had to be more conservative than their party...
...The constitutional division of powers, the further subdivision into states, and the internal differences among Republicans and Democrats have left the country without any cohesive and enduring means of providing long-range policies...
...As a New South began to emerge, though, with its cities, industries, offices, and professionals, the old one-party systemórule by white supremacist Democrats...
...Hence, the men who wrote the Constitution did whatever they could to bar parties and, most certainly, to bar internally consistent parties...
...At Kansas City, there was simply no liberal voice...
...House and Senate members play the game of constituencies regardless of official Democratic or Republican programs...
...The United States appears closer than ever to a political system based on two national parties with something resembling ideologic character...
...What has brought about this consolidation...
...Wilson wanted a return to the "conservative principles which [the Democratic party] once represented...
...By 1938, however, Roosevelt sensed that whatever realignment had taken place was unstable...
...Their thinking was provincial, prejudiced and hopelessly behind the times...
...Wilson, despite a reputation as a forward looking man, assailed Teddy Roosevelt as a "radical" because of TR's proposals for trustbusting, government ownership of railroads and the popular election of senators...
...FDR's idea was to have one national party that would be broadly "liberal" and another that would be broadly "conservative...
...He does something and sees who hollers and then invents a remedy and sees who hollers over the remedy...
...Having been rescued from anarchy, the monied classes were calling upon their boys in both parties to return to the old ways...
...A two-party struggle developed, and the GOP began to have a fighting chance...
...Roosevelt's 1938 attempt to cleanse the Democrats of conservatives failed and his subsequent talk with Wilkie, if it ever took place, was merely talk...
...conservative" and "liberal...
...As the Republicans moved to the Right in the South, the Democrats shifted Leftward...
...He injected the government into the economy because laissez faire offered no way out of the Depression or economic iniquity...
...More recently, Clinton Rossiter outlined our politics of adjustment: "No America without democracy, no democracy without politics, no politics without parties, no parties without compromise and moderation...
...The influence of passionate programmatic agitatorsóliberal Democrats and conservative Republicansócannot have been too great, since agitators got Goldwater his nomination in 1964 and McGovern his in 1972, thereby discrediting themselves as political pontiffs...
...The division between Ford and Reagan supporters was strictly geographicóto an extent unparalleled in the nation's history...
...The Democratic South continued to hold on to its special kind of conservatism, and among the Republicans, the Eastern establishment retained its unique brand of liberalism...
...In the Democratic party, too, there are discernible geographic forces at work...
...By so doing, quips historian Eli Evans...
...But this possibility was frustrated by the Great Compromise of 1877, an agreement by the propertied classes of North and South to govern the country through both parties...
...he will have put the stamp of liberalism on his party...
...The Goldwater ploy "killed the chance...
...Then two other parties...
...Senators Charles Percy, Jacob Javits and Clifford Case were unheeded, almost unheard...
...This year, with Carter heading the ticket, the rift is likely to lessen still more...
...Cleveland started his first term as a man of the people, yet by the beginning of his second, notes Binkley, he "had a more pronounced capitalist ideology than any Republican President from the corn belt except Grant...
...And, rather inadvertently, party realignment will have become a central fact of American political life...
...As Russell Baker so aptly observed in the New York Times, the Republican battle was a three-way struggle between "the right, the righter and the rightest...
...Jimmy Carter is the first nonincumbent Southerner in more than a century to win the Democratic Presidential nomination...
...He was annoyed by the many Democrats who rode into office on his coattails, only to use their posts to frustrate Presidential proposals...
...The Democrats and Republicans would operate before the elections to put people in the White House and Congress...
...Apparently aware of these political realities, candidate Ford has all but written off the Northeast and the South...
...A victory in half a dozen states on the Michigan-Kansas axis would allow it to survive while awaiting a future Right-wing revival...
...The years after the Civil War provided a socioeconomic setting for party realignment: The new class of industrial wage earners and a rising urban population might have formed the base for a party that resisted capitalist rule reinforced by rural conservatism...
...As if to emphasize the geographic confrontation, the border states of Kentucky and Tennessee ended up with uncertain minds...
...In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower carried Texas, Florida, Virginia, and Tennessee...
...That able politician and professor, T. V. Smith, put it more picturesquely: "The politician adjusts manually instead of ideologically...
...It was not until Franklin Roosevelt came to office that a true twoparty system began to emerge...
...started to dissolve...
...Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, the two Democratic Presidents elected in the protracted Republican era 1860-1932, did not change this pattern...
...Nothing came of those talks, for FDR's plan ran against the tradition of each major party trying, more or less, to reflect the feelings of the nation as a whole...
...In part, this occurred because the GOP had drained off some of the conservative support of its rivals...

Vol. 59 • September 1976 • No. 18


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.