"Electoral Realignments" by David R. Mayhew

Electoral Realignments A Critique of an American Genre David R. Mayhew

Yale Institute for Social & Policy Studies
Publication date:
23 Apr 2004
184 pages: 216 x 140 x 10mm
1, black & white illustrations

The study of electoral realignments is one of the most influential and intellectually stimulating enterprises undertaken by American political scientists. Realignment theory has been seen as a science able to predict changes, and generations of students, journalists, pundits, and political scientists have been trained to be on the lookout for "signs" of new electoral realignments. Now a major political scientist argues that the essential claims of realignment theory are wrong-that American elections, parties, and policymaking are not (and never were) reconfigured according to the realignment calendar. David Mayhew examines fifteen key empirical claims of realignment theory in detail and shows us why each in turn does not hold up under scrutiny. It is time, he insists, to open the field to new ideas. We might, for example, adopt a more nominalistic, skeptical way of thinking about American elections that highlights contingency, short-term election strategies, and valence issues. Or we might examine such broad topics as bellicosity in early American history, or racial questions in much of our electoral history. But we must move on from an old orthodoxy and failed model of illumination.

David R. Mayhew is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He is also the author of America's Congress: Actions in the Public Sphere, James Madison Through Newt Gingrich; Divided We Govern: Party Control, Lawmaking, and Investigations, 1946-1990; and Congress: The Electoral Connection, all available from Yale University Press.

"A lucidly argued and stimulating book." Alan Ehrenhalt, New Republic; "Mayhew's work will no doubt spark a spirited debate within a discipline that has long relied on the ideas he so effectively critiques here." Virginia Quarterly Review; "This book will be an essential part of any discussion about the development of American political parties." Choice; "This is a provocative book that challenges reigning orthodoxy. It should be required reading for all serious observers of American politics." Darrell M. West, Brown University; "This elegant volume is a profoundly subversive book in an intellectually positive sense, delivering a body blow to a highly influential scholarly literature and preparing the way for more productive inquiry. No student of political parties can ignore it." Fred Greenstein, Princeton University"