Political realignments have only occurred a handful of times in our nation’s history. They usually occur once every generation and have resounding effects upon the future of political parties. Following the election of 1896, a new political era ensued in which the Republicans were virtually unbeatable (Woodrow Wilson only became President due to a split Republican Party) for over 30 years until the election of 1932. When that happened the roles reversed- not only in popularity, but in voter bases. The Republicans previously dominated the Northeast, wealthy, highly educated, and black voters, while the Democrats were most powerful with the Southeast, farmers, and Catholics. This single election had such huge ramifications that today are felt- almost every single voter base those parties had has been swapped since.
Historians debate whether the Election of 1980 was a realignment or not. While many would say it was, even if it was not it cannot be denied that it had huge ramifications in tilting both parties right and changing politics drastically, a tone which has held largely for 40 years. Today however the Republican Party and Democratic Party are both showing cracks. The Old Guard of the Democratic Party in the mold of Carter, Clinton, Obama and Biden still have the reins in guiding the party to a relatively moderate liberal stance. The Republicans have been defined largely as an establishment neo-Conservative viewpoint since Bush Sr. and had sided with the Religious Right for the most part.
But both of those holds are being threatened. The Democratic Party is showing signs of tilting further and further into Socialism. Bernie Sanders’ drastic popularity cannot be ignored even by the establishment, and AOC is a progressive inspiration to millions of leftist Democrats. The Republicans have been in a heated battle between arguments between establishment and populism, free trade and tariffs, traditional or gay marriage, and other such issues.
Every election is important. But that is especially true for this election, because this will be what determines the fate of each party. Bernie has already lost the previous nomination in favor of the more moderate and establishment Hillary Clinton, who lost. If Biden loses also, it is very possible that the Democratic Party will acquiesce to the more leftist side in hopes of regaining power. Conversely, if the Republican Party under Trump loses, then they will be doing some serious soul searching: how will they expand their voter base in a day in age in which all their current bases (old, white, and rural people) are shrinking in modern America? Will they become more center or will they go further right?
Whether Biden or Trump wins, this will set the stage for a political revolution in one or even both parties which could in turn have huge ramifications for 2024 and beyond.