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On 1968: A Realigning Period

In his landmark 1955 article “A Theory of Critical Elections”, V.O. Key posited that certain U.S. elections result in dramatic reconfigurations of political parties, or realignments. During these elections – which are typically preceded by intense periods of political and societal discord – Republican and Democratic platforms shift dramatically and there is a realignment of voting blocs. Elections generally accepted as realignments are 1800, 1828, 1860, 1896, 1932 and 1968. Given that the 1968 realignment is commonly viewed as the last widely-accepted realignment and foundational to contemporary politics, understanding the events surrounding it is important if we are to gain a better sense of our current division.