Less than two years ago, Barack Obama was sworn in as president amidst proclamations of a partisan realignment. But in this falls midterms, scores of his fellow Democrats lost their jobs. The best evidence suggests that Obamas signature accomplishmentpassage of a healthcare reform bill that had long eluded progressivesplayed a key role in the historic defeat. It also highlighted the delicacy of partisan regimes, particularly those prematurely designated as realignments by academic or popular observers.
In order to measure the strength of the parties in each state, the Major Party Index (MPI) was built by averaging the results of the six major elections that take place in the fifty states. This index allows us to describe the absolute and comparative partisan leaning of each state in each election and identify trends of party strength over time within individual states, among regions, and within the nation as a whole. The MPI sheds considerable light on three general developments: (1) a national change from Democratic dominance in the 1980s to a Republican edge by 2002, (2) significant regional realignments in the South and New England, and (3) a strong trend toward greater consistency between partisan voting at the federal and state levels.
Much of the commentary in the wake of last month's presidential election has focused on the magnitude and historic aspects of Barack Obama's victory and the deteriorating economic environment in which it played out. Little thought has been given to the influence of foreign affairs in the election. Yet even in this year's contest, which appears to lend considerable support to economic-based theories of elections, international events clearly played an important role by shaping the nomination process for both major parties and in Obama's selection of Joseph Biden as his running mate.
Realignment theory has long offered the primary framework for understanding American political history, particularly as it relates to the party system. The ''System of 1896'' is central to the theory and holds that William McKinley's victory in that year ushered in a Republican-dominated era lasting until Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt's election in 1932. The 10 years of partial-and six years of total-Democratic control of Congress and the White House (1910-20) during this 36-year stretch (1896-1932) remains an anomaly among realignment theorists. I conduct content analyses of Democratic and Republican party documents and media commentary and find that World War I played a crucial role in the GOP's resurgence in 1920. This conclusion highlights realignment theory's failure to account for the important role of international events and contingency in general.
Long-term care is a serious but largely unrecognized problem in the US. The CLASS Act was a new program embedded within the Affordable Care Act that was supposed to bring relief to disabled individuals and Medicaid, the primary payer for long-term care. However, the program had an unworkable design, and it was eventually abandoned by the Obama administration. CLASS' flaws were largely the product of a policy area in which ignorance and misinformation render any effective and fiscally sound program politically unfeasible. As such, the rise and fall of the CLASS Act highlights the profound challenges facing any attempt to pass serious long-term care reform and underscores the need to raise awareness of America's long-term care challenge.
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