The theory in essence states that due to demographic shifts taking place in the United States the face of the electorate in coming decades will dramatically tilt, considerably favoring the Progressive/Democratic agendas. Thus relegating the GOP to the same fate as the Whigs...obscurity then oblivion.
Most skeptics, on the other hand, start from a belief that realignment theory does not accurately describe how American elections work. Following David Mayhew’s seminal “Electoral Realignments,” many political scientists and EDM skeptics came to conclude during the 2000s that realignment theory is fatally flawed. I’ve explored this numerous times on this site, as well as in my book, “The Lost Majority” (now available for a bright, shiny penny at Amazon marketplace). Among the reasons for being skeptical of the concept of realignments:
- Many elections that are not listed as critical elections nevertheless show many of the features of critical elections (1874, 1912, 1952), which disrupts periodicity and argues against the idea of extended party rule.
- There is a distinct tendency to regress toward a neutral mean in elections.
- One-party control of government is actually rare, and has only occurred after 13 of the past 34 elections.
- The “runs” of wins and losses by one party or the other that we see in presidential elections are consistent with random chance.
- The periodicity of electoral cycles, to the extent it ever existed, breaks down in 1932, as Republicans only briefly took unified control of government during their supposed majority period.
- Realignment theory can be deconstructed as revealing a preference for an economic narrative; if our preference were for, say, a foreign policy narrative, we could write a coherent realignment narrative focusing on 1900, 1920, 1952, 1980 and 2008. A civil rights narrative might see critical elections in 1860, 1892, 1936, 1964 and 2008.
That last factor is, I think, the kicker. Even the most ardent realignment theorist will concede that the occasional war, recession and so forth will allow the out-party to win. To me, that is exactly backwards: Wars, recessions, expansions and so forth are the rule in elections, and our elections follow those much more closely than they do demographic trends. So a skeptic’s baseline belief is substantially lower -- maybe 10 percent.
- Elections are well-predicted by a few fundamental factors, such as the economy, wars, scandal, and incumbency.
This is not to deny the EMD theory just to say that planning out 'emerging majorities' may be a false premise based on a vast amount of circumstantial evidence. These coalitions are not immutable nor are they abatable. Realistically we have no idea what the world of tomorrow will be or even look like. Of course you can say you are running a fool's gambit by denying its inevitability in the face of the tsunami of data.