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November 2, 2016

A realigning election is an election where a new coalition becomes dominant.  In American history the presidential elections of 1800, 1828, 1860, 1896, and 1932 are usually considered to have been realigning elections.

In 1800 Thomas Jefferson defeated incumbent John Adams and made the Democratic-Republicans dominant for more than a quarter century.

In 1828 Democrat Andrew Jackson defeated incumbent John Quincy Adams.  After Jackson was re-elected in 1832 the opposition formed the Whig Party.  Even though there were a few Whig Presidents, it was Jackson’s party that won most of the elections until 1860.  Jackson was a slaveholder who vigorously supported the Federal Union.  After his death the Democratic Party became so tied to slavery that it ultimately abandoned Jacksonian principle regarding the Union.

In the most important election in U.S. history Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican President in 1860.  After the Civil War freed slaves would consistently vote Republican.

In 1896 William McKinley brought more working class voters into the Republican Party, cutting into what was presumed to be a natural constituency for the Democrats.

In 1932 the Great Depression enabled Democrat Franklin Roosevelt to build a new coalition with his New Deal.

Many political analysts have seen realignment in the elections of 1964, 1968, 1980, and 2008.

Despite the outcome, the 2016 presidential race may very well be a realigning election.

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