The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960: Two-Party Competition in a Battleground State

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9780271034195: The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960: Two-Party Competition in a Battleground State

The political party system in the United States has periodically undergone major realignments at various critical junctures in the country’s history. The Civil War boosted the Republican Party’s fortunes and catapulted it into majority status at the national level, a status that was further solidified during the Populist realignment in the 1890s. Starting in the 1930s, however, Roosevelt’s New Deal reversed the parties’ fortunes, bringing the Democratic Party back to national power, and this realignment was further modified by the “culture wars” beginning in the mid-1960s. Each of these realignments occasioned shifts in the electorate’s support for the major parties, and they were superimposed on each other in a way that did not negate entirely the consequences of the preceding realignments. The story of realignment is further complicated by the variations that occurred within individual states whose own particular political legacies, circumstances, and personalities resulted in modulations and modifications of the patterns playing out at the national level.

In this book, Renée Lamis investigates how Pennsylvania experienced this series of realignments, with special attention to the period since 1960. She uses a wealth of data from a wide variety of sources to produce an analysis that allows her to trace the evolution of electoral behavior in the Keystone State in a narrative that is accessible to a broad range of readers. Her account helps explain why Senator Arlen Specter was reelected whereas Senator Rick Santorum was not, and why Pennsylvania Republicans have been highly successful in major statewide elections in an era when Democratic presidential standard-bearers have regularly carried the state. Overall, her book constitutes a gold mine of information and interpretation for political junkies as well as scholars who want to know more about how national-level politics plays out within individual states.

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About the Author:

Renée M. Lamis, who has a PhD in political science from Case Western Reserve University, served as Director of the MPA Program at Gannon University in Erie from 1998 to 2007. In October 2008, she started her own public affairs consulting firm in Erie, Dynamic Visions Consulting, after working as a consultant for PA Futures.

Review:

“This book is splendidly written, the thesis cogently argued, and the scholarship superb. The author examines the evolution of voting behavior by demographic groups, by attitudes, and by county, providing information that is generally not readily available elsewhere. Overall, the research into Pennsylvania politics is extensive, and this volume provides the reader with a wealth of data to chart electoral change in the state. Using Pennsylvania as a case study, Professor Lamis has entered the debate over the reasons for voter realignment. In doing so, she has succeeded admirably in framing the fundamental reasons why groups of voters modify their party allegiance and voting habits—essentially because of major changes in the economy and society. Her argument extends the reasons for these significant movements of voters to a series of aftershocks from the Great Depression and the New Deal, which were caused by ‘culture-war realignments.’ Put another way, the big political fights and policy wars over elements of cultural change have produced a regrouping of the political base of the two major parties.”

—G. Terry Madonna, Franklin & Marshall College



“If everybody recognizes . . . that a realignment in the South has clearly taken place, has the rest of the country . . . realigned as well? That is the question that Renée Lamis set out to answer [for Pennsylvania], and her technique has been to subject that state’s changing political configuration to what is surely the most intense, microscopic scrutiny ever given to any state’s electoral landscape.”

—James L. Sundquist



The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960 is a significant and masterfully researched work explaining the historical evolution of Pennsylvania politics over the past forty-five years. Filled with useful charts, graphs, and maps of Pennsylvania’s voting behavior and voting trends, the book is likely to fascinate readers with interest in the Keystone State’s politics.”

—Robert Speel, author of Changing Patterns of Voting in the Northern United States: Electoral Realignment, 1952–1996



“The book is well written and rich with data and statistical analysis. It will appeal to professional political scientists, journalists covering the state, and students in classes on Pennsylvania politics.”

—Daniel Mallison, Commonwealth

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