The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960

Two-Party Competition in a Battleground State

By (author) Renée M. Lamis Footnotes by James L. Sundquist

Paperback - £19.95

Publication date:

15 November 2012

Length of book:

432 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271034201

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.

“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