Requiem for the Realignment
At American Affairs, Gladden Pappin charts the decline of conservative realignment and how it can return
In the spring issue of American Affairs published, I survey the state of “realignment” politics and what comes next.
As Republicans rubbed their eyes on the morning of November 9, it became painfully clear that the much-predicted red wave had turned out to be a mirage. A slew of unremarkable Republican candidates lost their bids to unseat Democratic congressmen, and prominent “MAGA-style” Trump-backed candidates lost as well. Both groups within the GOP blamed the other, with MAGA Republicans saying that the establishment GOP was milquetoast, and mainstream Republicans criticizing the crass populism of many Trump candidates. In spite of rampant inflation and general economic anxiety, Republicans only narrowly reclaimed the House of Representatives and failed to take the U.S. Senate.
Since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, many on the right have preached the advent of a “realignment.” Accounts of realignment have taken various forms, but generally involve some traditionally Democratic constituencies shifting to the Republican Party and the GOP itself beginning to reflect the populist priorities of its base. The authors of the 2019 declaration “Against the Dead Consensus” inveighed against the “failed” conservative intellectual infrastructure that had gone before. “Trump’s victory,” they wrote, “driven in part by his appeal to working-class voters, shows the potential of a political movement that heeds the cries of the working class as much as the demands of capital.” Calls for realignment on the right are even more urgent now than they were five years ago. But they are currently on very precarious ground, and only an honest reckoning with that fact can keep the possibility of realignment alive.
Postliberal Order is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.