Is Trump’s Election the Beginning of a Political Realignment?

Since this country settled into two major political parties, there have been a few major events/circumstances that have cause a realignment of the electoral map. For a brief summary, after the end of the Civil War, the presidential electoral map eventually settled into something like this in 1880:

Electoral college 1880

World wars, a Great Depression and various presidential personalities dominated over the next few decades until the passage of civil rights laws and the Republican Southern Strategy began to flip party allegiances. By the time Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, that was becoming evident.

Electoral map 1992

With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the realignment was complete and there was talk of a “blue wall” – including states in the North East, Midwest and West Coast (also, New Mexico and Colorado).

Electoral map 2008

As we all know by now, the blue wall didn’t hold in 2016 – with most states in the Midwest voting for Trump.

Electoral map 2016

That is why so much of the discussion since this last election has focused on what happened to those Midwestern “Rust Belt” states that flipped from blue to red. As Martin has written, the major concern has been about the specific nature of the white rural/exurban vote in those states.

But there is another group of states where the shift wasn’t as dramatic because they didn’t change the colors on the map. I decided to take a look at three of them to see what happened in 2016 as compared to 2012.

Texas – a 7 point swing towards Democrats

2012 – Romney beat Obama 57/41
2016 – Trump beat Clinton 52/43

Arizona – a 4 point swing towards Democrats

2012 – Romney beat Obama 53/45
2016 – Trump beat Clinton 49/45

Georgia – a 3 point swing towards Democrats

2012 – Romney beat Obama 53/45
2016 – Trump beat Clinton 51/46

The thread that ties these three states together is an increasingly diverse pool of voters. If Ruy Teixeira is right that “in the end, the race will be won by change — as it always is,” it is important to keep these trends in mind.

The question raised by both the swing in Rust Belt states as well as these 3 Southern states is whether or not they represent the beginning of another political realignment, or are simply the result of the unique contest between Clinton and Trump. Only time will tell.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.