Walter Burnham

Recent Articles

The Politics of Repudiation 1992: Edging Toward Upheaval

Not a major realignment, but ominous rumblings.

F or a generation the United States has experienced a complex and deepening crisis of its political and economic order. Three pivotal and highly abnormal electios have punctuated this crisis. In 1968, undermined by the Vietnam War and the civil rights revolution, the New Deal order collapsed. A new electoral regime emerged from the ruins, marked by three main features: normal Republican control of the presidency; divided government as the (unprecedented) norm; and a candidate-dominated "permanent campaign," in which a capital-intensive personalism crowded out labor-intensive political parties. In the 1970s, severe economic crisis replaced Vietnam as a driving issue. Its effects (stagnation and price-inflation coupled with low real interest rates) were reinforced by signs of foreign policy weakness and the emergence of the socio-religious right. The stage was set for Ronald Reagan and right-wing "conviction politics" designed to stop the rot on all fronts. A massive policy realignment...

Drift or Mandate?: The 1996 Elections

The voters' decision in November will determine whether the late 1990s usher in America's "fourth Republic."

T he American political system has been passing through one of its rare bursts of sweeping convulsive change, culminating thus far in the electoral earthquake of 1994. That midterm election abruptly terminated a reasonably stable institutional balance, major parts of which had lasted for more than 40 years. Only five years ago, the Oxford professor of American politics, Byron E. Shafer, could credibly describe this system in these words: In the current era, the presidency is about foreign policy and cultural values. The House of Representatives is about social welfare and service provision. And the Senate is amenable to both concerns, while leaning toward the latter. There is a conservative majority in the nation . . . on issues of foreign policy and cultural values, and the presidency is accordingly Republican. There is a liberal majority in the nation on issues of social welfare and service provision, and the House of Representatives is accordingly Democratic. Either majority can...