Post-1984 Political Landscape

January 11, 1985

Report Outline
Liberalism's Decline
The Turning Point
Conservative Challenge
Ideology and the Parties

Liberalism's Decline

Liberal Crisis and Conservative Gains

On Jan. 21, Americans will witness the second inauguration of Republican President Ronald Reagan. Many of his supporters view Reagan's landslide victory last November as the ratification of a conservative political philosophy, out of vogue since the New Deal days of the 1930s but redeemed by Reagan's first election in 1980. In addition, many political pundits describe Reagan's triumph over Walter F. Mondale as another body blow, perhaps a fatal one, to the liberalism that has dominated the Democratic Party for the past half-century.

Obituaries for liberalism have been written before but seldom with such good reason. Mondale, who regarded himself as the bearer of a torch passed to him by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert H. Humphrey, received only 41 percent of the popular vote. The former vice president's performance continued a long and unhappy pattern for liberal Democrats. Since the brief heyday of post-New Deal liberalism in the early 1960s, no Democratic presidential candidate generally identified as a liberal has mustered as much as 43 percent of the total vote.

Many traditional Democrats—white Southerners, white laborers, Catholics, religious fundamentalists, even “baby boomers” with roots in the anti-Vietnam War movement—are indicating their dissatifaction with the Democrats' “drift to the left” by voting against the party. In a Gallup survey released Dec. 2, four-fifths of the respondents described themselves as “right-of-center” or “middle-of-the-road,” while only 18 percent called themselves “left-of-center.” However, 44 percent saw the national Democratic Party as left-of-center.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Political Parties
May 26, 2023  Congressional Investigations
Jan. 06, 2023  Dark Money
Mar. 25, 2022  The Democrats' Future
Apr. 30, 2021  The GOP's Future
Oct. 13, 2017  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 09, 2016  Populism and Party Politics
Nov. 14, 2014  Nonprofit Groups and Partisan Politics
Oct. 24, 2014  Future of the GOP
Feb. 28, 2014  Polarization in America
Mar. 19, 2010  Tea Party Movement Updated
Mar. 20, 2009  Future of the GOP
Jun. 08, 2007  Democrats in Congress
Apr. 30, 2004  The Partisan Divide
Dec. 22, 1995  Third-Party Prospects
Jan. 11, 1985  Post-1984 Political Landscape
Nov. 09, 1984  Democratic Revival in South America
Sep. 14, 1984  Election 1984
Dec. 19, 1980  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 29, 1978  New Right in American Politics
Jan. 04, 1974  Future of Conservatism
May 03, 1972  The New Populism
Feb. 02, 1956  Foreign Policy in Political Campaigns
Dec. 22, 1954  Divided Government
Aug. 04, 1952  Two-Party System
Jun. 06, 1952  Party Platforms
Sep. 05, 1951  Southern Democrats and the 1952 Election
Oct. 06, 1948  Voting in 1948
Aug. 27, 1948  Republicans and Foreign Policy
Jul. 16, 1947  Third Party Movements
Aug. 22, 1940  Political Realignments
Jan. 13, 1938  The G. O. P. and the Solid South
Jul. 22, 1936  Third Party Movements in American Politics
Jul. 07, 1936  The Monopoly Issue in Party Politics
Nov. 12, 1935  Party Platforms and the 1936 Campaign
May 18, 1934  Political Trends and New Party Movements
Jan. 13, 1932  National Party Platforms, 1832–1932
May 16, 1928  Third Party Movements
Jan. 21, 1928  Major Party Platforms 1924–1928
Nov. 14, 1924  The Election and the Third Party
Sep. 05, 1924  Party Claims and Past Political Complexion of the States
Jun. 25, 1924  Third Party Platforms
Jun. 18, 1924  Thrid Parties: Past and Prospective
Campaigns and Elections
Campaigns and Elections
Conservatism and Liberalism
Economic Crises
Party Politics
Welfare and Welfare Reform