Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 4 > Issue 2

The Local Politics of National Realignments: U.S. Political Transformation from the New Deal to the Religious Right

Stephanie Ternullo, Department of Government, Harvard University, USA,
Suggested Citation
Stephanie Ternullo (2024), "The Local Politics of National Realignments: U.S. Political Transformation from the New Deal to the Religious Right", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 4: No. 2, pp 221-253.

Publication Date: 08 Jul 2024
© 2024 S. Ternullo
Political organizations,  Political parties,  Social movements,  Voting behavior
Voting behaviorsocial movementspolitical partiespolitical organizations


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In this article:
National Political–Economic Changes in the Post-Civil Rights Era 
An Organizational Account 
Data and Analytic Strategy 
County-Level Data 
Analytic Strategy 
Case Studies: Lutherton and Gravesend 
Generalizing Beyond the Case Studies 


How did local factors shape the political trajectories of White, working-class communities amidst the national breakdown of the New Deal coalition? This paper takes up this question by combining a quantitative, descriptive analysis of political change among White, working-class New Deal counties from 1932 to 2016 — including the Racial Realignment, the rise of the Religious Right, and the decline of unions — as well as a comparative-historical analysis of two of cities that were part of that New Deal coalition but took different political pathways after the Racial Realignment. I find that as cities confronted national political–economic developments, their responses were conditioned by local organizational contexts — which were often products of a previous period of response to national change. My findings suggest that New Deal counties that had both a pre-existing history of evangelicalism and organized anti-Black sentiment prior to the Racial Realignment and turned away from unions early in the deindustrialization period, were most open to late 20th century Republican politics. More broadly, the analysis offers a new theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between local and national processes of political change.



Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 4, Issue 2 Special Issue: Religion and Culture within Historical Political Economy
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.