Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Professor Sandy Maisel

Second Advisor

Professor Daniel Shea


Abstract: This paper seeks to address the essential question: what happened during the presidential election of 2016 and what does this mean for the American party system? Using qualitative and quantitative analysis, this research suggests that the 2016 election is evidence that domineering policy demanders, such as the Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street, and domineering politicians, such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, used the democratized media to force a top-down realignment of the American party system. A top-down realignment is characterized by the demise of the prominent American political party­– an institution fundamental to our political process. Additionally, a top-down realignment is distinct from more traditional theories of bottom-up realignments, such as Burnham’s (1970) theory of critical realignments and Sundquist’s (1983) theory of conflict displacement.


Political Parties, Realignment, 2016 Presidential Election, Democratized Media, Domineering Policy Demanders, Domineering Politicians