In political science terminology, a realigning election is an election in which the control of government switches from one party to another in a way that is long-lasting. There is no clear criterion for what constitutes a realigning election and scholars can disagree over which elections have truly been realigning elections. For example, it is generally accepted that 1932 was a realigning election in which the Democratic “New Deal Coalition” came to power where it remained for decades. On the other hand, there is disagreement as to whether the 1980 election constituted a realigning election. Realigning elections are important because they change the political landscape for a long period of time.
The Watergate Babies were the class of new members of Congress who were elected in 1974. These people were elected on the basis of public anger over the Watergate scandal. This class senators and representatives entered Congress intending to reform the way Congress did business. They are mainly important because they democratized the way Congress works, taking power from long-standing committee chairs who had dominated things.
The election of 1980 brought Ronald Reagan into the presidency. This began 12 years of Republican control of the White House. This is the main importance of this election. It put Reagan in power, where he tried to move the country in a rather conservative direction. Reagan’s conservatism is seen as one of the hallmarks of the decade of the 1980s.