The now–staunchly red state of Texas was deep blue in 1950 and had virtually no functioning Republican Party. California, on the other hand, was reliably red. Today, both states have jumped to the opposite end of the political spectrum. Texas is one of the most conservative states, while California has become one of today’s most liberal bastions. These are the most dramatic cases, but notable shifts in voting patterns have occurred throughout the western states in recent decades—shifts so varied and complex that they have, until now, eluded the attention focused on the drastic examples of the South and Northeast. Bringing clarity to the remarkably mixed yet poorly understood map of America’s red, blue, and purple western half, Color Coded presents the first comprehensive history of political change and stability in the region between 1950 and 2016.

The West, in Walter Nugent’s analysis, includes nineteen states: the thirteen that the U.S. Census Bureau calls the Western Region—roughly from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, as well as off-shore Alaska and Hawaii—plus the six Great Plains states from North Dakota south to Texas. Consulting official voting results of more than 5,300 state and national elections, as well as newspaper reports, oral histories, public documents, and other sources, Nugent reveals the ever-shifting patterns that have defined western politics in modern times. Geography, culture, history, political trajectories, and the charisma of key political actors have all played their part in these changes—and will, Nugent asserts, continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

A powerful, exhaustively researched study of modern political organization, party development, and shifting voter blocs in the West, Color Coded deftly charts, as well, the profound red-blue tensions that have defined modern America.

Returns for the 5,300-plus elections on which the book is based, covering the nineteen western states between 1950 and 2016, are compiled in the book's appendix.

About The Author
Walter Nugent is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Notre Dame. He is the former President of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and former president of the Western History Association. As a widely recognized expert in the fields of western history and progressive age America, Nugent has authored many books. His most recent publications include Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansionism (Vintage, 2009), Progressivism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2009), and Into the West: The Story of Its People (Vintage, 2001)

Reviews & Praise
“In taking the reader through a careful state-by-state examination of political change over the past seventy years, Walter Nugent uncovers the necessary nuance and detail to show that there is no one West in American politics. Color Coded is a touchstone work for understanding the future political development of the United States west of the Mississippi.”—Ronald Keith Gaddie coauthor of The Rise and Fall of the Voting Rights Act

“Walter Nugent gives a near forensic account of how modern western state politics have shifted across the political spectrum, both from red to blue and blue to red. Color Coded is a fascinating and often surprising analysis by a master historian.”—Richard White author of The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865–1896

“With its impressive sweep of scholarship, Walter Nugent’s Color Coded will be an essential source for both political scientists and political strategists.”—Fred Harris, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, 1964–1973, and author of Deadlock or Decision: The U.S. Senate and the Rise of National Politics

Book Information
33 b&w illus., 55 tables
384 Pages
Hardcover 978-0-8061-6169-3
Kindle 978-0-8061-6298-0
e-pub 978-0-8061-6299-7
Published October 2018
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