Political parties are not what they used to be. They evolve, often in response to external motivations, but also as a function of the historical time period in which they emerge. There are several determinants of party change and adaptation in Latin America. Most importantly, multiple exogenous forces, including a shift in the economic model, the adoption of decentralization policies, and the growing political voice of minoritized groups, have challenged parties to adapt for survival. While not all parties have successfully endured, some have employed diverse strategies to do so.
To be sure, new parties also emerge as a function of exogenous challenges and opportunities. In Latin America, new parties have differed in form and in function from their predecessors. The emergence of new parties represents a second type of party change that must be contemplated. Overall, parties in the 21st century look quite different from their 20th-century counterpoints.
Additionally, empirical measures suggest that the dynamics of party change vary across the region and also within countries across time. A novel concept, party survival, has been elaborated to address adaptation strategies that neither lead to continued electoral success at the national level nor end in full party collapse. Indeed, several countries in the region have faced at least one crisis of representation, wherein voters defected from existing parties to vote for new parties and politicians. A new research agenda, which examines the role of resources in provoking successful party emergence and adaptation over time, provides one fruitful explanation for why parties can survive a sudden and dramatic loss of national votes.
Overall, knowledge of party change and adaptation has accumulated over time. It has also evolved with respect to nuance and sophistication. Still, there is much left to be learned about party change and adaptation, including the impact new parties will have on representation, governance, and democracy more generally.