Party competition is constrained by socio-demographic factors, identities and value orientations. The study of the adaptation to these constraints is hindered for three main reasons, each of them primarily conceptual in nature. First, the examination of the various constraints is rarely integrated into a comprehensive approach, and therefore we lack even a vocabulary that could allow us to reconstruct the strategies with which parties respond. Second, scholarship gives too little attention to the relationship between temporal stability on the one hand and the positional alignments that link political behavior with socio-demographic characteristics, values and group identity on the other. Third, the study of the agency of political elites is either neglected, or it is done in an ad hoc way. This article identifies various methods by which elites reshape structures, and it links those to a broader framework that allows more comprehensive research connecting political agents and structural constraints in the electoral realm.