Search This Blog

Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Symmetry and the Preachers of 1988

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well under way.

Rev. Jesse Jackson is endorsing Bernie Sanders. As I describe in After ReaganSanders started his political career as an independent socialist and did not take part in Democratic Party politics until caucusing for Jackson in Vermont during the 1988 campaign.  During the primaries that year, African American voters sided with Jackson over Dukakis -- and it would be the last time to date that a candidate won the nomination without first winning the African American vote.

In 1988, another man of the cloth made a serious run for president: Pat Robertson.  Though he resigned from the ministry in 1987 to tamp down church-state issues, he was a leader of the religious right.  As I also explain in After Reagan, the campaign of George H.W. Bush recognized the growing power of Christian conservatives and co-opted enough of their support in order to blunt the Robertson surge.  The GOP then absorbed the movement, which effectively gained a veto on the party's nomination, just as African Americans gained a veto on the Democratic nomination.

African Americans and religious conservatives have a strong streak of pragmatism.  In 2016, evangelicals passed over genuine coreligionists (e.g., Huckabee and Cruz) to embrace a biblical illiterate because the latter offered them a surer path to power.  In 2020, African Americans did not rally behind credible African American candidates (Booker, Harris, and Patrick), instead siding with white Catholic Joe Biden.

And just as Jackson is endorsing Sanders, Kamala Harris is endorsing Biden: