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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

1988 and 2020

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 underway.  

Thomas B. Edsall at NYT:
Asked to describe how the politics of today compare to the politics of 1988, when Biden first ran for president, Sean Westwood, a political scientist at Dartmouth, replied that what stands out to him is how animosity is driving the current versions of both parties.
The electorate in 1988 was far more likely to view the other side with respect. Voters believed that both candidates sought to better the American way of life. Contrast this with today’s candidates who are both focused on corralling anger to their advantage, with Biden searching for those angry with Trump and Trump searching for angry middle-class whites.

Over the past three-plus decades, the Democratic Party has been on the leading edge of change, one step or more ahead of the nation as a whole.

Democrats have become decisively more liberal, especially on cultural issues; more dependent on states on the East and West Coasts; more diverse; more ideologically orthodox, less religious, less white; and in many cases more highly educated.

“The race and religion gap jumps out to me, specifically white Christians vs. everyone else,” Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University, wrote in an email describing how the parties have changed in recent decades.

While “the Republican Party doesn’t look terribly different than it did in the 1980s: about 88 percent were white Christians in 1984; in 2018, it’s still 75 percent.”

In contrast, the Democrats have changed radically, Burge continued: “About 68 percent of Democrats were white Christians in 1984, today it’s 38 percent.”

From 1991 to 2018, the share of Democrats who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated has grown from 10 percent to 38 percent. While a majority of Democrats say they believe in God, the party has become the home on nonbelievers.