In 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel “displeased” if their son or daughter married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 percent and 33 percent. Republicans have been found to like Democrats less than they like people on welfare or gays and lesbians. Democrats dislike Republicans more than they dislike big business.
Cass Sunstein, legal scholar and former White House administration official,… in 2014, published a paper suggesting that opposition to members of the opposite party introduced prejudices that, at times, were more powerful than racial motivations. (Hence partyism, as opposed to racism.)
Nearly half of Republicans and a third of Democrats express “partyism” — prejudice against people of the opposing political party.
The basic problem with this prejudice is that it presumes one party has all the nation’s problems figured out; and that people’s political positions are static and unchangeable.
Historically, about 60 percent of the electorate are extremely predictable party loyalists: they will vote for the nominee of their party no matter what. Elections are about persuading the other 40 percent. What that means this year is that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are each guaranteed to get 30 percent of the vote, no matter what they do or don’t do.
Political perspectives are based, usually, first of all, on the party registration of parents. You tend to vote for the same party that your parents did, or if you’re rebellious, against the party your parents support. As you age, other factors may cause you to change voting patterns based on perceived economic or cultural self-interest — your occupation, age, marrital status, children, grandchildren, government benefits, location, experiences, influence of peers and neighbors, who you know, who you don’t know, and what you know. And to a lesser extent, we follow the lead of opinion makers and shapers, current events, bandwagon effect, and political spin.
Let me recall the personal political histories of people I know best, to point out that each person has their own political journey. Belief in democracy and freedom means respecting that journey and respecting the individual conscience of our family members, friends, and neighbors. If we are lucky, we have relationships where we can discuss politics politely, agree to disagree, and even persuade each other to think differently on some issues.
I’m a reliable Democratic voter, but I have voted for Republicans if I strongly suspected the the Democrat was corrupt, racist, misguided on too many issues, with too many character flaws, or would sell out on an issue I hold dear. I’ve also voted for Republicans who I knew personally to be good people and true public servants.
My sisters married Republicans who gradually became reliable Democrats. Maybe their jobs as environmentalists working for government agencies made them more likely to vote Democrat, although it was President Richard Nixon, a Republican, who started the Environmental Protection Agency.
One of my brothers-in-law went so far as to vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000, which cost Al Gore the election. Gore lost Florida to George W. Bush by a few hundred votes. To this day, I kid him about that.
My uncle started out as a very liberal Democrat who evolved into a reliable voter for Republican presidents Nixon, Reagan and the two Bushes. Perhaps it was his curmudgeonly nature, living in a liberal college town and seeking to challenge conventional wisdom, that turned him into a conservative on some issues, or at least a swing voter.
My uncle cast his first vote for Republican Thomas Dewey in 1948, then stayed up all night rooting for Harry Truman. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Democrat Adlai Stevenson against Republican Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s; Democrats John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey in the 1960s. He supported Nixon in 1972 against what he perceived an extremist Democratic opposition and know-nothing student protestors. Serving in the Navy during World War II, he tended to support the president as commander-in-chief, and felt the U.S. must exhibit toughness toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. He supported Reagan in the 1980s, and probably (though he never officially admitted it to me) GHW Bush over Dukakis and Clinton, Clinton over Dole, GW Bush over Gore and Kerry, Hillary over Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary, and then Obama over McCain. He died in 2010.
My father-in-law was a Rockefeller or Country Club Republican in Indiana who occasionally voted for Democrats — Lyndon Johnson in 1964, for example, against the extremist Barry Goldwater, and always for his Democratic congressman, a personal friend. If he were alive today, I doubt seriously this Harvard-educated businessman would ever vote for Donald Trump.
I have a colleague whose sibling has jumped, in a few short years, from libertarian conservative supporting Ron Paul to democratic socialist supporting Bernie Sanders, partly due to the economic catastrophe she faced during the Great Recession.
I have a friend who was Tea Party before the Tea Party existed. We started communicating about politics in 1995 when he feared, as a result of the Oklahoma City Bombing, President Clinton might succeed in confiscating firearms. He was very anti-government back then. (He would probably say he was for limited government.) He proudly demonized Bill Clinton, and vociferously supported Clinton’s impeachment.
He supported George W. Bush’s Iraq war. But after the war went south, no weapons of mass destruction were found, and Bush bailed out the financial industry — socialism for the rich, brutal capitalism for the poor — and after enduring the Great Recession, he changed his mind. Real estate deals were few and far between for him. He retired and appreciated Social Security, though he had called it a “ponzi scheme” just a few years earlier. He also appreciated his wife’s union, which fought for almost free health care for the family. His faith in military adventurism and free market fundamentalism collapsed. He was outraged when Republicans pledged in 2009 not to support bipartisan programs for the good of the country, but simply to focus single-mindedly on defeating President Obama for re-election.
Shock of shocks, just as the Tea Party was gathering steam nationally, he abandoned that ideology, condemned Tea Partiers as a bunch of anarchists and racists, and started supporting President Obama. He voted for Obama in 2012, and now says, miracle of miracles, he will vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 against the nutjob Donald Trump.
I despair of thinking of politics as warfare, because it is ultimately our family members and friends against whom we would be waging war. So I think it’s silly to be displeased if a son or daughter marries someone who holds different political views. One should welcome diverse points of view and more interesting discussions into the family.
Swing voters are far more commonplace than some realize.
According to the average of the first five Gallup polls in early 2009, when Barack Obama took office, 51.8 percent of voters identified with the Democratic Party and 38.4 percent with the Republican Party, a solid 13.4 point Democratic advantage.
In 2016, however, the average of the first five polls shows that the Democratic advantage has shrunk to a far more modest 5.2 point edge, with 47.2 percent of voters identifying as Democrats and 42 percent identifying as Republicans. This translates to a Democratic loss in voter identification, over the past seven-and-a-half years, of 8.2 percentage points