UCI Professors Examine Political Divide Among States
Political experts at UCI foreshadowed specific cultural and social issues as main factors in the polarization of votes in this year’s election.
According to history professor Jon Wiener, a stark divide between Republican and Democratic states illustrates a strong adherence to cultural commonalities in each region.
‘What the results show is a deep cultural divide between the ‘red’ [Republican] states and the ‘blue’ [Democratic] states,’ Wiener said. ‘The red states seem to be getting redder and the blue states seem to be getting bluer.’
According to Wiener, this cultural divide did not recently manifest itself but is rather the product of an ongoing political divide within the last few decades.
‘The Republicans began running the culture war back in 1980 with Ronald Reagan and they’ve been doing it ever since,’ Wiener said. ‘What happened in the last four years had no effect on the red state-blue state divide. It’s the exact same Electoral College divide [of the 2000 election] despite Sept. 11, the war and the outsourcing of jobs.’
Bush won the popular vote by a little over 3.5 million and became the first candidate since 1988 to earn a majority. This election was as close as the one in 2000, when then Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College by three votes.
According to Wiener, an important factor that contributed to Bush’s victory is the country’s support of the ‘war against terror,’ which includes our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘We have a wartime president, and if you look at the other times in the 20th century when there have been elections in the middle of the war, incumbents have always gotten re-elected, such as Nixon during the Vietnam War and [Franklin Roosevelt] in the middle of World War II,’ Wiener said.
Political science professor Louis DeSipio agreed with Wiener.
‘Incumbents are in a good position to win re-election,’ DeSipio said.
DeSipio also described other factors leading to Bush’s victory.
‘The war on terrorism was important for some voters,’ DeSipio said. ‘Others didn’t accept John Kerry and thought he was a flip-flopper.’
With Bush back in office, questions have arisen about his agenda for the next four years, especially since more Republicans were elected to the House of Representatives and Senate.
‘The Republicans should take great pleasure in their victories in the Senate and the House,’ DiSipio said. ‘They have a pretty solid majority now in the Senate. It will be hard for Democrats to pass any initiatives.’
DeSipio also believes that Bush’s agenda will still be rooted in the ideals of the Republican Party as well as be a continuation of an agenda that was enforced after Sept. 11.
‘We’ll see an effort to reduce taxation on higher income earners and more involvement in the war in Iraq,’ DiSipio said. ‘We’ll see conservatives appointed to the courts, and perhaps the Supreme Court. It will be an opportunity for the Republican Party to consolidate some of their initiatives.’
Election results show that the country is still divided, perhaps more than it was after the 2000 elections. Whether Bush and the rest of Congress will be able to resolve this divide, or perpetuate it, is unknown.
‘[The] one period in American politics where elections were close like this was in the 1800s. Nothing was as close as 2000,’ DeSipio said. ‘It reflects that each party has an opportunity now to consolidate their position in American society. Each party also runs the risk of losing the electorate.’