Why Americans Don't Join the Party: Race, Immigration, and the Failure (of Political Parties) to Engage the Electorate

Why Americans Don't Join the Party: Race, Immigration, and the Failure (of Political Parties) to Engage the Electorate

Why Americans Don't Join the Party: Race, Immigration, and the Failure (of Political Parties) to Engage the Electorate

Why Americans Don't Join the Party: Race, Immigration, and the Failure (of Political Parties) to Engage the Electorate

Synopsis

Two trends are dramatically altering the American political landscape: growing immigration and the rising prominence of independent and nonpartisan voters. Examining partisan attachments across the four primary racial groups in the United States, this book offers the first sustained and systematic account of how race and immigration today influence the relationship that Americans have--or fail to have--with the Democratic and Republican parties. Zoltan Hajnal and Taeku Lee contend that partisanship is shaped by three factors--identity, ideology, and information--and they show that African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and whites respond to these factors in distinct ways.


The book explores why so many Americans--in particular, Latinos and Asians--fail to develop ties to either major party, why African Americans feel locked into a particular party, and why some white Americans are shut out by ideologically polarized party competition. Through extensive analysis, the authors demonstrate that when the Democratic and Republican parties fail to raise political awareness, to engage deeply held political convictions, or to affirm primary group attachments, nonpartisanship becomes a rationally adaptive response. By developing a model of partisanship that explicitly considers America's new racial diversity and evolving nonpartisanship, this book provides the Democratic and Republican parties and other political stakeholders with the means and motivation to more fully engage the diverse range of Americans who remain outside the partisan fray.

Excerpt

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel!
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

—Lewis Carroll

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2008: millions of Americans participate in the quadrennial political ritual of electing a president. The day was, in the elements, unexceptional. The Northwest endured wet and windy weather, a hard rain fell over Southern California, and light precipitation descended on the Northeast. Yet the sun shone in the heart of the country, with record-warm fall temperatures in the seventies, as Chicagoans reveled boisterously on a historic day. The estimated 131 million voters who constituted the American electorate that day had elected the first American of African heritage to the highest office in the land. A body politic that had, at the nation’s founding, consented to counting African Americans in fractions for purposes of allocating political offices without any rights of representation; that had witnessed the effective dismantlement of the African American franchise in the Jim Crow South, following the hardearned progress of Reconstruction and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments; that had subsequently gloried in the effective reinstatement of the African American franchise, only to suffer through the continued deployment of the “race card” in electioneering, had done what few would have thought imaginable even a year earlier.

Spokespersons across many divides—partisan, ideological, racial— came together to commemorate and cherish the moment. President-elect Obama noted in his acceptance speech, “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.” His foe during the election, Republican Senator John McCain, also recognized that “this is a historic . . .

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