By Rachel Bitecofer
Dr. Bitecofer is a professor of political science at Christopher Newport University.
Jan. 24, 2019, 1336
“With several major Democratic primary candidates having declared, the palace intrigue of America’s 2020 presidential election is already in nearly full swing. But what if I were to tell you that barring a significant unforeseen shock to the system, the outcome of 2020 is already set in stone?
The high levels of hyperpartisanship and polarization in the electorate have profoundly affected the political behavior of Americans and, by extension, made the outcome of our elections highly predictable.
Always powerful, partisanship has become the be-all and end-all for American voters. With these political dynamics, a person accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls and young women can run for and win upward of 90 percent of his party’s vote — as the Republican Roy Moore did, according to exit polls, in the special Senate election in Alabama in 2017.
Yet a key aspect of polarization has been somewhat overlooked: negative partisanship. Voters with this attitude are mobilized not by love of their own party so much as by hatred of the opposition party. Negative partisanship especially benefits the party that doesn’t hold the presidency, because out-party voters find themselves living in a world where their political preferences are under constant assault, or at least appear to be so.”