Amid all the talk of a Reagan revolution, here's an anthology that collectively pronounces the 1980 election the outcome of...


THE HIDDEN ELECTION: Politics and Economics in the 1980 Presidential Campaign

Amid all the talk of a Reagan revolution, here's an anthology that collectively pronounces the 1980 election the outcome of pre-existing trends and foresees a Reagan presidency stymied, like Carter's, by structural economic problems. In the most significant of the essays, MIT political scientist Walter Dean Burnham argues--on the basis of survey-data--that the 1980 election saw a continuing decline in voter turnout, a shift in geographical alignment from North-South to Northeast-Southwest (reflecting economic shifts), and little ideological effect. The election, he maintains, was a clear case of voter rejection of an incumbent administration. The return of a conservative congress, though important in itself, does not signal a realignment between parties: for him, no effective opposition exists to the individualist liberalism ingrained in both parties--so when the voters are dissatisfied with what they are personally getting out of the system (in this case, the economic yield), they can be mobilized by either party in a conservative reaction. What is dangerous, Burnham thinks, is that no ideological alternative is available to point a way forward in a time of economic decline. In their contribution, editors Ferguson and Rogers (political scientists at MIT and Rutgers University, Newark, respectively) also lean heavily on the international economy, tracing the support given by different sectors of the economy to the two candidates during the campaign. Carter started off as the favorite of the internationalists, and Reagan of the economic nationalists; but as the campaign progressed, Reagan started to pick up internationalist support as well. They, too, forecast problems for Reagan, since the interests of his backers conflict; what is likely, then, is not a new alignment of political forces but a continuing fragmentation, with each group going its own way. Gerald Epstein, an economist at Williams College, furthers the Ferguson-Rogers thesis in an article on stagflation. Village Voice writers Alexander Cockburn and James Ridgeway contribute an uninteresting piece on the packaging of the candidates--this doesn't seem to bear on the theme of the volume--while other essays on foreign policy, and science and technology policy, also appear out of place. The collection is rounded out by an article on regulation, by University of Houston political scientist Alan Stone, and on social welfare by University of Chicago political scientist Ira Katznelson. An uneven collection, but one that will draw attention among academics.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981

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