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New book studies how national politics overshadow local affairs and candidates’ unique agendas

A new book about American elections and voter choice
Jordan Uplinger
/
WPR

Elections in the United States are increasingly centered on national issues. That’s according to a new book called “Nationalized Politics”, written by Jamie L. Carson, Joel Sievert, and University of Wyoming professor of political science, Ryan Williamson. Their book reports that candidates at all levels of government are far more likely to fall in line with the national party’s position than they once were, and suggests that voters are less concerned with local issues.

“I think candidates will just have to kind of toe the party line on these national issues,” said Williamson. “That is kind of the easiest way to demonstrate to voters that you are a good Republican or a good Democrat worthy of support.”

He said the increasing uniformity of Democrats and Republicans will leave less of a chance for alternative parties to emerge in the near future. For the 2024 election, that’s remained true with both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, who have both greatly outperformed their outside challengers as well as those within their parties seeking alternative directions.

Williamson said this isn’t the first time the U.S. has experienced this level of nationalization. In elections a century ago, voters would cast ballots for an entire party’s roster instead of individual choices down-ballot. However, Williamson said there is a difference with the form of nationalization seen in elections today. Instead of a single-party ticket, voters have the option to choose whoever they want in whatever combination. Yet studies show they will increasingly select candidates based on party affiliation and support.

Williamson said that the effects of nationalization can even be seen in Wyoming.

“You have Liz Cheney, who, by all measures, is a very conservative Republican. But in defiance of Trump, you see that fracture, you see that idea of her not being Republican enough. So candidates who are willing to be “Republican” enough or “Democratic” enough are going to fare a lot better.” he said.

Jordan Uplinger was born in NJ but has traveled since 2013 for academic study and work in Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He gained experience in a multitude of areas, including general aviation, video editing, and political science. In 2021, Jordan's travels brought him to find work with the Wyoming Conservation Corps as a member of Americorps. After a season with WCC, Jordan continued his Americorps service with the local non-profit, Feeding Laramie Valley. His deep interest in the national discourse on class, identity, American politics and the state of material conditions globally has led him to his current internship with Wyoming Public Radio and NPR.

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