1980 All Over Again? In Search of the Right Analogy for the 2020 Election

Robert D. Atkinson March 1, 2021
March 1, 2021

To make sense of the unprecedented presidential election we’ve just been through, pundits have analogized it to past elections: 1896, because of conflict between agrarian (Bryan) and urban (McKinley) interests; 1908, because of the historic rate of turnout; 1920, with Warren Harding promising a return to normalcy; 1968, because of the violent demonstrations; and many others.

But as Rob Atkinson writes in American Compass, with a reinvigorated and increasingly liberal Democratic Party now in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, however tenuously, it appears that the 2020 election bears the most resemblance to 1980, which ushered a transformed Republican Party into the White House and Senate for the first time since 1954.

We can’t call this the Biden Revolution, for Joe Biden is not the ideological leader Reagan was. Maybe we should call it the Sanders/AOC revolution, since a significant share of the Democratic Party now embraces their democratic socialist and identity-based political philosophy. Whatever the case, the change wrought in this election will likely be no less transformative.