Students, faculty, and staff are invited to join the Sociology Department for our colloquium series. On Monday, November 13, Josh Pacewicz, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brown University, will present a talk on “Trumpism before Trump: Party Polarization and Rust Belt Populism Reexamined.” The abstract follows:
Since the 1970s, American political parties and voters have diverged: politicians and party leaders have grown more polarized, while voters’ ambivalence towards the two parties and preferences for outside-the-beltway candidates has increased. This book explains this divergence by examining connections between urban and partisan politics, focusing especially on grassroots community leaders’ relationship with the two parties. Drawing on a comparative ethnographic community study of two rust belt cities in Iowa during the 2008 and 2012 election cycle, the book shows how Keynesian-era regulations created factions in urban politics and led community leaders to see partisan engagement as part of their public personae. After the 1980s, federal reforms re-oriented community governance around broad-based partnerships, which community leaders see as inconsistent with partisan engagement. The book argues that community leaders’ withdrawal from grassroots parties empowers ideologically-motivated activists, thus polarizing America’s political class and setting into motion dynamics like the Tea Party and 2010s-era populist campaigns.