Ath panel previews ‘big changes’ from Election 2020

Four government and politics professors came together for a virtual Athenaeum panel to preview the 2020 election and offer a guide to interpreting the early results of the presidential, as well as other key elections across the U.S.

CMC Professors Zachary Courser '99, Jack Pitney, and Andrew Sinclair ’08 were joined by Sara Sadhwani, professor of politics at Pomona College in a Zoom-based discussion on Nov. 2, introduced by Ath Fellow Chris Agard ’21. The panel was sponsored by the Salvatori Center at CMC.

Courser, who is co-director of CMC’s Policy Lab, kicked off the discussion by asking members of the panel about the impact of early voting, especially in Texas.  “Despite limitations, Texans voted in droves,” he said. “How should we be thinking about this incredible early turnout? Does this tell us anything about a probable result?

Pitney, Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics, noted that unlike in past elections, Democrats were galvanized to cast their ballots early. “Traditionally, Democrats take their time with voting. And Republicans would turn in their ballots as soon as they could,” he said. “But this year, the psychology is different. Democrats have been hearing for months that they need to get their ballots in early, so they have been extremely diligent about casting their ballots early. But on election day, will Republicans bounce back to make up for a significant lead in the early vote?”

According to Sadhwani, a key component to understanding the 2020 election results, will be demographic shifts. Voters in 2016 were the most diverse ever, she explained, and in 2020, that trend will continue. “There are growing populations of both Latinx and Asian American voters, particularly in congressional districts in Texas and Georgia,” she said, noting that “as the baby boom generation ages, millennials are taking over as the largest generation.”

Sinclair, who is teaching “Introduction to American Politics” this semester, shared that he is keeping a close eye on Maine. “I’ll be interested to see the results coming out of Maine, as it will be important to mapping out some of the oddball paths to Biden winning the presidency,” he said, adding that Maine will also be key in seeing which party will control the Senate.  “If Biden doesn’t win in Pennsylvania, Arizona will also be critical for him and to the Senate race.”

At the conclusion of the program, Courser said that he thinks American politics is at an inflection point, no matter which party wins. “The outcome matters to the future of both parties,” he said. “There will be big changes on both sides.”

— Anne Bergman