Several commentators have picked up on this feature of the 2012 presidential election: neither candidate is a WASP.
Right now, we’re looking at an absence that would have been a startling presence 50 years ago. With all the focus on economic issues in the U.S. presidential race, there’s hardly any talk about the fact that, for the first time, none of the leading presidential and vice-presidential candidates is a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court has no WASPs. These are new phenomena in the United States.
The totally non-WASP tickets signify major political and social shifts in the networked age. As Robert Putnam showed a decade ago in Bowling Alone, organized groups such as churches, political clubs, fraternal clubs and Scouts have declined in importance. People have moved sharply away from traditional, tightly knit groups into more loosely knit networks that have fewer clan boundaries and more tolerance. The rise of the Internet and mobile connectivity has pushed the trend along by allowing people to expand the number and variety of their social ties…
In 1955, sociologist Will Herberg showed how white America was rigidly divided in Protestant, Catholic, Jew. Indeed, one of the authors of this article was barred from college fraternities because he was Jewish.
Now, when Chelsea Clinton marries, no one remarks on the kippa on her husband’s head. This year, a poll by the Pew Research Center found that 81 per cent of those who know Republican Mitt Romney is a Mormon are either comfortable with his affiliation or say it doesn’t matter to them.
I’m not sure I buy the Internet argument; WASPs lost their elite control because of the Internet? I think the process had started way before this. I wonder if the most basic explanation is that there are simply less WASPs overall in the population. Since the 1950s, there has been a sharp uptick in immigration and more people have had access to education and college and graduate degrees.