What changed, if anything, in the American political culture between 2004 and 2012?
I would argue that American political culture has changed in three important ways since 2004. This is not to say that our political culture is drastically different than it was. Much of American political culture remains the same. However, there have been a few important changes.
First, American political culture has moved towards a more libertarian stance on most social issues. The two clearest examples of this are the attitudes towards gay marriage and towards marijuana. Neither gay marriage nor the legalization of marijuana were widely accepted in mainstream America in 2004. Younger Americans seem to hold much more libertarian attitudes towards these issues and have pulled America’s political culture as a whole in their direction.
Second, we have seen the rise of the “Tea Party.” 2004 was when George W. Bush got reelected. Conservatives were beginning to be disillusioned with him, but were not as unhappy as they would later be. The financial crash had not happened and therefore the massive federal bailout had not happened. Barack Obama had not been elected and “Obamacare” was not an issue. Since 2004, tea party groups have become more numerous and more powerful as a certain segment of the population becomes more unhappy with the federal government.
Finally, we are seeing an increase in the percentage of minorities in the electorate. This is not, in itself, a change in political culture. However, the minorities (with Hispanics being the largest and the fastest-growing minority) appear to have different policy preferences and political attitudes than whites do. The increasing percentage of minority voters has helped to change America’s political culture.
In these three ways, American political culture has changed in the last decade.