I've spent the last five years haranguing my fellow economists to abandon their faith in the self-interested voter hypothesis. One reply has been that modern U.S. politics is an outlier: People today may care more about gay marriage than income distribution, but we're living through weird times.
A new paper by Glaeser and Ward has a fascinating response:
[I]n historical perspective, cultural politics is not unusual. In the late 19th century, “Rum, Romanism and rebellion” were the core issues that determined the Republican Party. The true aberration was the mid-twentieth century era of economic politics.