Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Red state/blue state: A red/blue herring?

Even though I've become quite a fan of John Dean lately, I'm not sure I buy his conclusions in this article:  A Closer Look At The Red/Blue Cultural Divide: It Is Mostly Hokum Findlaw.com 12/03/04.

The evidence is overwhelming: The so-called culture split is largely nonsense, pure hokum. We should not let pundits divide America by falsely claiming there is already a deep rift, and then trying to deepen it.

Telling two people they are natural enemies is a good way to make them suspicious of each other. Telling two segments of the population the same thing, doubtless has the same effect. The more we think of our nation as two inimical constituencies, the less we will be able to fight genuine enemies outside our borders - such as the terrorist network that still persists.

He cites various factors arguing for his position.  Actually, I do think a lot of the "red state/blue state" hype is a bit overblown.  Dean cites poll data indicating that partisan affiliation is going down, which seems to argue against an increasing partisan polarization.

Part of my reservation about his particular argument is that he blames "partisans" for promoting the notion for self-serving reasons:

Of course, it's true that there have been regional shifts of political parties: No one would deny that. But are they seismic shifts - tremors emanating from a deeper rift? No: That is nonsense. In fact, the available polling shows that all the noise about our supposed political divide is coming from partisans and the media, while in reality - the hard evidence, not the parallel reality created by constant spin -- the nation remains largely in the center and thus, mainly united.

But it's actually the Republican Party that has become more and more willing to demonize it's critics.  For better or worse, the Democrats have not yet mounted a sustained partisan counteroffensive that compares.  Establishment Dems are much more tempted to act like Mr. Rogers than like  Andrew Jackson, as cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has been noticing: The great debate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in a blue state, but I have red neighbors and family members and co-workers.  We share some attitudes about the place of faith relative to reason and evidence in policy-making and public debate.  We share some ideas about the difference between Fox and real journalism.  We can talk to one another.

But a lot of other Republicans and their Christian Right supporters are beyond my reach.  I find their attitudes repellent -- a combination of faith-based, irrational bigotry and redneck ignorance.  I roll my eyes in condescension. We do not engage in dialogue -- they go their way, and I go mine.  We grow farther apart.

The red state -- blue state split is a false one, but we are polarized.  I don't remember anything like this, not even the Nixon impeachment.  You have to go back to 1967-1969 to catch this sense of polarization.  It is an ugly thing.

Right after 9/11, we could have brought this nation together, but that wasn't Bush's style.  He and Karl Rove had a different plan.  The events of 9/11 created political capital and they were going to spend it -- even if it polarized the country for years to come.

Polarization works for Bush.  In this last campaign, we saw that his strategy was to mobilize his base, and polarization actually made that easier for him.  And it worked.

As long as polarization works for the Republicans, they will keep running that play.