One nation or two?
January 22, 2001 4:32 PM   Subscribe

One nation or two? An interesting critique from afar of wehre our nation might be heading, given two separate and distinct cultures
posted by Postroad (6 comments total)
I have been saying for years that the end of the Cold War, with its artificial war-footing political unity, means that a return to 19th century regionalism isn't out of the question.

I found this quote astonishing: "David Brooks of the Weekly Standard calls this the “Ice Age” division. Democrats won those areas which, when the glaciers receded, were either carved by rivers into ports which became big cities (the coasts), or were scraped clean to leave them too poor to support anything but car factories (the mid-west). Republicans won the areas that received all the topsoil the glaciers deposited, turning them into rich farms or ranches. " Well, that's one rather extended cause-and-effect connection, but since when are farms rich and factories poor? Has the Weekly Standard heard of the industrial revolution? Are Republicans returning to a Nixon-era Green Acres demographic? Is Ashcroft really seeking a return to a plantation economy? No, don't answer that.

Anyway, I don't think it's quite that simple. There are a lot of conservatives out there, but there's a wide middle that includes suburban voters with tolerant views on social issues combined with fiscal conservatism, ye olde Reagan Democrats. That's a swing vote. Saying there are "two nations" oversimplifies, only because we have a two-party system. I think that cluster demographics describes things much more accurately. Fifteen years ago, there was a polling research group whose name I've forgotten (they fell behind in the wide-open polling competition of the 90s), who identified something like seven key demographic groups, from family-values farmers, to radicalized yuppies, to aging boomers with home equity. Each group had a cute name. I've forgotten all the details; I wish they still got some press, but I think they completely abandoned the project. (Many political polls are loss-leaders for the private consumer research that these institutes do.)
posted by dhartung at 5:41 PM on January 22, 2001

Claritas is the big name in lifestyle segmentation databases, and they do have all sorts of cute names for their categories, like "Big Fish Small Pond" and "Shotguns and Pickups." Retailers, for example, use this information when deciding where to locate new stores. Claritas even offers a ZIP Code based lookup system where you can see how they classify your area.
posted by Aaaugh! at 6:31 PM on January 22, 2001

While interesting and an entertaining "fun with graphs and maps" read, this look at a complex problem/issue/whatever is rather primitive. The outsiders and the marginalized aren't even represented because they haven't voted. Where are those who choose, intentionally or not, to live off the radar? And was there ever a reasonably homogeneous, monolithic culture to begin with? Perhaps not much has changed/is changing.

Those county maps are pretty meaningless without the county outlines drawn to show how big or small they are. Or without any information about the map projection used.

posted by petra at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2001

"This is the first time since the 1920s that one party has held the presidency, the House of Representatives, the Senate, a functional majority on the Supreme Court, and a majority of both state houses and governors."

This isn't news to me, but to see it written in one succinct sentence makes it so much more disturbing.
posted by Eamon at 9:25 PM on January 22, 2001

The article makes a very interesting argument that George W. Bush's election is in fact an anomaly, similar to the anamoly of Carter's election in 1976.

Playing out that the string, a conservative has reason to be distressed.

After all, Nixon and Ford (68-76) were Presidents who, very much like Clinton did, campaigned as opponents to the policies of their predecessor administration, but, in fact, were most noted for continuing and even pushing farther the policies of their predecessors (Vietnam, welfare state, detente with Communist states, in the case of Nixon / Ford; free trade, deficit reduction and welfare reform in the case of Clinton).

The "anamoly" President has only a few opportunities to move the pieces on the Board, confronted by a Congress and a public which never really has any faith in them, and are easily undone by a crisis (like the hostages in Iran for Carter).

The post-anamoly President is the righteous tool of restoration and pushes the restored party far more explicitly in its ideological orientation, and does so successfully...

So, the question is, who is the Democrats Reagan, ready to rally the faithful in 2004 and bring about the New Jerusalem of the left?
posted by MattD at 6:15 AM on January 23, 2001

Um. I tend more toward a governance theory: if the current administration does well, it can assure its party's re-election. Technically, were it not for 19,000 spoiled butterfly ballots, Al Gore could have won this one -- based on the economy's performance, and political factors. The more I spend looking at governance, the less credence I give to sweeping trendline generalizations.

They said that the West was a Republican lock. Then the GOP went too far with immigration, and turned California over to the Democrats in the process. Conservative states like Florida are growing -- but the people moving there are more moderate.

Carter was an anomaly because, despite his ideals, he was a mediocre president, and the hostage situation crippled him politically. Reagan, whatever his policies, was a successful president two terms in a row. Bush wasn't up to the task, though.

I just can't see this "anomaly" theory.
posted by dhartung at 2:09 PM on January 23, 2001

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