Q&A Friday #12: How Polarized Is The Country?

Question: Is America polarized as red state / blue state diagrams would have us believe? Or are most Americans moderate as my PoliSci professor (an admitted Republican) would have me believe. What is the true state of the electorate? — billlava

Answer: Yes and no.

If you’re talking about political junkies — and if you’re reading this site or other blogs, you probably qualify — yes, it’s very polarized.

On the right, The Goldwater/Reagan wing of the party has triumphed over the Nixon/Rockefeller “Country Club Republican” set. On the left, the Vietnam war protest movement got the Democrats moving to the left from McGovern on and they’ve gotten progressively more radical, especially over the last few years.

For conservatives, it has worked out pretty well. The same can’t be said for liberals.

Personally, I expect the Democratic Party to continue to slowly but surely decline until they reach a general consensus that the problem is they’ve gone too far to the left (Note: They’re nowhere near this point yet, although if they lose the presidency again in 2008, I think it’s possible that could be a tipping point for them). Then they’ll actually start to move back to the center (really move, not just spout empty rhetoric) and start gaining ground on the GOP again.

In either case, there is an enormous gulf between what the conservative and liberal mainstream believes these days, one that is much, much larger than it used to be in, let’s say, 1960 when both ideologies were much closer together on foreign policy and social issues.

On the other hand, for all the “Red State” and “Blue state” talk, many Americans are not all that into politics. Sure, they might watch the evening news and read the paper, but they don’t follow day to day political events or get “all wound up” about most issues. They don’t know who “Jeff Gannon” is, ans they don’t really care about “memogate,” the “nuclear option,” or what’s going on in Lebanon or Iran right now. For these people — and always remember, they are a majority of people in this country — the “red/blue divide” isn’t any big deal because they just don’t care as much as many political junkies do.

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