Political Polarization May Be a Feature Not a Bug

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay


Earlier in the week, the New York Times produced a pretty amazing interactive map of the 2016 election at the voting precinct level. You really should take a look. There are all kinds of nuggets of information that will amaze you…like precincts in New York City that went for Donald Trump at the same percentages as did the reddest parts of Texas or Alabama:


This has made some people really, really sad:


I suspect there are two parts to this. One is strictly career driven. Much like the Sovietologists who made their living interpreting what was going on in the USSR by the arrangement of key figures at the May Day Parade, political analysts whose professional livelihoods depend upon predicting election outcomes (I’m just saying “predicting” not “accurately predicting” because if accuracy were a requirement they’d all starve) are threatened by the loss of “swing seats.” If 80% of the races are callable before the first ballot is cast, who is going to pay these people to predict the outcome in about 40 House seats, particularly when they are no more accurate than a coin toss?

The second part is a real concern that we are becoming two separate nations without shared experiences, or history, or even values.

I lived in DC for about 12 years. I was single for most of the time and so the relentless nannyism of my neighbors and the rapacity and blinding incompetence of the DC government were not a concern to me. When my oldest became vulnerable to mandatory pre-K in the DC public school system, my wife and I decided to leave. We chose an area that seemed to have the correct markers for a good school system (low absentee rate, low rate of subsidized meals) and an area that was heavily GOP. We were both tired of one-party government that stuck its hands in our pockets at every turn. We were a little browned off by neighbors who seemed to think they knew better how to live our lives than we did. (When my wife told one of her friends that we were leaving DC because of the school system, she was lectured about our responsibility to remain in the system to advocate for improvement. Sorry, my kid is not a Petri dish for your social experiment.) If I’d wanted mandatory recycling and a “trash police” force that rooted through inspected my cans for violations, there are places in Montgomery County, MD that I could have moved. If I’d wanted an HOA goon measuring my grass and fining me for not mowing, there were lots of options. I chose an area where I can walk into my backyard and fire my pistol and where the aesthetic quality of my lawn is my business.


In short, our neighborhood shares the same values…for the most part…and we have the same objectives for ourselves and our children. People come together to help one another organically, they don’t need a community organizer or a non-profit to make it happen. And if I want to take a leak in my yard (so long as my wife doesn’t catch me) I can do so without the cops showing up. More importantly, why would I want to live around people who don’t share my values?

What this kind of “polarization” reflects seems to be nothing more than the ethnic ghettos of prior years. Germans, Italians, Eastern European Jews, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, and whatever formed enclaves that were part of the larger nation but provided an area of cultural and behavioral familiarity.

The unspoken issue here, of course, is what to do about it. If you believe people don’t have a right to live where they want, then this becomes a problem to be solved. Just like we have nannies in federal, state, and local government who get the vapors when each census tract doesn’t have the proper distribution of races, ethnicities, sexual proclivities, and incomes, it isn’t hard to see federal housing money being awarded based on political diversity.


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