Out of Control Policy Blog

Not so red and blue after all

Pundits have been talking up how divided America is. Blue-staters apparently don't want to hear anything from red-staters and vice versa. Are politics ripping us apart?

Julian Sanchez points to this John Tierney article, which argues that we're not as split as the talking head shows would have you believe:

Majorities in both [red and blue states] support stricter gun control as well as the death penalty; they strongly oppose giving blacks preference in hiring while also wanting the government to guarantee that blacks are treated fairly by employers. They're against outlawing abortion completely or allowing it under any circumstances, and their opinions on abortion have been fairly stable for three decades. Virtually identical majorities of Blues and Reds don't want a single party controlling the White House and Congress.

Tierney notes that the six bluest states (where Bush fared the worst) all have Republican governors, and even California elected a Republican governor.

Why does the debate seem so stratified?

[One] reason is gerrymandering, which has created so many safe seats that the only threat to incumbents comes from within the party, forcing them to appeal to the partisan voters who dominate primaries.

As moderates have become an endangered species in Congress and in state legislatures, the parties' ideological divisions have deepened, and voters have realigned in response. Many moderate liberals who used to call themselves Republicans no longer do, while many moderate conservatives have left the Democratic Party.

The result is greater partisanship, because each party is purer ideologically. But does that mean that voters as a whole are polarized as well?

But even if we do agree on more things than we thought we did, that's not always a good thing. After all, both parties are growing more comfortable with putting more duties in government hands.

Others have documented how members of Congress grow friendlier to higher spending the longer they remain in office. Maybe this is evidence of our elected officials coming together, but it's tough to cheer for such coalition building.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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