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From the perspective of someone who is extremely pessimistic about the prospects of the US’ democratic system to successfully guide it past the demographic and economic challenges on the horizon, hearing about how highly polarized politics has become–as if compromising between the Ryan and Obama budget plans like the country would have in the past is all the US needs to do to get its house in order–elicits little more than an eye roll.

But I realize that perspective is an outlier’s. Divergence in political orientation really has steadily occurred in the US over the past several decades. Democrats have become more liberal and Republicans more conservative, as the proceeding graph indicates. The y-axis shows the mean political orientation score for each political grouping. The question on political orientation is on a 7-point scale. The higher the score, the more conservative the group is, with 4 as the mid-point indicating perfect moderation:

As someone with a cursory understanding of US history in the second half of the 20th century, my first reaction is that Southern Democrats becoming Reagan Democrats and eventually Republicans might explain the apparent polarization. As conservative Democrats have become disenchanted by the Democratic party’s increasing focus on ‘civil rights’ and a corresponding diminution of bread and butter issues the working class cares most about, they’ve gone from calling themselves Democrats to calling themselves Republicans without really changing their outlooks and sentiments much.

That may be part of the story, and it’s a phenomenon not entirely contained in the South even if more pronounced there than elsewhere, but it’s not the whole thing, nor does it even look to be particularly significant. The same graph as above, this time with Southerners* excluded:

There aren’t any detectable differences between what we get when Southerners are included or when they’re excluded. Political polarization has been occurring nationwide.

GSS variables used: POLVIEWS, PARTYID(0-1)(3)(5-6), REGION(1-4, 8-9), YEAR

* Those living in the West South Central, East South Central, and South Atlantic Census divisions.

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. And yet there is so little difference today between the Republicrats and Democans. We are fiddling around the margins while the nation burns

  2. The democrats are now so freakin extreme that todays 'conservatives' are about as liberal as an extreme liberal in 1960.

  3. The first Anonymous is simply wrong. There is a clear ideological difference between the Republican and Democrat parties. This difference did not exist in 1960, when both parties housed very wide spectra of political thought. Anyone old enough to remember John Kennedy and Richard Nixon will know how little difference there was between them.

    The next development will be racial political parties. As Whites become an ever smaller fraction of the population, they will seek a party that will advance and protect their interests.

    Blacks, Mexicans, homosexuals, Jews and elite Whites now have the Democrat party to serve their interests. However, that is a weak coalition with very real internal conflicts, and the Democrat party may fission into a loose, once-in-a-while, anti-White alliance. It's mostly that now.

    The Republican party may evolve into an explicit White party. It is partway there now. But is is more likely to disappear and be replaced.

  4. Sykes,

    From my perspective, there are meaningful differences between the parties in Congress, especially the lower house. Between the RNC and the DNC, though, not so much.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    "From my perspective, there are meaningful differences between the parties in Congress, especially the lower house. Between the RNC and the DNC, though, not so much."

    Don't focus on the snapshot; focus on the process. The Tea Party takeover of the Republican party is still in its initial stages.

  6. We can only hope that the putative increasing conservatism of Republicans suggests the recrudescence of paleoconservatives who will dismiss the Left's incessant racism cries out of hand and get on with the business that must be done.

  7. Dan says:

    Last week I wrote?

    "Have you looked at they effect of religiosity on fertility when intelligence is held constant?

    This strikes me as a very important question. It is well-established, I think, that religiosity is positively correlated with fertility. But what is the specific impact of religiosity on the fertility of the really smarts, averages and dumb specifically?"

    You said you would look into it and I eagerly await your post =) I suspect that smart people really don't propagate themselves very well without religion, at least since widespread birth control…

    I wonder also whether religion does more to boost the fertility of the 'smarts' or the 'dumbs', assuming religion generally boosts fertility across the board.

  8. pat says: • Website

    A woman came up to Franklin on the street as the Constitutional Convention was breaking up and asked him what form of government we were to have.

    He said, "A republic, if you can keep it".

    That's still true today.

    Every Founding Father knew the history of the Roman Republic. Rome was a republic for half a millenium and then Caesar came along.

    Go back in your time machine and tell Franklin and the others that we are still a republic after more than two centuries and they would be a little surprised. Our current republic may fall. Then we will have to just start all over again.

    There are no guarantees. Obama clearly is annoyed that he can't just issue Executive Orders. He likes the Supreme Court only as long as it doesn't opposed him.

    We're lucky that Obama is so lazy and ineffective. Sooner ar later however we will run out of luck.


  9. Ed,

    Thanks for expanding my vocabulary (recrudescence)!

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