Polarization: Past and Present

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

A number of commentators have lamented increasing polarization in Washington. Conventional wisdom has it that America is as divided and partisan as it ever has been. Sectional divisions are tearing this country apart and preventing problems such as the deficit from being addressed; the differences between blue America and red America, in this view, are rapidly approaching crisis point.

There is some justice to this view. Polarization has probably increased, by a number of metrics, over the past few elections. Indeed, I previously noted something to this exact effect.

Let’s take another look, however, at the hypothesis, using a different type of measurement. We will consider the composition of the House of Representatives, specifically examining partisan divisions by state. Do blue states elect Republican representatives, and vice versa? In a polarized nation, this would probably not be the case.

Here is a map of a House with a Republican majority:

Map of 108th House of Representatives

This House was the result of 2002 congressional elections. Republicans had done well in the wake of 9/11, and they had a 232-201 majority.

In the map there are relatively few states with 80-100% of representatives from one party. Blue states elect Republicans; red states elect Democrats. Moreover; for some states (e.g. Delaware, the Dakotas) it is mathematically impossible to be less than 100% Democratic or Republican.

Here is the House today:

Map of 111th House of Representatives


This is a fascinating map in that it almost perfectly matches the 2008 electoral college. One sees the Republican corridor of strength in the South and Mountain West. Most of the map is blue since Democrats have a 255-178 majority, the result of two previous Democratic landslides.

Let’s move back several decades:

Map of 88th House of Representatives

The date is 1960; President John Kennedy has just been elected. Democrats hold a 258-177 majority, almost identical to that today.

There are a lot more “one-party states” compared to the current map. Sectional division is far more pronounced; there is a line between North and South that simply does not exist in today’s House. In 1960 – especially in the still-standing Solid South – blue states generally did not elect Republicans, and vice versa.

Polarization grows even worse if one goes back further. Here is 2002, once again:

Map of 108th House of Representatives


Here is 1894:

Map of 54th House of Representatives


Republicans have just won 130(!) seats. They hold a 254 to 93 majority.

In this incredible map, there are only six states with congressional delegations less than 80-100% from one party. In it one can literally trace the battlefields of the Civil War.

This is real polarization, the results of a nation so divided it had literally torn itself in two. This is the type of polarization that results from scars so deep that they took more than a century to heal.

Perhaps today America is indeed growing more polarized, more divided into red states and blue states. But when one compares the present situation to past ones, there is literally no comparison. The United States has a long way to go before it gets as polarized as it did during the latter half of the 19th century.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/


Polarization: Past and Present

A number of commentators have lamented increasing polarization in Washington. Conventional wisdom has it that America is as divided and partisan as it ever has been. Sectional divisions are tearing this country apart and preventing problems such as the deficit from being addressed; the differences between blue America and red America, in this view, are rapidly approaching crisis point.

There is some justice to this view. Polarization has probably increased, by a number of metrics, over the past few elections. Indeed, I previously noted something to this exact effect.

Let’s take another look, however, at the hypothesis, using a different type of measurement. We will consider the composition of the House of Representatives, specifically examining partisan divisions by state. Do blue states elect Republican representatives, and vice versa? In a polarized nation, this would probably not be the case.

Here is a map of a House with a Republican majority:

This House was the result of 2002 congressional elections. Republicans had done well in the wake of 9/11, and they had a 232-201 majority.

In the map there are relatively few states with 80-100% of representatives from one party. Blue states elect Republicans; red states elect Democrats. Moreover; for some states (e.g. Delaware, the Dakotas) it is mathematically impossible to be less than 100% Democratic or Republican.

Here is the House today:

This is a fascinating map in that it almost perfectly matches the 2008 electoral college. One sees the Republican corridor of strength in the South and Mountain West. Most of the map is blue since Democrats have a 255-178 majority, the result of two previous Democratic landslides.

Let’s move back several decades:

The date is 1960; President John Kennedy has just been elected. Democrats hold a 258-177 majority, almost identical to that today.

There are a lot more “one-party states” compared to the current map. Sectional division is far more pronounced; there is a line between North and South that simply does not exist in today’s House. In 1960 – especially in the still-standing Solid South – blue states generally did not elect Republicans, and vice versa.

Polarization grows even worse if one goes back further.

Here is 1894:

Republicans have just won 130(!) seats. They hold a 254 to 93 majority.

In this incredible map, there are only six states with congressional delegations less than 80-100% from one party. In it one can literally trace the battlefields of the Civil War.

This is real polarization, the results of a nation so divided it had literally torn itself in two. This is the type of polarization that results from scars so deep that they took more than a century to heal.

Perhaps today America is indeed growing more polarized, more divided into red states and blue states. But when one compares the present situation to past ones, there is literally no comparison. The United States has a long way to go before it gets as polarized as it did during the latter half of the 19th century.

--Inoljt, http://motleymoose.com/

 

Polarization: Past and Present

A number of commentators have lamented increasing polarization in Washington. Conventional wisdom has it that America is as divided and partisan as it ever has been. Sectional divisions are tearing this country apart and preventing problems such as the deficit from being addressed; the differences between blue America and red America, in this view, are rapidly approaching crisis point.

There is some justice to this view. Polarization has probably increased, by a number of metrics, over the past few elections. Indeed, I previously noted something to this exact effect.

Let’s take another look, however, at the hypothesis, using a different type of measurement. We will consider the composition of the House of Representatives, specifically examining partisan divisions by state. Do blue states elect Republican representatives, and vice versa? In a polarized nation, this would probably not be the case.

Here is a map of a House with a Republican majority:

This House was the result of 2002 congressional elections. Republicans had done well in the wake of 9/11, and they had a 232-201 majority.

In the map there are relatively few states with 80-100% of representatives from one party. Blue states elect Republicans; red states elect Democrats. Moreover; for some states (e.g. Delaware, the Dakotas) it is mathematically impossible to be less than 100% Democratic or Republican.

Here is the House today:

This is a fascinating map in that it almost perfectly matches the 2008 electoral college. One sees the Republican corridor of strength in the South and Mountain West. Most of the map is blue since Democrats have a 255-178 majority, the result of two previous Democratic landslides.

Let’s move back several decades:

The date is 1960; President John Kennedy has just been elected. Democrats hold a 258-177 majority, almost identical to that today.

There are a lot more “one-party states” compared to the current map. Sectional division is far more pronounced; there is a line between North and South that simply does not exist in today’s House. In 1960 – especially in the still-standing Solid South – blue states generally did not elect Republicans, and vice versa.

Polarization grows even worse if one goes back further.

Here is 1894:

Republicans have just won 130(!) seats. They hold a 254 to 93 majority.

In this incredible map, there are only six states with congressional delegations less than 80-100% from one party. In it one can literally trace the battlefields of the Civil War.

This is real polarization, the results of a nation so divided it had literally torn itself in two. This is the type of polarization that results from scars so deep that they took more than a century to heal.

Perhaps today America is indeed growing more polarized, more divided into red states and blue states. But when one compares the present situation to past ones, there is literally no comparison. The United States has a long way to go before it gets as polarized as it did during the latter half of the 19th century.

--Inoljt, http://motleymoose.com/

 

A short history of the future

The history of the world, if properly understood, can be used to predict the future ~ the better our understanding of the past, the better our ability to predict the future.

Along these, lines, I present two graphical plots of the share of total world GDP for two "emerging" powerhouses ~ India and China, along with the share for two current powerhouses ~ Western Europe and the US (source: The World Economy: Historical Statistics by Angus Maddison).


My thoughts on these are below the fold

There's more...

Making Republicans the Party of the Past

Last night I wrote that the Democrats -- and progressives within the party, in particular -- need to position themselves as the party of the future, echoing similar calls by people like Gary Hart, Evan Bayh, Mark Warner and others.

But positioning oneself as the party of the future is only half of the equation. At the same time, there is a requirement to show that the alternative, one's opponent, is rooted in the past, specifically a past that people would not like to see repeated.

To an extent, George W. Bush was successful in using this tactic during the 2004 election, even more so during the 2002 midterms. During these campaigns, Bush and his Republican allies attacked Democrats for having what he called a "pre-9/11 outlook" on the world. And even though the President failed to lay out much of a forward-looking vision, he was able to win by painting the Democrats as stuck in the past.

A President who used this technique for even greater effect was Harry S. Truman during the 1948 election. During a number of speeches towards the end of the campaign, Truman successfully linked Republican nominee Thomas Dewey to the previous GOP president, Herbert Hoover, in the eyes of the public. On October 27, 1948, Truman addressed a crowd in Boston and made the following remarks. (A page-by-page scan of the speech is available here with a truncated version about two-thirds of the way down the page here.)

The leaders of the Republican Party served notice on America then and there [1928] that they would stop at nothing in order to gain power.

Don't think that the elephant has changed his habits in the last 20 years. This Republican elephant is not that kind of elephant. They're trying to make you believe he has that new look, but he hasn't.

With Dewey tied to the record of Hoover in the minds of American voters, Truman was able to score a surprising victory in 1948. And although it certainly was not the only cause for his success that November, it did play a role in getting him another four years in the White House.

This all brings us to this year. I am not advocating we hammer Bush as a reincarnation of Herbert Hoover, mainly because too few Americans have first-hand memories of the days of the Hoover administration (and those that do tend to vote Democrat, anyway). Likewise, I do not suggest we remind voters that President Bush's private accounts scheme is almost exactly the same as Barry Goldwater's privatization plan from the 1964 election.

But what I do believe we must do is show voters that President Bush and the Republicans in Congress are stuck in the past. On economic issues, we tell voters that no matter what problem arises, Republicans suggest the same old 19th century laissez-faire solutions instead of offering the innovative solutions required by the 21st century we live in. On social issues, we remind voters that Republicans are rehashing the same old divisive battles of yesteryear instead of trying to solve the problems that actually afflict us today. On foreign policy issues, we explain to voters that Republicans are stuck in a Cold War mentality, and that fighting a war against Al Qaeda and its ilk requires new techniques and not the ones we used against Russia more than 20 years ago. On energy issues, we show voters that the Republicans' lust for oil -- a 19th century technology -- won't solve today's energy needs.

Given the Republicans' set of policies, it shouldn't be difficult to portray them as wanting America to move backwards instead of forwards. But in the last few election cycles we have not been able to do it. Yet if we want to win this fall, in 2008 and beyond, we must convince voters that we are the party of the future and the GOP is the party of the past.

There's more...

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