Friday, January 2, 2009

Polarization isn't a function of personality

In his new blog, Nolan McCarty gives us a quick assessment of the outgoing 110th Congress. This was the Congress that was supposed to reverse our partisan polarization trend since it involved the election of so many Red state Democrats. As the evidence shows, polarization only continued. Both chambers are now as polarized as they've ever been:He further predicts that, judging from the party affiliations and regions of the newest elected members, the 111th Congress will be even more polarized.

Political journalists, including but not limited to Joe Klein, tend to see party polarization as something that must end soon, and they hold politicians who promise to end it in high regard. Bush, for example, was widely portrayed as the uniter who would have to govern from the center due to his slender and controversial 2000 victory. That didn't happen. But the fact that it didn't happen had little to do with Bush. The parties have simply been moving apart from each other ideologically since the 1970s. This can be attributed to the polarization of districts, the empowering of ideological activists, white Southerners getting over their hatred of Lincoln, the development of air conditioning, and several other factors.

Similarly, while Obama has made a few overtures to conservatives, his administration is not likely to transcend partisanship. It's bigger than him.

(h/t The Monkey Cage)


Anonymous said...

It is so nice to finally see air conditioning getting its due. Seriously: one of the most powerful political forces on Earth. Someone asked Singapore's longtime President why his country had done so much better than the neighboring nations after independence, and he said "air conditioning." That allowed Singapore to attract skyscraper-based industries like banking, instead of relying on resource industries. If they'd gotten the electricity, and thus the aircon, working in Iraq, the war would be over, I bet.

Seth Masket said...

Agreed. A/C is basically terraforming.