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April 10, 2007

Richard Florida

Divided America

« Rural Creativity | Main | Creative Class Lockout »


That's the title of an important new book by political scientists Earl and Merle Black. From the Washington Post's review:

"The authors' examination of voting patterns -- regional, religious, cultural, ideological, gendered and racial -- through the 2004 elections confirms that, these days, there simply is no truly dominant, national American political party. Instead, the Blacks stress the importance of "partisan regional strongholds" in understanding recent elections. ... Today, the powerful rivalry for the heart and soul of America is being waged between two minority parties. ...The rise of regionalism suggests that the roots of America's partisan divisions go deeper than the razor-thin victories of the last two presidential contests. ..."America's two parties are locked in a power struggle in which victory or defeat is possible in every round of elections for every national institution." ...They argue that both parties have become more homogeneous, contributing "mightily to the ideological purification of modern American politics." This process of political cleansing has not only narrowed the range of ideas raised in our national conversation but also given rise to candidates who simply cultivate their messages to their party base -- messages derived from polls and focus groups, not convictions. With fewer ideas out there in the ideological marketplace to attract new voters, it has become politically treacherous for candidates to take a principled stand without knowing how it may affect their electoral prospects."

The persistence of this divide, as I wrote in Flight,  will make it increasingly hard for the United States to address many of the core economic issues facing it, and constitutes a huge threat to the nation's enduring technological and economic competitiveness. 


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Michael Wells

What struck me was the overlay of this with the map in Richard's Atlantic article "Where the Brains Are" showing the distribution of people with college degrees -- which was probably a blog post but I couldn't find it. It's uncanny how closely college and blue counties match.

Then if you look at income levels and the top 20 creative class cities, you see the parallels again. And as Richard points out, the people in those rural, midwest & southern counties are being left behind. Without getting into a political analysis, they see their self interest very differently than the blue spires on the map do -- and unlike "Whats the matter with Kansas?" implies, they're not stupid or misled, they just see a different reality.


Michael - Nicely said. Let's see if we can get those maps overlaid. Your right. It's not "false consciousness" of the "What's the Matter with Kansas" variety. It is self-interest of a sort. The folks in the red patches see the growing class divide very clearly. They are anxious about, they're scared, and they're angry. In this kind of spiky world, their fear and anxiety is fairly easily channeled toward "traditional values" and their ire targeted at certain urban populations who they see as different, hedonistic, narcissistic and libertine. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that these are exactly the places their kids say they want to live and are flocking to.


Let us not forget the role of political manipulation in perpetuating the fear of those being left behind, often by operatives intent on perpetuating policies which, in fact, catalyze the demise of these regions.


the counties are nice now let's look at population map the geographical area doesn't equal population density

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