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Political balkanization

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted August 18, 2008

2004 election mapAs usual, the liberals only get part of the story right.  There are "two Americas", but not as characterized by ex-presidential hopeful John Edwards who spoke about the "haves and have-nots" and the "struggling" versus the "privileged".  Edwards, like many of the Left-leaning crowd, was focused upon stirring-up economic class envy, while missing the Big Picture "political divide" that's been evolving in our nation.

Now, the Leftist intelligentsia is proud of itself for finally stumbling upon the fact that Americans have been in the process of politically segregating themselves for decades. Whoop-de-do!  The conservative commentariat and pundits have been discussing this phenomenon for many years, and it's "old news" for the political "center-right" of America. Who are the "center-right"? They constitute the majority of the adult population, about 62 percent, who self-identify as "somewhat conservative" or "very conservative", according to the findings of the Battleground Poll. Liberals, on the other hand, account for about a third of the citizenry, and represent the political minority in our nation.

Former President Bill Clinton - on his perennial speaking tour - is currently discussing the implications of a new book by liberal author Bill Bishop, entitled The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. At the Aspen Ideas Festival, Clinton reportedly stated: "we are growing more isolated in our communities because we are living more and more only with people we agree with, and we are growing more isolated in our political debates because . . . we look at the television news and we read the websites of people who confirm what we think already. This is not good in a democracy."

Bill Clinton has some legitimate concerns, but he's fighting an uphill battle because there's a strongly ingrained element of human nature that propels us to seek out kindred spirits. Of course, "birds of a feather flock together" and groups will often challenge each other. Particularly as we age, we want to surround ourselves with others that possess a similar worldview, similar values, and a shared philosophy of how governance should be implemented. 

Unfortunately, conservative and liberal ideological beliefs are at such odds that there's very little in the way of common ground to be mustered. Liberals are utopian socialists that abide by high levels of taxation, redistribution of wealth through an extensive array of government-run social programs, and micro-managing of the populace by "nanny state" laws and regulations, in efforts to bring about the "perfect" society.  And, sadly, many liberals are thoroughly naïve in assessing the dangers posed by terror groups and despotic regimes.  

In contrast, conservatives are lovers of liberty who embrace "American Exceptionalism", which underscores hope, opportunity, individual rights, personal responsibility and free enterprise. That's not to say that the truly needy shouldn't be afforded government help. However, big social welfare states are the harbinger of dependency and government bankruptcy.  For conservatives, the socialist model is nothing short of tyranny.

If the truth be told, conservatives understand liberal ideology and the entrenched liberal mind-set exceedingly well. Liberals often can't get beyond their strong emotionalism and trite propaganda to comprehend the merits of other viewpoints. Besides, they relish patting themselves on the back as the ostensible "good guys", as they demonize anyone willing to buck Leftist orthodoxy, whether it's global warming or more social programs that are draining the taxpayers and compelling the tax-base to flee.  

Worse yet - and this is key – the Left-leaning crowd actually believes whatever the mainstream media spews forth, while conservatives generally take everything expressed by media sources  [right, left or center] with a grain of salt. Why? Because conservatives are largely independent thinkers, not the indoctrinated adherents found on the Left. It's a testament to the American ethos that conservatives are individualists who are resistant to the "political correctness" of our times.   

Bill Clinton should not make the mistake of thinking that conservatives have virtually isolated themselves from liberal ideas, as if that were even possible. On the contrary, conservatives are inundated with the liberal perspective through the mainstream media, and they're sick and tired of being force-fed the liberal line to the exclusion of other viewpoints. That's precisely why Fox News, Talk Radio and conservative websites have flourished. 

News is a product, like any other product, and about ninety percent of it is produced by liberal media sources such as CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN, the Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Moreover, the popular culture is largely Left-leaning, which is reflected in the current music, books, magazines, sit-coms, movies, etc. As an aside, given the profound liberalism of the movie industry, conservatives were absolutely shocked that a movie with strong conservative themes such as The Dark Knight even got made. It's doing boffo at the box-office, simply because sixty percent of the population is hungry for right-leaning ideas.

As to the thesis that political clustering is "tearing us apart", let me note the following: We live in a free and open society, and if individuals of any ideological persuasion seek out like-minded enclaves, well more power to them. Any push for political "diversity" in neighborhoods, towns and cities is utterly ridiculous.  When conservatives reach their breaking point, they literally flee social welfare states, and move to more right-leaning, tax-friendly turf. Likewise, liberals have their own needs and sensibilities, and they should be accommodated in Left-leaning bastions, where they feel comfortable.

But will this ongoing political segregation lead to a dangerously balkanized society? Who knows? Historically, awful things have occurred in highly polarized societies. We've had a civil war in this nation before and it could happen again. If that is the consequence of Americans abiding by their belief systems, then so be it. ESR

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.






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