CITY MOUSE, COUNTRY MOUSE….Bill Bishop of the Austin American-Statesman has been covering the trend toward increasing polarization of American politics all year. On Sunday he wrote that this trend became even more glaring this year:
The nation in 2004 became more politically polarized than during any presidential contest since World War II, according to an Austin American-Statesman review of election results.
….The contours of that divide fell along stark geographic lines: Democrats concentrating in dense urban areas and inner suburbs, Republicans expanding in exurban and rural America.
As the graphic on the right shows, individual counties are becoming ever more polarized, with nearly half producing landslides this year for ether Bush or Kerry. Democrats are increasingly concentrated in the cities and Republicans in suburbs and rural areas.
Rural-urban splits are common in just about every country, and I continue to think that in many ways it’s the most basic split of all. The problem is that densely populated cities require a fundamentally different type of governance than thinly populated rural areas, but since we haven’t really come to grips with this we end up turning these differences into moral crusades. It’s perfectly reasonable, for example, to suppose that big cities ought to handle gun ownership differently than farm communities, but instead of simply acknowledging this as a garden variety governance issue to be handled differently in different places, it’s become part of a nationwide culture war.
It seems like there’s an opening of some kind here for a politician who forthrightly admits that city and country have different needs but that we don’t have to split into warring factions over it. It’s worth a thought, anyway.