Friday, July 02, 2004

Shribman Op-Ed

David Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an op-ed citing my "Red and Blue Scare" article:

Potentially Specious Truth No. 1: This is one of the most politically polarized periods in history. This highly alliterative phrase has been peddled so often that it's become part of the wallpaper of the election. I'm quite sure I've written it myself, very likely more than once. It's one of the baseline assumptions of Campaign 2004, but it may turn out to be the phrase that launched a thousand shibboleths.

Philip A. Klinkner, a political scientist at New York's Hamilton College, has looked at the contemporary period closely and warns there is little evidence to support this popular idea. Writing in the online political journal The Forum, he argues that there is "little evidence to support the notion that we are rapidly dividing into two Americas," adding that the average American, whether he resides in a Blue (Democratic) or a Red (Republican) area, has "a great degree of exposure to members of the opposing political party."

Professor Klinkner suggests that commentators aren't attentive to the nuances of political choice in various parts of the country. He's probably right, but what may be closer to the truth is that commentators are confusing a nation that is closely divided politically with one that is polarized politically. They're different.

"There are some places that are polarized," says L. Sandy Maisel, the Colby College political scientist. "There are many more places that are no more polarized than before."

Thanks to Shribman for adding a well needed corrective to the media's usual hyperventilating about political polarization. Now if only David Brooks would calm down.

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