Embrace the Emptiness

See all of those pretty red and blue dots? I am none of them. I am relegated to the lower right quadrant: the home of those who don’t care much about social issues but worry about money, the economy, jobs, trade and debt. Embrace the emptiness. Like Detroit.

This is where you go if you spend whole days without kicking over statues or driving your car through crowds of pedestrians. If you don’t care about what the political consultants want you to be offended by, outraged about or frightened of, down to the lower right you go.

The things I worry about don’t seem to matter, but here is what does.

Lee Drutman conducted a study called Political Divisions in 2016 and Beyond: Tensions Between and Within the Two Political Parties. Sounds like a real page-turner doesn’t it? Actually it is short and pretty clear. Give it a look.

Apparently, people care more about social and identity issues than about things like money, government ineptitude, political corruption, trade or the rest of the world.

Those happy blue dots having fun in the lower left corner are Clinton voters who are liberal on social / identity issues and liberal on taxing other people and borrowing lots of money.

The happy red dots hanging out with their friends in the upper middle of the chart are Trump voters who are conservative on social / identity issues and a little less liberal than the blue dots on taxing other people and borrowing lots of money.

If you think borrowing too much and entrusting problem solving to inept problem solvers is a bad thing, you get to be down in the lower right corner pretty much all by yourself. Well, except for me.

Here are some conclusions Drutman reaches about where the parties are headed. Sadly, neither is going my way.

“Early indications suggest that Trump was serious about his ethnonationalist agenda, which will keep identity issues, especially immigration, at the center of our politics. If this happens, it may put pressure on the remaining pro-immigration Republicans and the remaining anti-immigration Democrats (some remain in both camps), further realigning the parties. Democrats may also be pressured to move further left on these issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.”

“Since Republicans have picked up more economically liberal voters (and may continue to do so since there are still some populists who vote for Democrats), it may be harder for Republicans to continue to push a traditional conservative free-market agenda. If so, this would leave conservatives with little place to go. Democrats might move right a little bit on economic issues, but they are limited by where their voters are on the issue. In addition, a move rightward might activate more of the anti-establishment sentiment that could potentially cause a rift in the Democratic Party.”

I doubt this happens by itself. It is simply easier for political strategists to fire up donors and voters about this stuff than about the things that will matter in their lives, which remain mostly economic.

Gets you elected at the small cost of making it impossible to do anything. The Ds and Rs have similar looking symbols. They might as well share the same slogan: “We are perfect and you are evil.”

Odds of changing it? Not too high. Embrace the emptiness of the lower right quadrant. Like Detroit.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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  • The political parties can avoid the hard questions of war, intervention, economic growth and debt by focusing on the social issues. The old formula of god, gays and guns still plays pretty well in various sectors. Diversity, sanctuary cities, free speech are new arrows in the progressive quiver. And, of course, endless investigations into the other side’s alleged wrongdoings. This is one of the media’s current favorites. It’s great for ratings.

    Perhaps the voters just don’t pay much attention anymore to the claims of economic growth by the various candidates. They always say things will improve. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Maybe the voters are beginning to catch onto the fact that Presidents can’t really affect the economy all that much. Except by tax reductions, perhaps. Reagan pulled that off.

    If Trump pulls off tax breaks, and they work for the plebs as well as for the elites ( a big if) then he might get re-elected. Maybe he knows this. Congress probably doesn’t care.

    It’s still a great country, despite all the confused social issue folk, and the dipsticks at the top.

  • I’m trying to figure out the verticle axis. Zero = not too hot not too cold on social issues, rather like Goldilocks (was she a “snowflake,” by the way?), or zero = I don’t give a damn about all the whiners, no matter what their stripe?
    Regardless, I guess I’m (0,1), just as lonely as you…
    I wonder if that gives us an “identity” to complain about. If so, then what? Is it hypocritical to complain about your own identity problems without sympathizing with all the other complainers. Can we all be victims? A conundrum…

    • There is lots of room in the lower right quadrant. Maybe we are “flinty-eyed-Americans?” Always room for another support group.

  • Garrard, Me thinks the expression was “dipsh*ts v dipsticks” ? 🙂

    There would be hope with more Governors migrating to Executive Branch v Legislative.
    Deciding is more valuable debating.

  • Its very disconcerting to a Brit looking at this, given that our political reds and blues are 100% reversed from yours! Its like watching Wimbledon after a lifetime of scoring real tennis…’what happened to that score?’. I shall read with interest. And thru very dark glasses

    • Is there reason to think we have seen the worst of it? I can’t think of any. If we have not, it will become easier and easier to walk away from this administration. Some “first movers” have done so, then come the early adopters, then the tide turns.