As a denizen of the People’s Republic of Austin, I “relate” to this piece by Will Wilkinson:
…Lorrie Moore, a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and fiction writer of note, reports that the acrimonious recall campaign has set brother against brother from Eau Claire to Kenosha:
Despite the assertion by journalist David Brooks (and others) that Americans live in more like-minded communities than ever before and are therefore cut off from values and opinions at variance with their own, more than a year later Wisconsin’s recall of its Governor and several legislators is now said to have pitted neighbor against neighbor. It is being called “a civil war,” and as in our American Civil War some family members are not talking to other family members. Despite a history of bipartisanship, people have chosen sides (as midwesterners tend to do in divorce; not for them the pseudo-sophisticated friends-with-all approach). Tales of confrontation abound: A driver with a “Recall Walker” bumper sticker might be tailed on the highway then passed in the adjacent lane by someone holding up a “Fuck the Recall” sign.
…Trust and a convincing imitation of geniality keep the public institutions of the upper Midwest running relatively smoothly. One hopes the discord brought upon the Badger State by moneyed outsiders bent on proving partisan points dies down after the vote is in, but I’m afraid this sort of fight will become increasingly common in so-called “swing states” as Americans continue to polarise along partisan lines.
The Pew Research Center’s “2012 American Values Survey” finds that Americans have never been more polarised, at least not since polarisation has been measured. Here’s a picture of the extent of the partisan divide:
America is dotted with hundreds of islands of concentrated liberalism, thanks to its largely publicly-funded university system. In Wisconsin, for example, it is not at all unusual to hear the state capital called “the People’s Republic of Madison”, on account of the university and its attendant politics. The role of universities in the story of American polarisation seems to me under-appreciated. America’s college towns facilitate within-state sorting according to political affinity by offering temperamentally liberal Wisconsinites or Georgians or Texans attractive places to live among fellow bleeding hearts, but without having to go too far from home. Big state universities also act as magnets drawing “foreign”, out-of-state academics, artists and their wannabe students away from their natural habitats on the coasts….
Now, as partisan polarisation increases nationwide, the town-gown divide inevitably grows more stark and hostile. The denizens of our nation’s inland archipelago of people’s republics grow politically further and further from the surrounding citizenry, whose taxes and tuition keep college-town bookstores in Bataille [link added]….
Regarding the partisan divide and the Pew survey, Arnold Kling says ” I do not think that this will end well.”
It could end quite well — if enough politicians at the State level would muster the guts to do the right thing, which is to secede en bloc. What would a Free States of America look like? Possibly like this:
The States in red went for G.W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. I have omitted three other twice-Bush States — Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia — because they went for Obama in 2008 by margins of greater than 5 percentage points. I would welcome Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia into the fold. New Mexico (which went for Bush in 2004) would be welcome, too, for the sake of territorial integrity. (The other once-Bush States are Iowa, which is suspect because of its attachment to ethanol, and New Hampshire, which (sad to say) is trending “blue.”)
What about the bastions of “liberalism,” like Austin? Well, without the support of a central government that underwrites and encourages its fads and foibles, it would become a saner, freer place as its “liberals” gradually emigrate to friendlier climes.
See also “The Constitution: Myths and Realities“.