This presidential election has already produced its fair share of predictable foolishness and sheer demagoguery. The candidates have promised to heal the sick, fix the economy, and create wealth without risk, even if they don’t quite understand economics.
Amid all this noise, suddenly we hear a signal coming from new book The Big Sort by journalist Bill Bishop. While John McCain and Barack Obama promise to lead the nation costlessly toward nirvana, Bishop informs our understanding of the past and suggests a future that belies the hopes of both candidates for the White House.
Bishop argues that over the past 40 years Americans have increasingly chosen to live near others who are culturally and politically similar. When Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford, less than one-fourth of Americans lived in counties where the presidential election was a landslide. By the time George W. Bush won re-election, almost one-half lived in landslide counties.
Bishop writes well. The book is an engaging read, filled with stories about how the United States has changed over the past 30 years. But Bishop is more than a storyteller.
He worked with Robert Cushing, a sociologist from the University of Texas at Austin — to document the internal migrations that have made the nation both more separate and more homogenous.
THERE IS A larger story here. Americans are become wealthier and more economically secure. That security has brought what my colleague Brink Lindsey calls, in the title of his latest book, The Age of Affluence, a period when material concerns no longer dominate politics and life.
In the place of such concerns, Bishop says, people reorder “their lives around their values, their tastes, and their beliefs.” Neighborhoods, churches, and civic organizations became more homogenous as have the political parties.
The Big Sort traces these cultural divisions to the conflicts of the 1960s and afterward. Religion is an important part of Bishop’s story. He traces the decline of mainline Protestantism and shows how evangelicals succeeded in attracting new members by emphasizing what people had in common. Bishop is a liberal — he says as much from the first page of the book — but his treatment of Christianity, and not least of conservative Christians, is fair enough.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?