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The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded American is Tearing Us Apart Paperback – Bargain Price, May 11, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Big Sort" refers to the fact that lifestyle choices are leading like-minded folks to live together in communities where they feel comfortable and perhaps unchallenged. That has significant ramifications for our country's political and social development. To quote the book, "The lesson for politics and culture is pretty clear. It doesn't matter if you're a frat boy, a French high school student, a petty criminal, or a federal appeals court judge. Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain group excesses; homogeneous communities march toward extremes."
The fact that Republican strategists understood this well before the Democrats is detailed in a discussion with Matthew Dowd, George Bush's pollster in the 2000 election and chief strategist for the Bush campaign in 2004. According to Bishop's account, Dowd understood that "American communities were 'becoming very homogeneous'. He believed that to a large degree, this clustering was defensive, the general reaction to a society, a country, and a world that were largely beyond an individual's control or understanding. For generations, people had used their clubs, their trust in a national government, and long-established religious denominations to make sense of the world. But those old institutions no longer provided a safe harbor.Read more ›
After reading it, I look around and see the uniformity (amid the Benetton ethnic mix and DIY style-diversity) of my own social networks in the city. All I did was exercise "free" choice about where to live. I've wound up in this cool 'hood, so cool I have to whisper that I voted for Clinton, not Obama.
Bishop and Cushing have done mighty work. They track back the origins of the mega-churches (would you believe in India and Korea?) and pull together decades of bizarre social psychology research. They prove what's happened by following the votes, the money, and the feet of Americans on the move.
Stories are good reading -- the comic book "tribe" in Portland, emergent church kids, moderates squeezed out of Congress, the textbook wars of the 1960s in particular blew my mind. Anybody who thinks Karl Rove masterminded the state we're in is going to be stunned. We're living a new segregationist era, and it goes a whole lot deeper than skin.
His argument would have made a first rate article. Unfortunately, he has turned it into a full length book by padding it with a lot of familiar and often barely relevant material from earlier academic studies and news articles.
"The Big Sort" is nonetheless a worthwhile read, even if much of it can be skipped or skimmed without losing the main thrust of its argument.
Their main supporting observation is that the % of voters in Presidential election from counties with a 20 percentage point differential (in either direction) in close elections has steadily increased over the past 30 years (from 26.8% in 1976 to 48.3% in 2004). They also rely on Alan Abramowitz work who observed the same phenomenon at the State level. In 1976, the average Presidential election margin in the States was 8.9 percentage points. In 2004, it was 14.8 percentage points. But, it is unclear if the latter just picked two points. That's because when you look at the standard deviation of the Democrat's % at the State level minus the nation's Democrat's % for each Presidential election over the same period, you get pretty much trendless results. If polarization had really increased, the standard deviation as defined over the period should have increased.
The authors also observed that since the 70s, Democratic counties share of the college educated and foreign-born citizens has risen. Meanwhile, Republicans gained shares of the Church going and white population. This demographic shift explains why Republican counties have become more polarized as they are more religious, less ethnically diverse, and less moderate in their views.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really more of a textbook than a read-at-leisure book, the author has certainly done his homework/research. Read morePublished 2 months ago by R. Patrick Baugh
Bishop's book is a mix of voluminous in-depth research, interesting antidotes and sociological/historical case studies that explain the underlying forces which have led to... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Keith D. Powell
Stated the obvious. Or rehash the obvious of why people join certain groups or organizationsPublished 7 months ago by Joe L. Beck
The Big Sort argues that (as of 2006) American democracy is in trouble. We have sorted ourselves into like minded communities and in doing so destroyed the essence of a... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Stuart Shapiro
This book utilizes demographics and sociology to explain how America has become more homogenous and politically polarized in the last thirty years. Read morePublished 13 months ago by blue ocotillo
A fabulous analysis. If you're wondering why Washington can't get anything done anymore, this will both present a well substantiated hypothesis and a fairly grim prognosis for... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Reed P.