Friday, February 12, 2016

The Beginner Guide to Dooming in America

To illustrate the DOOMMM Club's thinking on the Bundy rebellion and the US urban rural divide in general, I picked a few maps from the web. While some of these have unclear sources, they do confirm to trends identified by serious analytical articles on the subject.

We start with the simple fact that the rural conservative minority presides over a lion's share of the country.

Elections 2012. Red Counties voted Republican. Blue voted Democrat


Geographically, the minority is an overwhelming majority. It's not so in numbers. The next map reflects better actual electoral power by expressing population density in urban elevations. Blue spots that were drowning in a sea of red in the previous map are actually densely populated electoral giants towering over thinly populated flat red planes.


Next we have a map of trending counties. Those countries gravitated towards one of the parties from 2004 to 2012. The longer the arrow the faster the county's been trending. To see the arrows better, click on the map


More counties are obviously trending republican than otherwise. Again, the geography is misleading and obscures the actual numbers, but it does reflect the growing urban rural divide.

Here is another view on the same thing. The average magnitude of the shift. Rural counties trending more conservative. The cities, however, are turning liberal at an even greater rate.


To be sure, this is in relative terms. That is, they can perfectly be all turning more liberal, but because they are not doing it with the same speed, the gap between them is growing. The maps above measure the shift in terms of party preferences, not in absolute terms of how people actually poll on specific issues.

The maps/graphs above are what can be called geographical polarization. Cities turning more liberal, the countryside trending conservative. Political polarization along the urban rural fault line. The second component of this process, however, is even more important. It is the sheer intensity of the polarization.

Here is a good illustration from Pew Research. It's not only counties increasingly voting this or that way. People themselves are moving away from the political center. Conservatives growing more conservatives, liberals more liberal. They are not only increasingly clustering geographically. Their views are trending away from the center.


Now if you are betting on polarization to work its magic, growing divides are not enough. After all, what matters about the rise of the Trump/Sanders duo is not only their views but how these two and their supporters are perceived respectively on the other side of the divide. Liberals detest Trump, conservatives can't stomach Sanders. The following graph by the same Pew should confirm your intuition. Mutual political animosity has been escalating over time.

Now two maps to illustrate the issue of the federal land. It's basically concentrated in western states and it's probably not a coincidence that Bundys hail from Nevada where 80% of land is owned by the federal government.

It's easy to imagine the subject of the federal land ownership eventually blowing into a nationwide fallout between the two camps because it's related to one more general debate around which much of the current polarization is being created. That is, whether the government can be trusted with running things.

This issue should evoke almost archetypal political imagery for both sides. For the liberal/progressive crowd, here is the government responsibly protecting people and environment against the horrors of unchecked capitalist greed, balancing the need for economic growth against more humanistic concerns. On the other side of the divide, it's a story of a big and overbearing government driving into poverty hard working people with its inept and absurd regulation. And not just people. Rural Americans. The salt of the earth.

It's important to keep in mind that, both in terms of political geography and in terms of intensity, the urban rural divide has been steadily growing. The Bundy rebellion is interesting not only because of its particular circumstances, but because it's a point in time on a steadily escalating curve of political/geographical polarization. This curve points towards a certain destination in the future... It may be a very near future.


On a personal note, I've been an avid observer of urban rural conflicts all over the world for years which is very obvious from the following link I co-authored with Aymenn in 2012: Demography Is Destiny in Syria