Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What Divides Us

I've been thinking a lot about what divides us. I like to think in geographical terms. Specifically, I think in maps.


(Statistics from here)

This is a map showing which party is dominant in what towns, and by what percentage. Towns where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a higher percentage are a deeper blue, where Republicans outnumber Democrats is a deeper red, and so on.

I found some surprises. For example, Democrats dominate in Stafford. Also, a full fifth of the state's minor party members live in Norwalk. Who knew? But for the most part, the map shows what we knew already. Republicans dominate in the west. Democrats dominate the Connecticut Valley and the east. You can start to discern voting patterns, to a degree. The presidential map from 2004 bore a passing resemblance to this one.

Of course, what the map doesn't show is Connecticut's huge wild card: independents. They outnumber the members of the dominant party in every town but 19 (there are more Democrats than independents in Berlin, Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Derby, East Hartford, Hartford, Middletown, New Britain, New Haven, Stamford and Union; and more Republicans than independents in Darien, Greenwich, Hartland, Morris, New Canaan, Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton). Independents dominate in every congressional district, and in every county.

What the map also doesn't show is the great variation within the parties themselves. The primary between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman showed that the Democrats who dominate Naugatuck are very different from those who dominate Cornwall. The Republicans of Greenwich are not the same sort as the Republicans who dwell in Ledyard. The independents of Hartford are a far cry from those in Darien or Somers.

Party divides us. Except, of course, that it doesn't--not really. Party means different things depending on where you are. I don't buy that we need to be partisan all the time. We have too much in common. We can be smarter than that.

25 comments:

cgg said...

Politics isn't the problem. It's this culture war stuff that mucks up the debate, and turns it into something more personal. A person's political views are part of who they are, but they aren't all that a person is. And maps, much like politics, don't tell the entire story.

Genghis Conn said...

The culture clash has become so bound up in parties at the national and even to a degree at the state level that it's sometimes hard to separate the two out.

But no, there's a lot more than just lines on a map, or a party, dividing us.

TrueBlueCT said...

Genghis--
Are you certainly you're not following Joe Lieberman's lead and suggesting that Connecticut doesn't need to stand up to President Bush and the GOP. (And that a Democratically controlled Congress isn't that important to the future of America?)

To locate the most partisan among us, look to the 30% of CT voters who still think George Bush is doing a good job. And the knee-jerk Clinton haters who never could complain about the great job he was doing, but sought to tear him down nonetheless.

Until Karl Rove, George Bush, and abominations like the "Family Institute of CT" go away, thinking people like me will remain, by default, an "overly partisan" opposition.

Genghis Conn said...

There are things that transcend party, though. Opposition to Bush in Connecticut is extra-partisan, it's beyond just Democrats. It even includes some Republicans.

Party can force those who belong to it to support and defend positions they might not otherwise take, because if they let up the other guys might get the upper hand. That's part of what divides us.

I think Kos is wrong. The solution to blind partisanship is not more blind partisanship. Fighting fire with fire is stupid. It burns the whole place down. You fight fire with water.

If people trusted Democrats to govern intelligently, they'd elect them. But they don't.

Look, I don't like Lieberman either. I made that pretty clear. He annoys the heck out of me. But his message, as odd and hypocritical as it may be coming out of his mouth, is right. Toning down partisanship will help save this country.

cgg said...

If people trusted Democrats to govern intelligently, they'd elect them. But they don't.

People don't trust politicians period. If they did we'd have higher turnout every election. I don't think partisian politics is the problem. We've lost faith in our system. A lack of partisianship isn't going to change anything if we don't trust the people we put into office in the first place.

Partisian politics are healthy if the debate is healthy. It's not Democrats vs. Republicans that's causing the rift but the perception that Nascar Dads are battling the latte drinkers. Meanwhile the politicians say what they have to say in order to get elected and any real ideas they might have get lost in the process. Voters can't relate to any of the candidates and stay home on election day.

Anonymous said...

folks, if you think folks like Colin McEnroe et al don't cause even tepid Republicans to react in seething anger at the contempt we are subjected to, well, cut down on the lattes

Tim White said...

Genghis... great job again.

One minor change though... double check your figures on Prospect. There's about 1100 Dems and 1700 Rs. So it should be colored dark red, not dark blue.

As for whether your data source is wrong, that's possible. But Prospect is definitely heavily Republican. I'm running for the 89th GA seat... Bethany, Cheshire & Prospect... I know the voter registrations.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

Having spent over 20 years "on the field" I don't think we're anywhere near as divided as special interest groups would have us believe.

Aside from a handful of true partisans in every camp; it's those with a specific agenda that exacerbate every little thing, causing much discord - very little of it necessary.

Tim White said...

Another interesting map, if you could get the data and make the map... would be of post-primary registrations... see if there were geographic trends where people switched registrations.

Did any towns actually flip party registrations because of Joe/Ned?

Chris MC said...

GC -

The maps are wonderful, but they really do not tell one much about politics, just party registration, as you allude to in your last paragraph of the post.

What usually gives a better picture is "performance", a more difficult number to get one's hands on, usually available only for the campaigns who can pay for it. Performance is how people vote for Democratic & Republican (and occasionally third party) candidates.

Although a vastly more useful tool for undertaking analysis and developing an understanding of the electorate, it too is only a starting point for an informed opinion.

For that, knowledge of the specifics and the individuals on the ground is required. Is a Democratically Strong Precinct in Waterbury interchangable with a statistically comparable one in New Haven? Not necessarily. Can a Republican win in New Haven running on the same platform as in Waterbury? Generally, no.

Like all abstractions, statistics can point the way, but as always, the politics are local.

TrueBlueCT said...

ACR--

Let's keep this simple. The last Democratic agenda item that you agreed with???

The Republican agenda that I disagree with is this notion that the very, very rich in America are somehow getting a bad deal. And oh yeah, I also disagree with the divisive politics that the GOP is waging to help benefit the uber-rich agenda.

Anonymous said...

Naugatuck Valley towns may be Democratic in registration, but are Republican at heart. They are Reagan Democrats, and represent what the Democratic Party used to stand for. As their clout is diminished in the blue collar valley towns, Democratic registration is increasing in $$ Greenwich. It doesn't take much thought to figure out who is steering the party these days, and where the newfangled support is coming from.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

TrueBlueCT said...
Let's keep this simple. The last Democratic agenda item that you agreed with???



Do you think I'm going to hand you a straight line like that 40 days out?

Nice try.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

TrueBlueCT said...
Let's keep this simple. The last Democratic agenda item that you agreed with???



Do you think I'm going to hand you a straight line like that 40 days out?

Nice try.

Genghis Conn said...

Tim,

The SOTS stats say the opposite. They're probably wrong. I was surprised by that one, too, especially given the way the town votes.

New stats seem to be released in late October. When they come out, I'll be sure to let you know if any towns saw major shifts.

ken krayeske said...

The map is useful, but I wonder if there is another way we can demonstrate the contours and nuances of the voters who register independent, and how they impact the red and the blue domination.

Not only that, this got me thinking about how and why certain places evolved the way they did.

It's wierd that the farm country in Eastern CT is all blue and the farm country in Western CT is all red. What is the difference between Warren and Bozrah?

Both were founded in May 1786, and both list agriculture as their principal industry. Bozrah has some additional cement mixing and manufacturing capabilities. Warren has the likes of Phillip Roth.

Bozrah has about 2,423 people, while Warren keeps it small with 1,317. Warren is 27 square miles, Bozrah is 20. Bozrah a bit more dense, and maybe that is why it registers Dem.

Warren had a grand list of $186 million, Bozrah $177 million. More people, less money, another tick for the blue in Bozrah.

Bozrah's "indebtedness" according to the 2005 CT Blue book, is almost $3 million, while Warren's is $1.3 million. Warren's tax rate is 18.72 mills, while Bozrah's is 22. Sounds like tax and spend to me.

Their forms of government are the same: selectmen, board of finance, town meeting.

While one is blue and one is red, could we say there is really any difference between the people who live in both places? They all eat, sleep, have toilets and children. So they're much more similar than different, but I bet if we looked at all the towns, the numbers would probably read out like those.

In the end, though, it comes down to money. Where people have it, they think the Republicans will protect it. Where they don't, they think the Democrats will help them get it.

Anonymous said...

And the truth comes out.

As Ken K says, In the end, though, it comes down to money. Where people have it, they think the Republicans will protect it. Where they don't, they think the Democrats will help them get it.

Isn't that what it is all about? Money.

Anonymous said...

working on my first campaign, and yes, it does all come down to money. i've had my eyes opened and i'm disgusted by both parties.

bluecoat said...

Howard Dean, who now chairs the national Democrats, said it well all in one speech when he said you can't trust Republicans with your money; Republicans are all alike - white Christians who never worked a day in their lives.

Anonymous said...

"Republicans are all alike - white Christians who never worked a day in their lives."

Howard Dean has an anger management problem.

A new low for you bluecoat. For you to agree with this pathetic comment is remarkable.

Are you sure you got the quote right, because it sounds like Dean was talking about Teddy Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller.

Anonymous said...

Let's examine Howard Dean's remarks a little closer:

Has Chris Dodd ever had a job in his adult life other than that of a member of congress?

Answer: NO.

When George H.W. Bush signed up to fight in WWII as a 17 year old; when Bob Dole almost died in WWII; or when John McCain was a POW for 5 years does it really matter what jobs they held? Aren't they all heroes? What the hell did Howard Dean ever do to make our country a better place?

Shame on you for this post bc.

bored with bluecoat said...

I have now officially decided that bluecoat is senile.

bluecoat said...

blogger is being almost as cantankerous as those who would attack me for Dean's ridiculous comments; lighten up; yes, I got Dean's comments right and he was an embarrasment to a number of national Democrats at the time he made the comments; some folks don't appear to follow the national scene muxh here. the thread was about "what divides us" and the comment was relevant.

ken krayeske said...

Hey Anonymous 11:19

come work for Thornton for Governor. We don't have any money. That's not to say we're not as human and flawed as the rest, we're just not corrupted by moneyed corporate influence, so we can actually speak our minds.
Yet, the two parties still suppress us. Such is life.

Anonymous said...

ken,
would love to come work for you guys, but i can't jump ship with six weeks to go. i wouldn't get a good reccomendation for my next soul-sucking job. (which i'll be rewarded handsomely for the scummy thing i must do. isn't that sick?)