Embrace the Emptiness

Embrace the Emptiness of the Lower Right. Like Detroit

See all of those pretty red and blue dots? I am none of them. I am relegated to the lower right quadrant: the home of those who don’t care much about social issues but worry about money, the economy, jobs, trade and debt. Embrace the emptiness. Like Detroit.

This is where you go if you spend whole days without kicking over statues or driving your car through crowds of pedestrians. If you don’t care about what the political consultants want you to be offended by, outraged about or frightened of, down to the lower right you go.

The things I worry about don’t seem to matter, but here is what does.

Lee Drutman conducted a study called Political Divisions in 2016 and Beyond: Tensions Between and Within the Two Political Parties. Sounds like a real page-turner doesn’t it? Actually it is short and pretty clear. Give it a look.

Apparently, people care more about social and identity issues than about things like money, government ineptitude, political corruption, trade or the rest of the world.

Those happy blue dots having fun in the lower left corner are Clinton voters who are liberal on social / identity issues and liberal on taxing other people and borrowing lots of money.

The happy red dots hanging out with their friends in the upper middle of the chart are Trump voters who are conservative on social / identity issues and a little less liberal than the blue dots on taxing other people and borrowing lots of money.

If you think borrowing too much and entrusting problem solving to inept problem solvers is a bad thing, you get to be down in the lower right corner pretty much all by yourself. Well, except for me.

Here are some conclusions Drutman reaches about where the parties are headed. Sadly, neither is going my way.

“Early indications suggest that Trump was serious about his ethnonationalist agenda, which will keep identity issues, especially immigration, at the center of our politics. If this happens, it may put pressure on the remaining pro-immigration Republicans and the remaining anti-immigration Democrats (some remain in both camps), further realigning the parties. Democrats may also be pressured to move further left on these issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.”

“Since Republicans have picked up more economically liberal voters (and may continue to do so since there are still some populists who vote for Democrats), it may be harder for Republicans to continue to push a traditional conservative free-market agenda. If so, this would leave conservatives with little place to go. Democrats might move right a little bit on economic issues, but they are limited by where their voters are on the issue. In addition, a move rightward might activate more of the anti-establishment sentiment that could potentially cause a rift in the Democratic Party.”

I doubt this happens by itself. It is simply easier for political strategists to fire up donors and voters about this stuff than about the things that will matter in their lives, which remain mostly economic.

Gets you elected at the small cost of making it impossible to do anything. The Ds and Rs have similar looking symbols. They might as well share the same slogan: “We are perfect and you are evil.”

Odds of changing it? Not too high. Embrace the emptiness of the lower right quadrant. Like Detroit.