Yes, it's the "Jesusland" map again.
With good cause. Trust me on that.
I can't think of a better illustration, when it comes to the following must-read think piece by David French, one of our nation's most important #NeverTrump cultural conservatives.
But first, if you never read his National Review piece describing the alt-right's war on his family, because of his opposition to the candidacy of Donald Trump, then read it now. Here is the unforgettable first sentence: "I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber."
Now he is back, with a think piece about the bitter, growing, divisions at the heart of America's alleged public life. This piece -- "We’re Not in a Civil War, but We Are Drifting Toward Divorce" -- contains so many must-booknote URLs and Big Ideas linked to religion news that I hardly know where to start or stop. You know how it is when a book hits you so hard that you basically highlight 90 percent of its contents, turning it into a sea of yellow patches?
The big idea:
Our national political polarization is by now so well established that the only real debate is over the nature of our cultural, political, and religious conflict. Are we in the midst of a more or less conventional culture war? Are we, as Dennis Prager and others argue, fighting a kind of “cold” civil war? Or are we facing something else entirely?
I’d argue that we face “something else,” and that something else is more akin to the beginning stages of a national divorce than it is to a civil war. This contention rests fundamentally in two trends, one political and the other far beyond politics. The combination of negative polarization and a phenomenon that economist Tyler Cowen calls “matching” is leading to a national separation so profound that Americans may not have the desire to fight to stay together. Unless trends are reversed, red and blue may ultimately bid each other adieu.
The biggest of the Big Ideas here is that Republicans hate Democrats ALMOST as much as Democrats hate Republicans. Or is it the other way around? And maybe the more accurate word is "despise."
Really? Just dig into the Pew Research numbers. Check out this chart, which is used in the French essay:
Repeat after me (and French): "Partisan Americans like each other less and less."
These trends would be troubling enough, but combine them with “matching” and you get a nation whose citizens increasingly lives separate lives -- living in separate locations, enjoying separate media, and holding separate religious beliefs.
As Cowen relates in his important book, The Complacent Class, Americans now have an extraordinary ability not just to meet, interact, and maintain relationships with people of our own social and political class but also to form extraordinarily precise and insulated subcultures. The Internet brings all of human knowledge to our smartphones, but rather than using it as a tool for outreach and understanding, we’re using it to find and live with people just like us. In other words, we’re sorting.
The key divisions? Did you catch them?
Yes, zip codes are important, in terms of red and blue.
But French demonstrates that almost any set of numbers that you seek out linked to religion, media and culture divide into the same zones of partisanship. More and more of us live in "landslide counties" in which one political party or the other always wins by margins of 20 percent or more.
How important is religion in all of this? Check out the national map for church attendance. Look familiar?
What about media and culture? Do you live in a "Modern Family" or "Duck Dynasty" zone?
Look at the maps. Now do you understand why half of the evangelicals who voted for Trump didn't want to, but felt that they had to because they were dead-certain they knew what kinds of judges Hillary Clinton would put on the U.S. Supreme Court, home of King Anthony Kennedy? Who talks about religious liberty, vs. people who see only "religious liberty"?