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"One faction emphasizes duty and morality; another stresses individual rights and self-fulfillment," he writes.The result is a "values divide"--indeed, a "chasm." Both authors make their observations about culture and values--many of which are quite useful--by aggregating the attitudes of large populations into archetypes and characteristic world views.To political analysts, who live in a world of zero-sum contests between two political parties, it seems natural to conclude that partisan division entails cultural division. In his book " (his italics) and goes on to say, "The loyalties of American voters are now almost perfectly divided between the Democrats and Republicans, a historical political deadlock that inflames the passions of politicians and citizens alike." In a two-party universe that is indeed how things look. The fastest-growing group in American politics is independents, many of them centrists who identify with neither party and can tip the balance in close elections.
The question remains, however, whether actual people are either as extreme or as distinct in their views as the analysts' cultural profiles suggest. In 1998 Alan Wolfe, a sociologist at Boston College, said yes.
For his book , Wolfe studied eight suburban communities.
Their ambivalence disappears from the vote tallies because the very act of voting excludes the nonpartisan middle.
y no means, then, does partisan parity necessarily imply a deeply divided citizenry.
I wound up believing that a dichotomy holds the solution to the puzzle: American politics is polarized but the American public is not.
In fact, what may be the most striking feature of the contemporary American landscape--a surprise, given today's bitterly adversarial politics--is not the culture war but the culture peace.
Like the subatomic particles that live in a state of blurred quantum indeterminacy except during those fleeting moments when they are observed, on election day purple independents suddenly appear red or blue.
Many of them, however, are undecided until the last moment and aren't particularly happy with either choice.
That may sound odd, given the Republicans' dominance in winner-take-all Washington.
But in fact the 2004 elections confirmed that the parties are remarkably close to parity.