A child might lead us…or possibly common sense

dschool1-articleLargeAt the popular Institute of Design at Stanford, otherwise known as D.School, students work on solving real-world problems, from how to save premature babies in undeveloped countries to how to eat ramen noodles without slopping. A recent class challenged students to solve the most intractable problem of all—rekindling bipartisanship.

According to an article by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, voters are more sorted by parties today and parties are more sorted by ideology. The Republican Party has moved right and the Democrats have moved (less) to the left.

The composition of the parties has shifted. Former southern Democrats turned Republican and former Republican African Americans turned Democratic. The growing racial divide widened the ideological divide.

One explanation for polarization is that moderates don’t turn up at the polls and people with partisan feelings do. The middle tries to stay out of the crossfire. In a polarized environment, voters make worse choices and have more confidence in them.

Because of these voting patterns, Congress is more polarized. “Political elites literally hate each other.” Here’s the question: is polarization driven by ordinary voters (representation) or by Congress (influenced by special interests—corruption)?

The more polarized Congress becomes and the fewer the moderates, the less productive that Congress will be. Moderates are people who get laws passed.

Polarization can be mapped by one factor more than any other: economic inequality. The smaller the gap between rich and poor, the more moderate our politicians; the greater the gap, the greater the disagreement between liberals and conservatives. The greater the disagreement, the less Congress gets done; the less Congress gets done, the greater the gap between rich and poor.


These kids from Stanford may have an answer. Or we can wake up and share.

3 responses »

  1. To say that Democrats have moved “left” at all is to have slept through the last fifty years. As for “moderation” being the solution to greed and corruption and rapacious capitalism, I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t fly. Moderation is what Obama thinks he’s up to and we see how far that goes with racists who writhe at the idea of a black face in the White House. What we need IS to move left, away from Democrats and Republicans and toward a new party based on civilized thinking–healthcare as a right; employment at a fair wage, another right; housing that doesn’t stink and harbor vermin, another right; and finally access to healthful food at a reasonable price. Oh yeah–and education. Moderation is leading us into a society where only a few can afford higher education and lower education gets lower and lower. An educated citizenry is a danger to “moderate politicians.” Justice is what we crave–a goal to strive for, not some mealy mouthed accommodation of the fat cats who currently rule. Somehow other Western countries have managed to breed a sense of community, to see their social contract as a commitment to the well being of others. Why can’t we see that selfishness and hoarding only lead to misery?

    • I am in total agreement, Candida. To say that Democrats are left of center at all is daft. The center looks “leftist” because the right has fallen off the cliff on the other end.

      We need to learn to treat greed as a social aberration by which all right-thinking folks should be disgusted, rather than a desirable state of mind for everyone. Human beings, as social creatures, only thrive in a healthy society. Time we remembered what that means. A lack of compassion for others is just selfishness, not cleverness that ought to be rewarded.

      I could get on a real rant here, but you said it so well, I’ll stop now.

      May the rest of us see a more prosperous new year, a scintilla of greater sanity in the world and may all our lives be filled with light, love, laughter and music!

  2. Hi Norma,

    As a former Preschool owner and director, I loved the Perry Preschool study you quoted in your blog. i copied it and will send it to my daughters, and all the other preschool teachers i know. As teachers, we can see the difference we are making in children’s development, and are confident the skills we teach will see them through many difficulties they may encounter later,,but it takes a scientific study to convince those outside the teaching trenches, although to me helping children early so they may develop into good citizens seems so self-evident. Thanks for spreading the word.



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