Plot & Details
Alarmed by claims made on ABC News that social and political polarization in the United States is feeding on itself as our nation grows increasingly divided, Austin-American Statesman reporter Bill Bishop launched a three-year investigation aimed at discovering the source of our current discord. Looking back into the past 14 presidential election cycles, Bishop tallies votes on both the Republican and Democratic sides in order to highlight a trend he has dubbed "The Big Sort." One of the communities that Bishop claims serves as a textbook example of "The Big Sort" is Monclair, N.J. Just one generation ago, the community's votes were 50-percent Democrat and 50-percent Republican; in the 2004 presidential election, however, John Kerry won out with a landslide 78-percent of the popular vote. Over the course of the past three decades, the number of Americans living in landslide communities has doubled, claims Bishop. With nearly half of all American's living in such polarized districts at the dawn of the 21st century, what kind of future can we look forward to as a nation? According to Bishop, people will always choose to be with others who are like themselves, a claim apparently confirmed by ABC News experiments indicating that like-minded individuals are pushed to increasingly extreme positions when grouped together. Our founding fathers fought and died so that future generations would engage in open debate, so why are we opting to simply hunker down in hopes that our views will eventually win out instead of attempting to persuade our opponents to consider another perspective? If Bishop's assessment is correct, and this is indeed what's happening all across the country, will members of Congress ultimately resort to arming themselves before they appear on the floor like they did in those tense days leading up to the Civil War?