Friday, November 14, 2008

Party vs. Ideology

I'm seeing somewhat of a regional knee-jerk reaction to the a recent NY Times piece about the racial implications of the Republican lock on some parts of the south and the GOP's reduction to a regional party.  Do I think that the NY Times is the be-all-end-all of regional analysis?   Certainly not.  But the story had its merits.

Facing South is a blog I visit daily, but I think that their analysis is a bit off in attempts to counter the NY Times.  This map they use to make their point is helpful at one level, but it is also misleading to assume that southern states that split between Democrats and Republicans are somehow complex or pluralistic relative to other states.  For instance Tennessee may be more pink to purple on the question of party division, but ideologically Tennessee is deep red.  To some extent Phil Bredesen is popular in Tennessee because he's conservative and could easily be a Republican.  Simply put, Tennessee does not shade progressive on any statewide level, and insofar as conservatives tend to cluster in the GOP, I would call it more Republican than split.

I'd compare seeing government in party categories to seeing church in denominational categories.  Understanding church goers as Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc. is becoming less helpful than understanding them as conservative, moderate, liberal groups of devotees.  Ideological divisions transcend denominational boundaries and garner greater loyalty from followers.  Likewise, fidelity to ideological imagined communities trumps party membership.

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