Will Politics Make You Move?

place politics well-being Sep 15, 2022
Political polarization

If it feels like political polarization is increasing and is at a high point in recent times, you would be right accurate. There is a growing differential in feeling to one’s own political party minus other parties. As compared to the late 70s, this feeling of allegiance to one party above others has more than doubled according to The Economist.  But there’s more to the story. Political observers describe today’s phenomenon as not just feeling more confident in one’s party of preference but having a decidedly negative view about the other party. Experts call this “affective polarization.”


As we have seen at the national and local levels, affective polarization can make it common and socially acceptable to disrespect and express outright hatred for the other. In today’s environment, how much fun is it to be in the political minority among your neighbors and local citizens? Probably not much. Trends suggests it may get worse.


Will politics make you move?



Political polarization has risen considerably in recent decades (Source: The Economist)


The Battlefield of State-Level Politics is Intensifying


While much of the national press has focused on the implications of polarization at the national level leading to a dysfunctional Congress (sporting a disapproval rating of about 80%) among other challenges, dynamics at the state and local politics are increasingly getting more attention. There is a self-sorting which presents risks for political minorities and majorities alike.


Highlighted in a recent The Economist feature article, American policy is splitting, state by state, into two blocs: one blue and one red. We are losing the middle. Former centrist states, such as Vermont or Kansas, have become less so and liberal-Republican and conservative-Democratic states have largely disappeared.


At the same time, with the pandemic where states were empowered to set their own policies and the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, states are gaining power relative to the federal government, and they are exercising it. As a result, stands on abortion, crime, immigration, education, unionization, business regulation are among many issues that have become more extreme. According to Oklahoma governor, Kevin Stitt, “there has never been a bigger difference between a blue state and a red state.”



A greater divergence in state policies in recent years (Source: The Economist)


Too Much of a Good Thing?


While being in the minority political party has obvious disadvantages, those in the political majority may experience downsides, too. For example, you may seek police reform and a new approach to fighting crime but defunding the police may be too extreme a position. On the other hand, you may be in favor of restricting abortions in certain cases but making abortion illegal under in any condition may not align with your values or personal circumstances. Dominance of one political way of thinking eliminates debate and the opportunity to see merits in arguments of another political ideology. The art of compromise can yield some of the best outcomes.


Current conditions suggest more extremism is likely. Today there are 37 “trifecta” states in which one party controls the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. This is true for 23 Republican-controlled and 14 Democratic-controlled states encompassing nearly 75% of the U.S. population. Concentrated power creates opportunities to further protect power through gerrymandering and, with little checks and balances, course correction to more moderate positions can be extremely difficult.


What’s the Dynamic of Your Place?


Places change, including politically. What’s the dynamic of your place? Is your state moving rapidly to one extreme? Is your local community adding to or easing the problem?


Are you a political minority in your place? This can have a significant impact on your day-to-day lived experience. It can be difficult to find and keep friends. It can add stress to be seen as “the other” and create a sense of hopelessness. For someone that has lived in one place for decades and seen the political climate change around them, one can feel like a foreigner in their native land.


Are you a political majority? Do you find yourself enjoying a position of dominance and not being as sensitive to those with a different political ideology? Are you not as kind to others of a different persuasion as you could or should be? Has the political ideology of your party become so extreme that policies are misaligned with your values?



Some places are more open to people with different ideologies than others (Source: VivaTexas on Etsy)


Will Politics Make You Move?


For years, there has been a net migration out of the blue state of California to red states like Texas and Florida, often for a lower cost-of-living and increased job prospects. However, Governor Gavin Newsome sees a countervailing trend: people moving to California based on political ideology. Political refugees may become an increasing portion of migrants.


But moving to another state may be not practical or feasible. One approach is to make your current place better and find ways to connect with people across the political spectrum in a civil, relationship-based way. Certain organizations, such as Braver Angels, are bringing people together at the local level to improve relationships and promote localized civic engagement.


A more attractive option may be to move within your state. For those on the left living in a red state, it could be mean finding blue pockets and vice versa. Austin, Texas is an example of a blue city in a red state; the western suburbs of Washington can be a safe haven for those on the right living in a blue state. Or, your happy place may be to find the perfect blend of purple. Detailed voting maps for recent elections, such as this tool provided by the New York Times, can help provide insights to find that best place for you.


While climate change is a hot topic making people consider a move, the rising tides of political polarization may be more significant for you. The trend of polarization is likely to continue – just like climate change, unfortunately – and you are best to be prepared for it.



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