Sort of Big Sort?
A new PR model

Wrecking a category

Partisanship (1)The biggest divide in American politics is not between people who lean left or right, but between those who are engaged and those who are not.

For example, according to the Census Bureau, about 60% of Americans are registered to vote, but only 42% cast ballots in the last national election.

Presidential elections draw more people -- about half of eligible voters typically turn out when the White House is up for grabs. On that score, the 2008 election had the biggest turnout in 40 years -- 56.8% of eligible voters cast ballots.  

We'll soon see if that was the start of a new trend or an aberration.

Meanwhile, social scientists argue that our political divisions are actually a sign of health. We have become better at sorting ourselves by ideology rather than simply going with our family, social or ethnic flow.

Only about 10% of voters don't lean towards one party or the other. That has made partisan voting blocks more disciplined. But it has also made bipartisan cooperation much more difficult. That's undoubtedly reflected in the lowest levels of trust in the federal government since Gallup has been keeping score.

Hyper-partisanship has also contributed to any marketer's nightmare -- a general poisoning of the category. 

I saw this first-hand when I was at AT&T during the long distance wars.  AT&T, MCI, and Sprint got into a price war that led to billions of dollars of advertising in which we essentially accused each other of lying.

In time, all we accomplished was to convince the public we were all liers. 

As hyper-partisanship foments a general decline in public trust, it's taking the rest of civic life with it.

The percentage of Americans who participate in a community group of any sort is even lower than the proportion who vote.

Only 35% of American adults belong to a religious, civic, school, social, or even recreational group. And barely a third (32%) perform some form of community service such as volunteering, attending public meetings, or working with neighbors to address local issues.

There have been many theories to explain this, ranging from the effects of increasing diversity and two-income families to the proliferation of cable channels and new digital media. 

To that list, let me add this -- hyper-partisanship is destroying public life as a category of honorable activity. 



True, that's why everyone should vote. But maybe it doesn't matter for people which candidate will rule, nothing changes much in common people's lives, really.

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