Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. When Kipling became frustrated with how the British and inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent could not get along he wrote “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” His infamous 1892 ballad may be just as applicable in today’s Iowa and American divisive political environment.
Recent Pew Research Center survey data reveals that since 2001 Republicans are describing themselves as more “conservative” than heretofore and Democrats are calling themselves more “liberal” than before. All research reveals this has created a left-wing versus right-wing separation we’re too often observing at all levels of government. Here are more facts to describe today’s primary political parties:
Racially, the GOP’s base is becoming similar to the demographics of the 1990’s, that is, whiter, while the Democrats are becoming more like America will be two decades from now, more racially diverse (i.e., black, brown, white and mixed-race).
Democrats are taking claim of urban counties and the GOP is taking ownership of the country’s rural areas.
Women are more likely to identify with the Democratic Party while men lean Republican.
Republicans are gaining more support from those that are age 73 and older. The Democrats are capturing a greater proportion of baby boomers (64-72), boomer II (53-63) and generation X (42-52). The greatest gain for Democrats are the Millennial voters, those aged 24-41, especially female Millennial voters.
Voters with a high school diploma or GED are moving away from the Democratic Party and becoming GOP advocates. President Trump can expect the non-college educated to support his endeavors while the post-secondary educated voters will be counter his every move.
Most strikingly is between 1994 and today, a 24 year time period, voters with a bachelor’s degree have flipped their political affiliation completely around. In 1994, college degree holders were 54 percent GOP and 39 percent Democrat. Today, it’s just the opposite: 54 percent of the college educated are Democrats and 39 percent Republicans.
The old GOP guard believed in free trade and open markets. With President Trump’s Trans- Pacific Partnership withdrawal and uncertain fate of NAFTA, NATO and WTO, the Republican Party is at a crossroads. Proof in point: research notes 46 percent of Republicans say free trade is good and 48 percent of the GOP express free trade is bad.
Trump’s authoritarian-protectionist-nationalism movement was recently challenged when more than 100 Republican House of Representatives signed a letter expressing misgivings about the President’s international trade tariff discourse and course of action.
With the current non-traditional political behavior occurring at the federal level as well in Iowa’s Capitol, both with GOP-controlled leadership, research indicates Republicans and conservative-leaning independents are becoming more pessimistic about the future of the GOP while Democrats and liberal-leaning independents are more optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party.
Despite the partisan polarization gap that has been steadily increasing during the past 20 years, there is one issue of common ground. Support for social acceptance of homosexuality is at a record high with majorities of both Democrats and Republicans.
With the predominant political parties becoming more and more divisive, we desperately need bipartisanship, compromise, working-across-the-aisle and centrist middle-ground political thinking. This may well be our only viable path to progress. Let’s earnestly work together to update Kipling’s prose to read: “Oh, left is left, and right is right, let’s foster the twain shall meet.”
P.S.: To determine where you are on the left-to-right political spectrum take the 17 item Pew Research Center’s political typology quiz at www.people-press.org.
Steve Corbin is Professor Emeritus of Marketing, University of Northern Iowa, and a 1966 graduate of Nevada High School.