There Are Bubbles..And Bubbles

In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, Perry Bacon penned a very thought-provoking defense of the geographic “bubble” he inhabits.

Bacon lives in a very Democratic area of Louisville, Kentucky. But he strongly rejects the notion that he is sheltered from diverse opinions. As he notes, it has become fashionable to assume that neighborhoods dominated by voters of one or another political party are filled with people who are participating in a “prejudice” akin to religious or racial discrimination.

Bacon was originally from Louisville, so he was aware of the political tilt of the neighborhood into which he was moving. His motives, however, weren’t political–they centered on such things as walkability and other attractions of urban life.

I didn’t move here in 2018 because I was explicitly looking to live near others who voted for Hillary Clinton. I was moving from Washington, D.C., and I wanted to keep some parts of my old life, so my wife and I sought out a home within walking distance of restaurants and coffee shops. And here’s the thing: Our current political polarization is about urbanization and attitudes about diversity and cosmopolitanism as much as issues such as tax policy. A person who says they want to be able to walk to bars and coffee shops is essentially saying that they want to live near a lot of people who voted for Clinton.

He writes that he had initially hoped to come across at least a few neighbors who supported Donald Trump because he thought they would offer insights that would improve his political writing.

On the other hand, I was becoming increasingly alarmed and frustrated at Trump’s conduct as president. I wasn’t sure that I actually wanted my nonwork hours to include people who would rave about the then-president.

Bacon writes that, by 2020, his experiences in his overwhelmingly Democratic urban neighborhood had  brought him “to a different place”–that he now embraces being in a heavily Democratic area. (For one thing, his friends and neighbors are all vaccinated, so they can “hang out” together.)

But the really important insight he shares is one that many of us still find it difficult to recognize–the fact that our current political polarization differs–dramatically– from previous political differences.

A lot of the discourse casting polarization and partisanship as bad assumes that the two sides both want a free and prosperous democracy, but just disagree on how best to get there. But that’s not what American politics is about today…

I am not against living near Republicans; I just don’t want to spend a ton of time with people trapped in Trumpian thinking, which right now is a lot of Republicans. I would have been more conflicted living in a heavily Democratic area a decade or two ago, when the parties weren’t so firmly divided into a reality-based party and a reality-skeptical party.

But that doesn’t mean I am opposed to living around people with different views than my own. Our two-party system leads to the idea that there are two and only two sides — Democratic or Republican — to most issues. But that’s not how life really is. I disagree with my neighbors on a wide range of things. We just aren’t debating whether you should wear a mask, or whether Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

I have reluctantly come to the same conclusion.

When I first became involved in politics and political philosophy, the arguments in which I participated were about means, not ends. Everyone I knew (now, of course, I realize there were a lot of people I didn’t know), for example, claimed they wanted poor families to be able to feed their babies. The debates were about what sorts of economic policies would achieve that goal without inadvertently destroying innovation or discouraging incentive.

Those disputes were real and heated, but they were different in kind from the wacko ugliness emanating from the Trumpers.

I realize now that there have always been plenty of people who really didn’t want all babies to have enough to eat (especially if they were Black or brown babies). But until Trump gave people who felt that way permission to voice their actual views, most Americans–even those who may have harbored similar bigotries– pretended (or believed) otherwise.

Today, political arguments between Trump Republicans and the rest of us are like arguments between sane Americans and flat-earth-believers or members of Heaven’s Gate. As Bacon concludes,

Democratic-leaning people moving to areas or states with lots of other Democrats isn’t a rejection of diversity or free thinking. It’s a way to ensure that they can live out the values that they assumed we all had until millions of Americans embraced Trump.


  1. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have had the misfortune dealing with a retired FBI agent who beats his chest on e-mails about his bravery, etc., etc. He is also all Trump all the time. When pushed to define his stance on kitchen table issues, silence or personal attacks against “libs” and Democrats. He even sent a photo of himself embracing Mike Flynn with a “Veterans for Trump” t-shirt. Really!

    Similar to Trump’s pathology, this guy brags shamelessly about his exploits in Viet Nam (He was in a helicopter that got shot down and he was medivaced out. He claims to be a war hero. The FBI, in their infinite wisdom hired this guy only to find out that he was an ideologue and not a real LE officer. They had him flying around in circles in Hawaii looking for drug traffickers. Then they posted him in Nowhere, Missouri where he kicked over enough rocks to discover a corrupt and incompetent sheriff.

    The point is that this guy is so inside a bubble of right-wing extremism that there is NO hope of penetration with logic, truth and actual facts. Nope. Here we have, presumably, a trained lawman who discards evidence that is inconvenient to his biases. He is also a through-and-through racist but accuses everyone else of being racists.

    Yeah. The bubble of a Trump-ite. The walls are made of stainless steel because the minds residing inside that bubble are incredibly, astonishingly weak, damaged or simply diseased.

  2. I moved to my current small neighborhood in 2005; it consists of one entry/exit street 4-5 blocks south to north, 17th, 18th and 19th Streets intersect via 3 blocks of 17th and 19th meeting at 2 block long 18th Streets west to east. My neighbors and I did NOT talk politics EVER; we did talk lack of street repairs and no plowing or salting snow and ice covered streets throughout this area, including heavily traveled streets surrounding our neighborhood. I always had Democratic yard signs out for every election; one neighbor posted Republican signs twice for members of their Catholic church congregation running for office. In 2016 there were ELEVEN Trump yard signs; SIX of them on my street and my next door neighbors and I had our Bernie signs out. They were the only 2 people talking to me; only 1 other who was a friend ended our communication. The past year he is on-and-off. That situation remains today.

    Our polling place serving 3 precincts was outside the neighborhood in a nearby roomy building belonging to a small church with ample parking. Even on busy election days it was a quick in and out with friendly poll workers. Come 2016 presidential election day and our polling place moved to East 16th Street and Arlington Avenue to a medical facility with limited parking for voters. I had to park behind the administration and in-patient medical building in the grass, walk around the entire building and one block north on Arlington Avenue through the parking lot to the end of the line of voters. Once inside we were crammed into the lobby before entering the small voting area with tables for 4 or 5 precincts closely placed before finding an empty voting booth with our ballots. Being disabled and using a cane, working my way through shoulder-to-shoulder voters was tricky but I managed. As I started working my way to a ballot machine a large woman poll worker suddenly grabbed my upper right arm which prevented me from using my cane for stability. She shoved and drug me through the crowd refusing to let go of my arm. Took me to a ballot machine which TWICE refused my ballot; she was angry when I inserted it the 2nd time before she could stop me. She grabbed my ballot and drug me to another ballot machine before returning it to me, it did accept my ballot; only then did she release me. Making my way through the crowded voting area and the crowded lobby was no easier than entering. I still doubt my vote was counted; guess I am lucky not to be arrested for attempting to vote THREE TIMES. In 2020 there were NO Trump yard signs; neighbors still not talking to me…about anything…except the next door neighbor who had his Bernie yard signs out along with me.

    What name can be applied to my “bubble”? By the way; I only returned to that polling place for the 2017 Primary, have voted absentee ballot since then.

  3. A former neighbor whom we help quite a bit with day-to-day life has not a single left-leaning friend other than my husband and me. His TV is on all day, tuned to Fox News, and the “friends” he has are all always-Trumpers-never-vaxxers. He’s quite interested in political discussions – but every time we talk, it becomes immediately clear that he indeed lives in a completely different universe. He hears and knows nothing about the Jan 6 insurrection (even though he did watch it that day; his “news” sources since then have of course ignored or downplayed it), and any attempt to tell him the other side of any story is met with non sequiturs. What’s especially sad – in addition to his rough and abused childhood, his lack of education (maybe 8th grade? Reading level: around 3rd grade) and his years of substance abuse, he readily acknowledges that the people he calls friends are purely of the fair weather kind. Money is regularly borrowed and lent in that crowd, with debts ruling relationships: “If you don’t pay by xxx, I’ll be there to beat you up.” Some friends . . . It’s really no wonder that trust of anyone is such a big issue for people like this neighbor.

  4. Although I recognize that many people had unspoken biases before tRump reared his ugly head to encourage hatred and rage, I believe the far right media is even more guilty than tRump because they employ those talking heads that spew BS 24/7.

    What I have trouble comprehending is people’s desire to watch or listen to that crap nonstop. It has been extremely disappointing to realize there are so many gullible people who have allowed their lives to be taken over by the wealthy corporate and hedge fund owners that fund the lying far right media.

    They found a way to divide and conquer us while (almost) completely taking ownership of our governing bodies – both federal and states. Equally disgusting is the members of Congress and state governments that claim to be Christians while spewing hatred and lies just to keep their Rs upset, angry and voting for them.

  5. Perry Bacon Jr. is a bright star. He used to be on the 538 podcast with Nate Silver until WAPO hired him. He hit the nail on the head when he cited values as the underlying motivation for making decisions about where people live and who they socialize with. I found it interesting that he made no mention of the fact that he’s a black man…living in a city not known for racial harmony. But I don’t fault him for this because the matter of race is subordinate to values….as is everything else.

    I don’t think I could tolerate living among the bustle and noise of a dense urban neighborhood. We visit our daughter in Chicago a few times a year and I’m always ready to get back to the quiet of our lake home after 2 or 3 nights, even though 90% or more of our neighbors voted for “tfg” (the former guy). As I’ve said before we didn’t move here for the people who live here but it would be an even better place to live if the mix was 60/40 Dem/QOP. I know our horrible roads would be in better shape.

  6. Vernon, you described several of my family members.
    I limit my contact with them.
    Hell, I can barely make eye contact with them!

  7. Marti Burbeck “His TV is on all day, tuned to Fox News…”

    Ray Bradbury, shortly before he died, was interviewed by a local Los Angeles journalist. She asked about the message in “Fahrenheit 451,” probably expecting in response a warning about book burning or press censorship. Bradbury said the book was a warning about television.

  8. Nancy; I totally agree with your comments. I keep wondering how House and Senate members can remain civil within their elected positions they intelligently and humanely TRY to lead this country out of the White Nationalist Dictatorship left by Trump, and still maintained by McConnell, without resorting to violence within the halls of Congress. Not even being among the targeted victims of the January 6th insurrection woke them to the reality of who and what they are supporting.

    MAYBE…MAYBE…it was a mistake for the Capitol Police to protect all of them so valiantly? They continue to cover up those members of their respective members in Congress who obviously led the insurrectionists in the way they should go and aid and abet them by distracting their constituents with lies, threats and obfuscation.

  9. Before Trump, we had Tea. Trump was the best thing this country could experience because it let them open their mouths and coalesce.

    The “taxed enough already” crowd had it all going on, and I watched the Koch brothers work their magic on these bigots perfectly. Sure, they wanted to squeeze down the government even more than Ronny wanted, but when I saw most of them were aged white men, it began to send red flags.

    I remember reading an article from Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone covering the Tea Party, and he’d particularly notice the wheelchairs, gray hair, and whiteness in the Sarah Palin crowd. So he’d ask them why they support a political group that will cut entitlement programs like they were all on, and they’d politely respond, “They’re going to cut entitlements on those people’s programs.”

    It was still code until Trump came along. Then, it was a wink and coded prompts until Trump blew open both doors on political correctness. I’m no sociologist, but I would say Trump sped up the sorting process already occurring by a decade.


  10. This is what happened in the thirties in Germany, people kept their mouth shut or parotted the party line, not out of conviction but out of fear! That’s how democracy was killed.

  11. What I don’t understand is why Dems aren’t hair on fire about the voting restrictions bills being passed in red states. The problem isn’t about the voting, so much as it is about the parts of the restrictive new bills that allow legislatures to overturn the outcome of an election in their state or take over the management of elections in areas where they don’t like the outcome. WAKE UP!

  12. Peggy, if you noticed, the “Dems” hair wasn’t on fire when the “GOP” was packing the courts either.

    We are an oligarchy that pretends to be a democracy. They need “democracy” to run smoothly so they can compete against the world’s autocracies, China and Russia.

    And, when I say “smoothly,” I mean with more control. 😉

  13. Actually, the Democrats’ hair IS on fire… everywhere, especially in Texas. Forget Congress. As long as there is a Republican presence, nothing will happen except the continued destruction of our democracy.


  14. Well Todd; my memory of the Trump administration’s domestic disaster was the fact that the nation ran out of toilet paper. Once that reality was rectified, it became the perfect metaphor for his administration as we continued to circle the bowl.

    To return to Nancy’s 8:01 a.m. comments; remember the words from the theme song of the movie “Billy Jack”: “Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of heaven, you’ll be justified in the end.” And that beat goes on.

  15. I know the cost of living is reasonable in Indiana but there is no way I will ever live in the state again. My choice to live in the states again will be determined by whether or not marijuana is legal in that state. It helps manage my multiple autoimmune diseases and I’m not going to live in a state that makes me a criminal for using my pain medication. Thankfully most of the states I would chose to live in have already done that so they are on my list.

    Everything has turned political in the past decade! 24/7 news stations have created a toxic environment for everyone’s view points. The pandemic just sealed the toxicity with everyone having plenty of time to dig in, stay in their silos of infotainment and we’re all worse off because of it. If 600k+ people die because of misinformation and vaccine hesitancy doesn’t convince someone they are on the wrong side of history then, so be it. Darwin awards should be awarded for those people.

  16. Vernon you did hit the nail on the head!
    Just yesterday, my wife and I, had a little discussion about my “prejudice” regarding the crowd of Trumpeters. She suggested that I’m bigoted about same. And, I guess she is right, but I have no apologies in that regard. I also have an issue with those who “know” that their god “has a plan,” and everything will work out accordingly. The “Haven’s Gate” people, now that that’s been mentioned, “knew” that as well.
    P.S.: Here comes August.
    P.P.S.: Trump is still trying to tell the GOP what to do, this time in regard to the infrastructure bill, according to H.C. Richardson’s blog of yesterday.

  17. Vernon you have given us a perfect description of an “alpha male.” They want to dominate others and can never let themselves be vulnerable. They remind me of sociopaths.

    The silos on social media and now in our neighborhoods is contributing to our divisiveness. There is a woman in our neighborhood who voted for Trump. I’ve seen her pick up litter on the road behind our neighborhood ,and she grows beautiful flowers. Her son was in the military.

    The paranoia incited by Fox news and leaders of the GOP and the mutual mistrust of democrats and republicans is very damaging to the well being of our citizens.

    America will not heal its divisiveness unless we each choose to treat all with respect even those who yell paranoid ideologies. When I practiced psych nursing, I found the best way to get someone with paranoid delusions/schizophrenia to begin to trust me was to find something we had in common i.e. we both came from small towns. Basically, I was able to establish rapport because I responded to their fear not their crazy ideology.

    We need to pay attention to our fear of “the other” which for many of us would include Trumpers.

  18. From the Guardian:

    The new Delta strain of the virus requires, according to the CDC, that we go back to wearing masks inside in public places where the virus is surging, even if we’re fully inoculated.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded to the new CDC recommendation with the kind of unhinged hyperbole Trumpers have perfected. “The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state,” he said.

    “He’s such a moron,” Pelosi said of the House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, after he tweeted that the mandatory mask policy was not based on science but a political decision by Democrats. (Consensus among public health officials and scientists is that masks significantly lower transmission of Covid-19, especially in indoor settings.)

    My Side Bar: We are in a perpetual pandemic state because of One Man Donald Trump, who tried to cover-up, deny, mis-information and misdirect from the get go a response to Covid-19. The GOP like ventriloquists dummies eagerly parroted The Trumpet.

    The Right Wing Media amplified all the lies and misdirection emanating from The Trumpet. Wearing a mask was not challenged based on science or hygiene but as a political statement.

    The people now who have for various bogus reasons have decided not to be vaccinated are filling up our hospitals again and with supreme arrogance expect to be treated by our health care workers.

  19. Peggy – You are right on. Stalin, a dictator who had no need to observe election ethics, noted that he was not so much interested in the vote as he was with those who counted the votes, an unstated proposition forming the essence of the dozens of voter suppression bills being circulated in ALEC fashion among state legislatures today with the help of Koch and Trumpers. When a political party decides who received the majority vote in “elections,” they are not elections and we should end the pretense that they are by ending elections and the peoples’ choices for candidates, stands on issues etc. It’s over. Democracy will have been subverted from within, and without a shot having been fired.

    There are many ways to destroy democracy besides having an armed insurrection such as the one we saw on 1/6, and unfortunately, putting inciters and participants in jail who participated in this act of domestic terrorism will not necessarily end any such attempts in the future, not so long as Trumpers and their moneyed friends continue to control state legislatures and continue to profit from the continuing chaos and dissension among the gentry.

    Our last official hope? The judiciary, and let’s hope that Trumpers and their hedge fund friends will respect the judiciary’s findings (which I think and hope) will if respected put a crimp in the plans of those who are trying to destroy the most important asset we the people hold in common, to wit: our democracy. To (also) do > Work hard via funding and strong candidates to turn state legislatures blue and thus end or at least reduce current Republican attempts to end our democracy from within, an effort which if successful will be applauded by our progeny.

  20. I choose to live in a fairly diverse urban neighborhood with both parties represented at least as far as can be determined by actions and discussions. Both my state rep and Sen. are Dems for whom I voted and actively supported. My Congressional rep is a trumper due to my gerrymander district carving out a significant part of the north side of Indy and joining it to the deep red of northern Hamilton and Tipton counties. Those areas are very rural for the most part with little diversity and no interest in having any. Urban and rural concerns/needs are very different in many respects. “Communities of interest” was supposed to be a factor in determining voting districts. The interests of my urban neighborhood are routinely ignored by the super-majority General Assembly members who have drawn the district lines and will do so again, most definitely in their power favor. They will allow the window dressing of “public” input but, as they have shown repeatedly in the past, will keep themselves firmly in control.

  21. I like diversity. Of course, I actually attended an integrated (sort of) public school – we lacked WASPs – I guess that makes me a Radiclib (to bring back an old term)

    Two thoughts
    Per Will Rogers, I don’t belong to an organized political party – I’m a Democrat
    Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelley, Bernie Sanders, AOC – we have many opinions

    The comment about hanging out with vaccinated friends reflected my conversation last night – I was wondering if I should still go to the Democratic retreat/party in French Lick next month, but as the discussion went – hang out with the Dems – they’re vaccinated – avoid the casino – they’re probably not (and it will save money)

  22. Len; regarding your 2nd paragraph, the entire GOP appears to be “of one mind” and that mind is Donald Trump. Having many opinions does not mean disorganized; it means seeking solutions from more than one source.

    I must admit I can’t tell if you are for or against having many opinions or for or against the names you listed. Even a broken clock has the correct time twice a day and the current administration is searching through the ruins of the Trump/McConnell scorched earth government body.

    I return to President Obama’s book, “The Audacity Of Hope”; that hope being that both parties come together to the bargaining table to find solutions to our problems. The Democratic party certainly must come together to find solutions to recover what was lost or thrown away during the last administration which created the problems. Joe has never claimed he is the only one who can fix our problems, his choice of Kamala for his Vice President shows he sought a running mate who had her own opinions and they appear to be working together to find solutions.

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