President Clinton Warns of Growing Polarization

Andrew Welsh-Huggins, AP, July 12, 2008

Former President Bill Clinton warned Saturday that the country is becoming increasingly polarized despite the historic nature of the Democratic primary.

Speaking at the National Governors Association’s semiannual meeting, Clinton noted that on the one hand, following the early stages of the Democratic primary, “the surviving candidates were an African-American man and a woman.”

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But this achievement was overshadowed by a growing distance between Americans, said Clinton.

“Underneath this apparent accommodation to our diversity, we are in fact hunkering down in communities of like-mindedness, and it affects our ability to manage difference,” Clinton said.

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He cited statistics compiled by [Bill] Bishop [in his book The Big Sort] that found that in the 1976 presidential election, only 20 percent of the nation’s counties voted for Jimmy Carter or President Ford by more than a 20 percent margin.

By contrast, 48 percent of the nation’s counties in 2004 voted for John Kerry or President Bush by more than 20 points, Clinton said.

“We were sorting ourselves out by choosing to live with people that we agree with,” Clinton said.

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