election 2012 | October 28, 2012

Red And Blue America: Steven Pinker's NYT Piece on Politics and Geography

"Regardless of who wins the presidential election," Steven Pinker writes in his New York Times opinion piece,  "we already know now how most of the electoral map will be colored, which will be close to the way it has been colored for decades."  If you look back on elections past, the electoral map shows little change between which states voted Republican and which voted for Democrat over the past five elections. In the article, Pinker breaks down several theories that attempt to explain both why certain groups of people have clung to similar ideologies for years, and why certain geographic locations are more prone to vote a certain way.

In the article, Pinker asks, "why do ideology and geography cluster so predictably?," and, further, why can you predict a person's set of values once you know their stance on a single hot-button issue? Politics plays on conceptions of human nature, he writes. Drawing from theories presented by conservative theorists, Pinker says that political affiliation is rooted in the political right's "Tragic Vision of human nature." and the left's "Utopian Vision." On the right, it is argued that human beings are tempted by aggression which must be dealt with through the enactment of strict commitments to a strong military and stern criminal punishment. The left, contrastingly, sees society as more flexible and aims to improve it through the improvement of public institutions. He explains that the geographical connection to political affiliation is linked to ancestry. The states that have a longer-standing history of democratization continued that tradition whereas the states that have a history of a more anarchic society tended to favor more conservative values.

As one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People in The World, Pinker's work delves deep into the human psyche to analyze why we do the things that we do. He has authored many best-selling books charting the course of violence in society over history and and the complexities of language. In his writing and his fascinating talks, Pinker expands our views on the world and helps us answer some of its greatest mysteries.

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education | October 25, 2012