The odds are that the extremely close national election wasn’t close at all in the place where you live.
And that’s a problem.
For the past four decades, Americans have been self-segregating into communities where they are increasingly likely to vote with their neighbors in overwhelming majorities. In 1976, only a quarter of voters lived in a county where either Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford won by 20 points or more. By 2008, 46.7 percent of voters lived in one of these landslide counties.
This year, the national margins narrowed still further. But more than half of all voters (52 percent) lived in a county where either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney won by 20 percentage points or more.
What’s true in counties is also true in states. In 1976, there were 20 states where either Ford or Carter won by five points or less. In 2008, there were seven.
This year, only four.
The problem with this increasing self-segregation is that there are now few places where voters (or their representatives) must fully contend with those from the other party. There is more danger (both socially and politically) in disappointing like-minded neighbors than in compromising with those who live elsewhere. Compromise isn’t rewarded in like-minded communities.