Posted by Michael-jon Pease on Jan 09, 2018
Trixie Goldberg, Lifetrack Resources, was in command of the podium in the absence of President Jerry Falletti. As requested, these minutes reflect that meeting started promptly at 12:15.
David Laird led the club in God Bless America in B flat with Bob Jones on the real baby grand.
James Delameter offered an inspirational thought on gratitude inspired by the book Strength of the Journey by Renee Miller.
Thanks to Bob Cardinal of Calhoun Realty for warmly greeting our wonderful members, and to Susan O’Neill, St Paul Fire Foundation, for filling in for Jodi who was sick. Today’s scribe was Michael-jon Pease, Park Square Theatre.
President’s Remarks:
Chuck Standfuss, Protocol 46, offered a rousing promo for the upcoming Thursday Fellowship Meeting. Trixie reminded the club that we would once again be meeting the Doubletree Hotel next week. Ken Schaefer, Drake Bank, introduced visiting Rotarians and guests, including several who had their membership applications in.
Jay Pfaender offered a promo for next week’s speaker, Adam Johnson of Visit St Paul.
Ken Schaefer collected happy dollars from Jay Pfaender, John Guthmann (now finally an empty-nester), Steve Young (in honor of Melvin Carter, St Paul’s first mayor of color), Linda Mulhern (with the news that our outbound exchange student landed in Jakarta, Sumatra to 85 and raining), and Ken Crabb (a reminder of the upcoming Rotary Disctrict mid-year conference)
Trixie Golberg introduced long time friend of the club, David Schultz, Hamline University Professor of Political Science to speak on Political Polarization in America: How Bad is it REALLY?
Are we more politically polarized than ever? David first assured us it could always be worse – take the Civil War as an example!
David framed this question through the filter of the last 40 years – from the 1976 election of conservative Democrat Jimmy Carter vs. liberal Republican Gerald Ford to the bitterly contested race of 2016. Over those 40 years, each party has had the White House and/or control of the congress about half the time.
In 1976, most candidates were centrists because that’s how the voting public was polling. Additionally, 1/3 of congress represented swing districts that could vote either way, and therefore they were drawn to centrist candidates. And on top of that,  10-15% of the voting public were swing voters, meaning they could vote either way, and often vote across tickets for different races in the same election.
Both parties were ideologically mixed coalitions, much legislation was passed and very few votes fell along party lines.
By 2016, voters had become more polarized, there were far fewer swing districts and the definition of “swing voter” referred to those who “swung out” in and out of voting at all. As voters polarized, so did the parties to become more ideologically pure. In today’s politics, you would be hard pressed to find a pro-life Democrat like former MN Governor Rudy Perpich or a pro-choice Republican like Gov Arne Carlson getting his party’s nomination. What was once a “Bell curve” of all voters has changed into two opposing Bell curves based on party lines. In the 2018 election, only 20 seats represent swing districts (and four of those are in Minnesota).
Voters have also sorted themselves geographically and even by brand. David shared the example of living in the Summit Hill neighborhood, long a liberal stronghold. When a new neighbor asked if David thought the area would ever elect a Republican and David answered “no,” the neighbor moved to Eden Prairie!
The retail market response to this geographic polarization is fascinating. You can sort voters by their brand (who drives a Subaru vs who shops at Gander Mountain, who eats at Chick Fil-A vs. Chipotle).
In fact, 30% of voters polled said they would be highly upset if a family member married “outside the party.”
Because most voters are now voting along party lines, national elections are decided by 100,000 voters (10% of the voters in 18 counties in 12 states deliver the electoral votes needed to win the White House).
David’s biggest concern  in this polarized environment is about the decline in protecting First Amendment rights across the political and age spectrum. Polls are showing that voters would rather be safe from hearing something they disagree with than free to express their views. As he put it, “we seem to have lost faith in the marketplace of ideas.” The increasing polarization also means that fewer politicians are willing to oppose their party platform in order to preserve our core institutions and freedoms, rather they are prone to subverting or undermining our national values in favor of political expediency.
There is hope. David sees a shift back to center in the next decade as Millennial voters replace Silent Generation/older Baby Boomers at the polls.
The audience was truly engaged in David’s remarks and a vigorous Q&A session followed.
Trixie Golberg closed the meeting by leading the club in the Four Way Test.
Respectfully submitted,

Michael-jon Pease
Park Square Theatre