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Page Turners Series: Bill Bishop, The Big Sort

Thu May 8, 2008 at UT Club

The Center for Politics and Governance and the LBJ Alumni Association hosted Bill Bishop, noted journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, as he discusses his new book The Big Sort: Why The Clustering of Like Minded People is Tearing Us Apart.

More about The Big Sort from Booklist

How did zip codes become as useful to political activists as to mail carriers? In the relatively new cultural dynamics of political segregation, Bishop discerns a troubling transformation of American life. Complex and surprising, the story of that transformation will confound readers who suppose that recent decades have made American society both more diverse and more tolerant. Pinpointing 1965 as the year when events in Vietnam, Washington, and Watts delivered body blows to traditional social institutions, Bishop recounts how Americans who had severed ties to community, faith, and family forged new affiliations based on lifestyle preferences. The resulting social realignment has segmented the nation into groupthink communities, fostering political smugness and polarization. The much-noted cartography of Red and Blue states, as Bishop shows, actually distorts the reality of a deeply Blue archipelago of urban islands surrounded by a starkly Red rural sea. Bishop worries about the future of democratic discourse as more and more Americans live, work, and worship surrounded by people who echo their own views. A raft of social-science research underscores the growing difficulty of bipartisan compromise in a balkanized country where politicians win office by satisfying their most radical constituents. A book posing hard questions for readers across the political spectrum.

The Big Sort: Why The Clustering of Like Minded People is Tearing Us Apart
The Big Sort: Why The Clustering of Like Minded People is Tearing Us Apart

A review by Allan Ehrenhalt in the Wall Street Journal

More about Bill Bishop

Bill Bishop lives in Austin, Texas. He wrote The Big Sort with retired University of Texas sociologist Robert G. Cushing. Bishop has worked as a reporter at The Mountain Eagle, in Whitesburg (Ky.); a columnist at the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and on the special projects staff of the Austin (Tx.) American-Statesman. Bishop and his wife, Julie Ardery, owned and operated The Bastrop County Times, a weekly newspaper in Smithville, Texas. They now co-edit The Daily Yonder, a web-based publication ( covering rural America.

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