Journalist Bill Bishop, who lives in an Austin, Texas, neighborhood whose politics resemble [famously cocooned New Yorker fim critic Pauline] Kael’s, started looking at national data.
It inspired him to write his 2009 book The Big Sort, which describes how Americans since the 1970s have increasingly sorted themselves out, moving to places where almost everybody shares their cultural orientation and political preference — and the others keep quiet about theirs.
Thus professionals with a choice of where to make their livings head for the San Francisco Bay Area if they’re liberal and for the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex (they really do call it that) if they’re conservative. Over the years the Bay Area becomes more liberal and the Metroplex more conservative.
But cocooning has an asymmetrical effect on liberals and conservatives. Even in a cocoon, conservatives cannot avoid liberal mainstream media, liberal Hollywood entertainment, and, these days, the liberal Obama administration.
They’re made uncomfortably aware of the arguments of those on the other side. Which gives them an advantage in fashioning their own responses.
Liberals can protect themselves better against assaults from outside their cocoon. They can stay out of megachurches and make sure their remote controls never click on Fox News. They can stay off the AM radio dial so they will never hear Rush Limbaugh.
The problem is that this leaves them unprepared to make the best case for their side in public debate. They are too often not aware of holes in arguments that sound plausible when bandied between confreres entirely disposed to agree.