That illusion where you think the other side is united and your side is diverse

Lots of people have written about this illusion of perspective: The people close to you look to be filled with individuality and diversity, while the people way over there in the other corner of the room all look kind of alike.

But widespread knowledge of this illusion does not stop people from succumbing from it. Here’s Michael Tomasky writing in the New York Times about what if America had a proportional-representation voting system:

Let’s just imagine that we had a pure parliamentary system in which we elected our representatives by proportional representation, so that if a minor party’s candidates got 4 percent of the legislative votes, they’d win 4 percent of the seats. What might our party alignment look like?

He identifies six hypothetical parties: the center left, the socialist left, the green left, a party for ethnic and lifestyle minorities, a white nationalist party, and a center-right party. Thus, Tomasky continues:

If I’m right, the Democrats would split into four parties, and the Republicans into two, although the second one would be tiny. In other words: The Trump-era Republican Party already is in essence a parliamentary party. . . .

The Democrats, however, are an unruly bunch. . . . The Democrats will never be a party characterized by parliamentary discipline; unlike the Republicans, their constituencies are too heterogeneous.

When it comes to racial/ethnic diversity, sure, the two parties are much different, with Democrats being much more of a coalition of groups and the Republicans being overwhelmingly white. More generally, though, no, I don’t buy Tomasky’s argument. He’s a liberal Democrat, so from his perspective his side is full of different opinions and argumentation. But I think that a columnist coming from the opposite side of the political spectrum would see it the other way, noticing all the subtleties in the Republican position. Overall, the Democrats and Republicans each receive about 30% of the vote (with typically a slightly higher percentage for the Democrats), with the other 40% voting for other parties or, mostly, not voting at all. I don’t think it makes sense to say that one group of 30% could support four different parties with the other group of 30% only supporting two. Even though I can see how it would look like that from one side.

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