Applying Malcolm Gladwell’s Taxonomy to the Unfolding Political Drama

A regular commenter brought the clip above to my attention. In it the Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell distinguishes among four categories of crime fiction. It’s short and I encourage you to watch it but here’s an even briefer summary.

In “Westerns” there is no law and the protagonist imposes law on a lawless territory.

In “Northerns” there is a flawless legal system in place which is effective in enforcing the law.

In “Easterns” the legal system is corrupt; it must be fixed from the inside.

In “Southerns” not just the legal system but everything is thoroughly corrupt—it must be fixed from outside.

I would point out that this taxonomy doesn’t just apply to crime fiction but to sci-fi in the movies and television and even medical dramas. Star Trek is a Northern. Star Wars is an Eastern. Serenity is a Western. There are even a few isolated Southerns (Riddick).

It occurred to me that it is productive to look at the way that different groups view the political drama that has been unfolding since 2016 using Gladwell’s prism. Democrats tend to look at the last nearly three years as a Northern. The system is working well to rid itself of a criminal. The Republicans, not terribly surprisingly, see it as a Southern—a man comes from outside to fix a thoroughly corrupted system.