A Nation Divided: Kith and Kin

On Monday, Michael Barone predicted a win for Romney.  He was wrong. To his credit, he wrote the piece below for the National Review recording his thoughts about the country at large.  It mirrors my concern as I’ve written here on this blog for the last several years.

The nation reached a turning point yesterday and turned toward a path not of my choosing. We can blame our loss to a number of reasons: 3rd parties siphoning votes from Romney, dem vote fraud in the larger metro areas…sufficient fraud to tip the balance, or the growth of the parasite class of unproductive drones.

The reason matters not at this point. We are already on that path and we know not the perils we’ll face. We can be assured that perils will come from within and without.

Some cry that the Great Experiment has failed. That may be. That point could be a way-station ahead of us as we trod this path. We do know that troubles lie ahead.

Michael Barone is a much more polished writer than I am. I’ll let him speak for me.

Two Americas
The country is no longer culturally cohesive.

By Michael Barone

Michael Barone

Michael Barone

You know who won the election (or whether we face another Florida, 2000), and as I write, I don’t.

But whether Barack Obama is elected to a second term or Mitt Romney is elected the 45th president, the contours of their support during this fiercely fought campaign show that we live in two Americas.

The culturally cohesive America of the 1950s that some of us remember, usually glossing over racial segregation and the civil-rights movement, is no longer with us and hasn’t been for some time.

That was an America of universal media, in which everyone watched one of three similar TV channels and newscasts every night. Radio, 1930s and 1940s movies, and 1950s and early-1960s television painted a reasonably true picture of what was typically American.

That’s not the America we live in now. Niche media has replaced universal media.

One America listens to Rush Limbaugh, the other to NPR. Each America has its favorite cable news channel. As for entertainment, Americans have 100-plus cable channels to choose from, and the Internet provides many more options.

Bill Bishop highlighted the political consequences of this in his 2008 book, The Big Sort. He noted that in 1976 only 27 percent of voters lived in counties carried by one presidential candidate by 20 percent or more. In 2004, nearly twice as many, 48 percent, lived in these landslide counties. That percentage may be even higher this year.

We’re more affluent than we were in the 1950s (if you don’t think so, try doing without your air conditioning, microwaves, smartphones, and Internet connections). And we have used this affluence to seal ourselves off in the America of our choosing while trying to ignore the other America.

We tend to choose the America that is culturally congenial. Most people in the San Francisco Bay area wouldn’t consider living in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, even for much better money. Most metroplexers would never relocate to the Bay Area.

There are plenty of smart and creative and successful people in both Americas. But they don’t like to mix with each other these days.

They especially don’t like to talk about politics and the cultural issues that, despite the prominence of economic concerns today, have largely determined our political allegiances over the last two decades.

One America tends to be traditionally religious, personally charitable, appreciative of entrepreneurs, and suspicious of government. The other tends to be secular or only mildly religious, less charitable, skeptical of business, and supportive of government as an instrument to advance liberal causes.

The more conservative America tends to be relatively cohesive. Evangelical Protestants and white Catholics make common cause; the 17th-century religious wars are over. Southern or northern accents don’t much matter.

That’s typical of the Republican party, which has always had core support from people who are seen as typical Americans but are not by themselves a majority in our always diverse country.

The more liberal America tends to be diverse. Like Obama’s 2008 coalition, it includes many at the top and at the bottom of the economic ladder.

That’s typical of the Democratic party, a coalition of disparate groups — immigrant Catholics and white southerners long ago, blacks and gentry liberals today.

Ronald Reagan, speaking the language of the old, universal popular culture, could appeal to both Americas. His successors, not so much. Barack Obama, after an auspicious start, has failed to do so.

As a result, there are going to be many Americans profoundly unhappy with the result of this election, whichever way it goes. Those on the losing side will be especially angry with those whose candidate won.

Americans have faced this before. This has been a culturally diverse land from its colonial beginnings. The mid-20th-century cultural cohesiveness was the exception, not the rule.

We used to get along by leaving each other alone. The Founders established a limited government, neutral on religion, allowing states, localities, and voluntary associations to do much of society’s work. Even that didn’t always work: We had a Civil War.

An enlarged federal government didn’t divide mid-20th-century Americans, except on civil-rights issues. Otherwise, there was general agreement about the values government should foster.

Now the two Americas disagree, sharply. Government decisions enthuse one and enrage the other. The election may be over, but the two Americas are still not on speaking terms.

As we contemplate our future, it is time to plan how we can collectively and individually survive this coming period with our values, our fortunes, our kith and kin family. Has the Great Experiment failed? I don’t know. It has been, however, severely injured. What would/will happen to that 50% that voted the rest of us into servitude? What will happen now when the parasites match or outnumber the productive? The scenes from Atlas Shrugged appear to be more and more probable.

Perhaps it does, really, come down to kith ‘n kin when we judge one another by whether he or they will guard our back and help us defend ourselves against mutual enemies. Perhaps history and cultures are cyclic. The barbarians have return to assault our gates.