Last Updated:October 31 @ 11:12 am

Barone: America Is Two Countries, Not on Speaking Terms

By 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 re-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 on average, 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 seen as typical Americans but who 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.

---

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

COPYRIGHT 2012 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

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10 Comments

  1. ptbaaComment by ptbaa
    November 7, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    “Knowing their thoughts, He told them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. ”

    Amerika is a “kingdom” divided against itself. Get prepared for the destruction!

    The election results appear to confirm President Obama’s assertion that Amerika is not a Christian nation.

    Being no longer one nation under God, we shall find out shortly whether or not we are a nation gone under as President Reagan predicted.

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      November 7, 2012 @ 11:10 am

      The Founders expressed many words of caution as to how The Constitutional Representative Republic should conduct itself. IGNORED! Their fear in democracy led to many layers of protection built in to stop just what is happening with Obama the Candy Man and his teaming Nanny State Minions. The Founders would not be surprised, not at all, at what is happening.

      They also knew that they started off with a Republic that was largely divided. There was NO provision of indivisible anything. Thomas Jefferson said that The People/States were free to leave, as if they cannot, they are NOT FREE.

      Can it be, as The Titanic Ship of State finally goes down, that it will break apart? The Soviet Union split up into many Republics. The Founders would call for, what was it that they did? Oh, a revolution. Bad bad boys.

      I know that this all seems unimaginable, but the country, the people that Dad fought for in WW2 is no longer. There is of course lots of platitude talking, but the proof is all around us that we are very low in the water… and I’ve got yummy clear glacier ice for my drinks.

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    • cdrcodyComment by cdrcody
      November 7, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

      It appears that Franklin was right. We had a Republic until we could no longer keep it.

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    • stshepherdComment by stshepherd
      November 7, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

      Not only did President Reagan predict this, but all the way back to the Founders. America has become rotten almost to the very core. The decay is already well advanced. It is a house of cards with the foundation already gone and just waiting to collapse. I was born July 4, 1960. I have seen the entire progression of what Mr. Barone described and from a very patriotic (!) frame of mind. The day America REALLY died was November 22, 1963 in my opinion, as well as whatever day the birth control pill and the “women’s movement” started. Nov 22 1963 LBJ became President and then had an advantage, as an incumbent, to beat Goldwater. LBJ’s agenda was extremely radical, just like Obama’s today. Blacks were not Democrats, by and large, before LBJ. MLK, Jr was a Republican! LBJ actually said “If we give the N__’s welfare we’ll have them as Democrats for life”! White women were not Democrats, by and large, before the “Women’s movement” and then especially after the Supreme Court made up a special “right” for them to kill their babies if they felt like it. Now they see it (the right to kill) as an absolute trophy of their superiority! White women traded promiscuity for independence and freedom from the horrors and torture of marriage and children (it interfered with their narcissism and was a plot by men to enslave them!). Now, a fairly sizable percentage of them (single white women) are lesbians! Nearly all single white women vote Democratic. 45% of white women are single! The entire basis of ANY stable society- the family- has been destroyed by white women simply out of spite! If they don’t get their way, if they don’t “win”, if they’re not “in charge”- they don’t play (family). If I’m not right about that- look at the stats or just interact with their spoiled, arrogant, condescending, hostile selves for about 2 min and I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion if you have half a brain and can reason clearly. The white population in America has plummeted, both in absolute and especially in relative numbers. White women don’t have children!- it’s “beneath” them and a threat to their narcissism. So, what do you expect? Even the so-called “conservative” ones get 10 degrees behind their name before they even think about getting married, panic because they’re 40 years old, can’t find a man at that age, of course, and pay large sums to adopt an asian baby and be a “single mom.” (Like the lady on Fox news always talking about parenthood, etc and her 5 “children” or however many she bought from China!
      Too much- America is a goner! It’s pretty much like the Fall of the Roman empire from what I read, where the Roman women were so spoiled and pampered they didn’t even want children and would literally drop their baby into the trash can if they didn’t want them. That’s depraved- but definitely no more depraved than we are here in “America” in 2012!

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  2. leon-the-madmanComment by leon-the-madman
    November 7, 2012 @ 9:34 am

    Amerika is NOT a Christian nation in ANY sense of the word. We are as atheistic and pagan as a nation can possibly become. Given a choice between redemption and hell, we chose hell. So, let’s get on with the reaping. This is the Amerika we ALL wanted.

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    • Col.GrampawComment by Col.Grampaw
      November 7, 2012 @ 10:35 am

      Speak for yourself, leon! Do not profess to know the minds of those who have sounded warning that the country has been rushing headlong towards civil and economic chaos!

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  3. Blu OwenComment by Blu Owen
    November 7, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    Overburdening regulation is what has caused most of the major divide in our country. The main reason is they are increasingly being made by non elected bureaucrats. These regulations are now creeping into every part of our society and limiting our freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.
    By our Constitution only Congress is permitted to make law. Therefore, any thing done by government that has the same effect as law such as regulations must also be passed by Congress. There is NOTHING in the Constitution that allows Congress to delegate this duty. This was our Founding Fathers idea to keep government small. We need now more than ever to bring this concept back.
    As I see it this problem needs a dual approach to change this:
    1) For the people to start a massive online petition that our members of Congress can see to persuade them on the legislative side to help correct this.
    2) For one of the conservative legal organizations to file on this against the federal government on Constitutional grounds and they have enough regulations that step well beyond the line of Constitutionality to choose from.

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  4. Pingback: I can finally quit muting all those expensive ads | theoutwardquest

  5. leon-the-madmanComment by leon-the-madman
    November 7, 2012 @ 11:21 am

    This “election” was a DECISIVE mandate that the majority of people of this country are THROUGH with God, they are THROUGH with morals and they are THROUGH with the dusty old, outdated Constitution. Now, if they can just get rid of this nasty old national sovereignty and individual rights. Yeeeeee haawwwww!

    Personally, I think they (meaning those who re-elected Obama) are all either crazy or possessed. Somebody misunderstood my other comment, I guess, and thought I was delighted with the election outcome. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think now is the time to really, literally fight. Our precious country has been stolen from us and killed. We who are the remnant of patriots are the only ones who can save what is lift of it. Time to fight!

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  6. cfhardersonComment by cfharderson
    November 7, 2012 @ 3:37 pm

    The United States 2012 Presidential Election is now in the history books with the re-election of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. However the real work is ahead of us all. In Mr. Romney’s concession address and in President Obama’s victory address, they both have vowed to work together to solve our fiscal problems. The US House of Representatives will continue to have a majority of Republican members for both the lame duck session as well as the new 2013 congress. The US Senate will continue to have a Democratic majority but not a super majority. These two legislative bodies need to work together with President Obama on a path of responsible revenue increases (Grover Norquist, those antiquated pledges for no new taxes are NULL AND VOID.) and reasonable reductions in expenses. I feel this is the mandate given by the US voters in this 2012 election. I feel that I must also caution both the ultra-conservative members and the ultra-liberal members of the House of Representative who are not willing to work for the good of the United States – you are up for re-election in 2014 and we will be watching !

    Now with this long election process over, industries need to put to their huge stockpiles of reserve capital assets to expand their production or distribute it as capital gains or dividends. The US economy has been stagnate too long with unacceptable high unemployment. As we grow the middle class, the economy will grow. Our history over the last 30 years since Ronald Regan show that “trickle down economics” does NOT work. Also the Bush era tax cuts for the highest income tax payers have not created jobs over their 10 year history. If they did work, we would have a robust economy with low unemployment. As the US economy grows, the rest of the world should thrive too.

    This process will not be easy but the results will make us a more prosperous nation and a model for the other counties.
    The alternative is wait and do nothing because the End of the World is Dec 21, 2012 – the winter solstice and the end of the Mayan calendar. HMMM, how does the Mayan calendar compare to the old Julian calendar or the newer Gregorian calendar?

    When does the lame-duck session of Congress start ?

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  7. boogieComment by boogie
    November 7, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

    This is the reason a democracy is inherently flawed: The most Educated, most intelligent, morally upright people in any nation will always be in the minority. As we progress further into the end times; the ungodly will gain more power thru the corruption of values and agendas of their political representatives. WE shake our heads in disbelief that the masses have no clue as to what is really going on in our Country, but we really shouldn’t be surprised at all. We are out numbered and now with a Socialist, Muslim, Foreigner, as President we are outgunned. Only those smart enough to get out before their Christian inheritance is completely stolen will survive with any semblance of prosperity. Take your assets with you and go live like a King in a 3rd world country with a Christian president. God’s wrath is going to allow those in power to level the once great (Christian) USA

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