Another Tale of Two Americas.

Certainly, I would have preferred John Kerry as President, but, quite frankly, I believe his concession is better than a lenghty recount and a mud fight in the courts. I’m sure there were irrgularities. But not to the extent that they would make a difference given the results we now know. I suppose the Democrats are, above all, perplexed by Bush winning the popular vote with a margin of almost 4 million. Sure it’s close. But it’s hardly as close as many wanted to believe it would be.

We will hear a lot of technical post-game analysis in the coming days. But I think Eric Alterman comes pretty close to the gist of it all with his initial thoughts…

“Let?s face it. It?s not Kerry?s fault. It?s not Nader?s fault (this time). It?s not the media?s fault (though they do bear a heavy responsibility for much of what ails our political system). It?s not ?our? fault either. The problem is just this: Slightly more than half of the citizens of this country simply do not care about what those of us in the ?reality-based community? say or believe about anything.

It?s one of ?them? and ?us.? He?s one of ?them? and not one of ?us? and that?s all they care about. True it?s an illusion. After all, Bush is a millionaire?s son who went to Yale and Harvard and sat out Vietnam, not even bothering to show up for his cushy National Guard duty, and succeeded only in trading on his father?s name and connections in adult life. But somehow, they feel he understands them. He speaks their language. Our guys don?t. And unless they learn it, we will continue to condemn this country and those parts of the world it affects to a regime of malign neglect at best?malignant and malicious assault at worse.”

By the way, I always liked the Economist’s summary of this issue…

Update: Look, I’m moderate. Here’s US columnist Andrew Sullivan:

A MANDATE FOR CULTURE WAR: That’s Bill Bennett’s conclusion. He won’t be the only one. What we’re seeing, I think, is a huge fundamentalist Christian revival in this country, a religious movement that is now explicitly political as well. It is unsurprising, of course, given the uncertainty of today’s world, the devastating attacks on our country, and the emergence of so many more liberal cultures in urban America. And it is completely legitimate in this country for such views to be represented in public policy, however much I disagree with them. But the intensity of the passion, and the inherently totalist nature of religiously motivated politics means deep social conflict if we are not careful. Our safety valve must be federalism. We have to live and let live. As blue states become more secular, and red states become less so, the only alternative to a national religious war is to allow different states to pursue different options. That goes for things like decriminalization of marijuana, abortion rights, stem cell research and marriage rights. Forcing California and Mississippi into one model is a recipe for disaster. Federalism is now more important than ever. I just hope that Republican federalists understand this. I fear they don’t.

28 thoughts on “Another Tale of Two Americas.

  1. I don’t know Tobias, that article sounds like a lot of sour grapes. I supported Bush and I didn’t see it as an “us vs. them” thing, my support was completely because I agreed with his solution to the issues.

    Could this author be rationalizing a little bit, and not acknowledging that what he feels in his heart isn’t what the majority of the people in the U.S. feel?

  2. >…What he feels in his heart isn’t what the >majority of the people in the U.S. feel?

    Hmm, sure, there’s a “certain” amount of disappointment showing.

    Yet I think he acknowledges exactly what you say above. That he (and those who agree with him) do not FEEL as the majority of American citizens. And that he considers it a mistake to make important decisions such as yesterdays predominantly based on sentiments.

    But of course, much of the anti-Bush campaign is also carried by emotion.

    That’s why I do believe in the tale of two Americas.

  3. The two Americas theory, – also known as the Retro vs. the Metro – would make more sense if Bush supporters were exclusively concentrated in “Retro” middle America.

    But just look at the percentages of each state in the “Metro” Northeast, and the “Retro” Deep South. With the exception of a few instances, Bush and Kerry supporters fall within 40-60%. In other words, the “two Americas” are pretty much evenly distributed throughout American society, encompassing every possible geographical location and economic level, to the point that we must question the basic assumption that there are “two Americas”.

    What I find more palatable is Michael Totten’s description of an essential dichotomy that exist in all societies, which he describes as Builders and Defenders. Take a look:

  4. Firstly, heads off to John Kerry. He turned a 3% difference into a photo finish.

    Secondly, he got his issues served on a silver plater. How can the Democratic Party hope to win any election after this?
    A Democratic president would have been butchered on that record.

  5. >In other words, the “two Americas” are pretty >much evenly distributed throughout American >society, encompassing every possible >geographical location and economic level, to >the point that we must question the basic >assumption that there are “two Americas”.

    Not true. It just depends on the appropriate variable – which is very likely religion and social conservatism.

    I know this is a bad example, but the fact that Israeli settlers and Palestinians live closely together on the West Bank doesn’t exactly unite their allegiances.

  6. “Yet I think he acknowledges exactly what you say above. That he (and those who agree with him) do not FEEL as the majority of American citizens. And that he considers it a mistake to make important decisions such as yesterdays predominantly based on sentiments.

    But of course, much of the anti-Bush campaign is also carried by emotion.”

    I guess what I was getting at was this part:

    “After all, Bush is a millionaire?s son who went to Yale and Harvard and sat out Vietnam, not even bothering to show up for his cushy National Guard duty, and succeeded only in trading on his father?s name and connections in adult life. But somehow, they feel he understands them. He speaks their language. Our guys don?t.”

    From my experience, this guy is off the mark by quite a bit. Bush may be considered the more personable candidate, but I don’t know of anyone who considered that a primary reason to vote for him. As far as I can tell, everyone who voted for Bush agreed strongly with his solutions to at least some issue(s) they thought was important. If anything, the popular personal animosity to Bush hurt him more than his personable behavior helped him.

    I think the author is fooling himself if he thinks the personability of the candidates was more important than the different solutions proposed, and I think he’s underestimating the American voter.

  7. Felix,

    I think the candidates attitudes are what really mattered. There are no rational voters in the sense that they are indifferent to personality and solely focused on substance. Indeed, I believe, everynoe with some knowledge and/or experience in campaigning would tell you that it’s natural – bahaving according to our biological and socialised way of trying to figure out people when we meet them. Yet most people never met, even fewer ever exchanged a single word with either of the candidates. So we often make judgements about politicians based on things we don’t even believe ourselves we would base our decision on.

    I recently saw Alexandra Pelosi’s documentary about the 2000 Bush primary, and I believe he can be a likeable guy on a personal level. Even though I suggested in my song (a few posts below) he cannot read, I honestly think he must be more intelligent than he usually credited for.

    And yet, on an intuitive level, I find his faith-based decision making style repugnant. And that’s not just me. It’s most of the world and about half of the US.

    And Alterman is just paraphrasing Ron Suskind’s article in the NYT Magazine – or the Bush aide Mark McKinnon, for that matter –

    “And for those who don’t get it? That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ”You think he’s an idiot, don’t you?” I said, no, I didn’t. ”No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don’t care. You see, you’re outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don’t read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it’s good for us. Because you know what those folks don’t like? They don’t like you!” In this instance, the final ”you,” of course, meant the entire reality-based community.”

  8. The vast majority of Americans agree on most of the important issues. They believe in making sacrifices of environmental protection, they believe in afforadable health care, they don’t believe in torture, they do believe in the Bill of Rights, they believe in Social Security, and, I assume, they do not believe that Presidents should lie to them about their policies, or fabricate reasons to go to war for their own personal gain.

    They vote against their beliefs because the media tells them that the election is about being photogenic, about “values” and about who you’d rather share a beer with.

  9. A difficult election loss. America is changed for the while, but there are other elections.

  10. And yet, on an intuitive level, I find his faith-based decision making style repugnant. And that’s not just me. It’s most of the world and about half of the US.

    Tobias, cmon. Faith Based decision making style? I thought that NY times story was garbage but you apparently ate it up. An obvious rumour piece with no purpose other than to effect the election. As for the ‘rest of the world’ this election was a referendum on that attitude. We don’t care. I certainly don’t. That isn’t to say I agree with GW’s style in conducting world affairs. I think it leaves a lot to be desired but I certainly agree to the substance.

    And as to George Bush’s IQ, you do realize he scored in the mid 120’s on a military IQ test, putting him in the 95th percentile, right?

  11. “In this instance, the final ?you,? of course, meant the entire reality-based community”

    This very sentence encapsulates the smugness the Red-Staters find so repugnant. Since when did one have to subscribe to left-wing economics to be “reality based”? Given the shortcomings of that model in modern-day Europe, I should think rather the opposite is true …

  12. I liked this comment by Jim Glass on another forum,

    Their problem is that’s about all they [Democrats] have left.
    What other choice do they have?

    The issues that once were attractive for them have all gone
    sour — civil rights becomes racial quotas, being for
    reproductive rights has become defending partial birth abortion,
    being for free speech becomes imposing speech codes, being
    for school choice to free poor kids from segregated schools
    becomes being anti-school choice to keep poor kids in failing
    schools, supporting modest programs to help the elderly poor
    becomes defending bust-the-budget programs that make transfers
    to Warren Buffett from his employees at Dairy Queen etc., etc.
    Diminishing returns in pushing political issues.

    All they have left is what DeLong’s site now reeks of — we’re
    *morally* superior and *smarter*, and we really really believe
    it because we once upon a time stood for those attractive issues
    above, conveniently forgetting what we actually stand for now.
    Which leads to what’s driven Krugman mad — we’re morally
    superior and smarter too and we’re keep *losing* to these evil
    dumbasses! AACCHHH!

    Make all the criticisms you want about the Republican core program
    and message, at least they *have* one.

    The Dems just don’t have one any more, other than defending the
    residuals above and saying Repubs are bad.

    I mean, e.g., if a serious Democratic candidate for anything
    today actually walked the talk on caring about Social Security,
    he’d propose a serious plan to close the funding gap with benefit
    cuts and/or tax increases. But if he did that, he’d be savaged
    by his own party.

    So all he can say is, “I’m *better* than those bad Repubs on SS,
    no I won’t say *how*, just trust me, and if you don’t you’re dumb.”
    Which is pretty much patronizing condescension of the voters — but
    what else could he do??

    Which is *exactly* what Kerry did on Iraq in this last election.

    Woodward goes to him: Bush answered all my questions, will you answer
    my questions about what you’d do differently?? The reply…

    “The senator and his campaign have since decided not to do the
    interview, though his advisers say Kerry would have *strong and
    compelling* answers…” !! 😉

    But what else could he do — actually *answer* them?? Whatever
    he said, he’d have split his support.

    So we get, “You really should be smart enough to know that
    my positions would be *strong and compelling* if I gave them to you,
    which I won’t, so you’d better vote for me, if you are smart.” And
    that was his core campaign issue for crying out loud — nothing
    but condescension.

    It’s the trap the Dems are in, and they are going to keep losing
    as long as they are in it. I’ll believe they out of it when a major
    Democratic politician actually puts forth a real, serious proposal
    to close the SS funding gap and survives.

    I’ll believe they are trying to start to get out of it when Krugman
    or DeLong actually makes a real proposal to close the SS funding gap,
    instead of just trashing everybody else who does.


  13. Mark,

    About DeLong and Krugman… well, I don’t think it’s true, but, you know, the grain.

    In my opinion, if anyone had to cluster the issues that mattered in the election, I suppose that cluster would have to be named fear-factor. You name it, homophobia, islamophobia, outsourcophobia. Terrorism is working…

    I don’t know. All over the world “the left” has been fighting the New Labour fight… saying farewell to a large part of its social radicalism. That’s a mature realisation, a lesson taught by the entire 20th century. No more large scale social experiments. In a way, the modern left is more Hayekian than the authoritarian right which seems to believe in reinstating traditional private social hierarchies (“family values”, and the like) just as “the left” is renouncing to grand schemes of public ones. That is particularly true for economic policy.

    In that sense, it may well be qrong to call them conservative. But they get away with it in the same way the Left got away with their ideas of social restructuring because they appeal to what people feel is lacking more and more in modern societies. True community, comfort, call it compassionate Conservatism if you have to.
    More people than ever are afraid to lose what they hold dear.

    And civil rights? Talk about privacy invasion, biometrics, The Patriot Act, US VISIT, all the overpriced ineffective technological toys of state funded voyeurism that are being installed all over the west these days (ever wanted to bake yourself a new pair of fingerprints?

    That alone *should* be enough to win an election.

  14. Tobias,

    Like you I think are civil rights and especially our privacy are
    rapidly being eroded, but although John Kerry during the campaign
    named himself a civil libertarian, if we look back at his actions
    during the last twenty-some years, quite a different picture emerges:


    Even more dramatic and right in our faces were the number of times Kerry and
    his associates sued and blocked the airing of advertisements and films
    critical of John Kerry. Most chilling was the threat to use the power of
    the presidency to destroy organizations critical of Kerry after the election.

  15. Tobias – Vice-President Cheney is in the news this morning quoted as saying President Bush now has a popular mandate to fully implement his “conservative” agenda.

    Judging by the election coverage in American media, the explanation of how and why President Bush won appears fairly straight forward:

    “Bush won 61 percent of the white male vote in a nation that, despite everything you hear in the progressive media, is still swarming with white guys. Bush won among white women, too (54 percent to 46 percent), and the elderly and the very middle of the middle-class.” – from:

    Possibly contrary to European impressions, exit polls among voters show the leading issue was not the Iraq war or the US economy but opposition to gay marriage.

    From surfing media and clever blogs, the smart insight seems to be that the Democrats were actually fortunate in losing as the Bush administration extricates itself from the Iraq war, the failing road map for peace in Palestine, the budget and trade deficits, corporate malfeasance and the pressures to respond to the mounting evidence of global warming.

    I’m minded of that ancient Chinese valediction: May you live in interesting times.

  16. And civil rights? Talk about privacy invasion, biometrics, The Patriot Act, US VISIT, all the overpriced ineffective technological

    That alone *should* be enough to win an election.

    US VISIT hits foreigners not voting.

    Maybe that is my personal impression, but has anybody ever heard the Democratic Party’s candidate mention these issues on TV?
    Furthermore he has the problem of allowing some issues overshadowing others in that area. He must make clear that civil rights are not identical to affirmative actions and abortion. Failing that, these cards cannot be played effectively. You must speak about issues affecting and angering the public, not expect them to care about your issues. Voters are always right and set the agenda.

  17. “Reality-based community” was Mark MacKinnon, one of Bush’s campaign advisors, characterisation of Bush’s opponents. It’s their label for us Abiola. You can’t blame us for accepting it wholeheartedly.

  18. Bob, what reason you or anyone has to believe that the gay marriage
    issue was driving the election I have yet to see clearly articulated.
    Both John Kerry and George Bush claimed they were against giving gay
    couples the legal status of “married.” Both John Kerry and George
    Bush were for inventing a new legal status called “civil union”
    to describe gay couples that wanted it.

    Given the plurality with which measures passed to bar judges from
    inventing a gay marriage “right” out of the air, it has to be the
    case that a majority of those of who voted for John Kerry also voted
    against gay marriage.

    What Bob and others assert as a statement of fact has the earmarks
    of a conjecture that denigrates his opponents as well as appeals to
    Bob and yet hasn’t really been tested (in reality).

  19. Scott, “their”? One person says something and you feel justified in
    lumping everyone you feel goes with that person in the same bin and
    assert they all think the same?

  20. Mark: “what reason you or anyone has to believe that the gay marriage issue was driving the election . . ”

    I didn’t invent that out of thin air. The BBC had a large news team in America covering the election and its aftermath at a cost, by reports, of UKP 750,000. One of its correspondents reported exit polls as saying the importance of “moral issues” were cited more often than any other issue in voting decisions. An American interviewed in Ohio said that the outcome of a state poll there would ban not just gay marriages but “domestic partnerships” as well, which seemed a tad dumb.

    Other correspondents quoted polls and surveys as estimating that “Christian Evangelicals” amounted to 23% of the electorate in America and upwards of 75% of Evangelicals were committed Bush supporters. Several correspondents have made a distinction between the Bush administration in present times and President Kennedy, who made a clear commitment in the 1960 presidential campaign that he would not allow his Catholic religion to influence his administration’s policy.

    Not sure how closely Americans follow European news but if they do they will know about the mounting troubles of Mr Barroso, the incoming President of the EU Commission, after he offered the portfolio of justice commissioner to Rocco Buttiglione, who was on record as saying gay relationships were sinful and the job for women was in the home. The outcome is that Mr Barroso has withdrawn his proposals for Commission portfolios for reconsideration rather than run the risk of the European Parliament voting down the entire Commission, as the Parliament is entitled to under the present EU constitution.

    In an interview this morning with Jack Straw, Britain’s foreign secretary, he said it was “inconceivable” that America would attack Iran. But with vice-president Cheney again quoted as saying Bush now has a mandate for “a radical conservative agenda”, for avoidance of residual uncertainties, I think we need a definite list of the countries the Bush administration will not be attacking to bring regime change. After all, as I recall it, the “axis of evil” included Iran, Syria, and North Korea. Besides, the government of the Sudan has since been (reasonably) accused of conducting “genocide” by Colin Powell and we learned about the free lancing nuclear proliferation activites of Mr Khan, the disgraced founder of Pakistan’s nuclear capability:

    I think we should know how many wars the Bush administration is proposing to start, what with our Tony Blair being so enthusiastic about supporting his friend, George W.

  21. Bob,


    “Nationally, gay marriage is a loser, but civil unions are a big
    winner, with 35 percent support (and 32 percent in the South).
    Assume that the 25 percent who back marriage rights (17 percent
    in the South), and you’ve got a clear majority (and a slim lead
    even in the South, where Bush won 32 percent of gay voters). The
    public is squeamish about “gay marriage,” but not about giving
    gay couples public recognition and legal rights.”

    Andrew Sullivan split with Bush over the gay marriage issue
    but obviously not everyone did. I don’t know how it compares
    with the last election but 32 percent of gay voters for Bush
    in the South seems pretty high. It’s hard to square that
    with “homophobia” being a driving theme of the election.

    Barroso may have asserted that gay relationships were sinful but
    certainly Bush hasn’t. Of course some of the people that
    voted for Bush do think it’s sinful — but it should be obvious
    that’s not everyone. It’s in the nature of a political system where
    people directly vote on a powerful presidency that you are
    going to get two big tents each of which will include people
    that disagree with each other on many other issues.

    Rarely does a person get to vote for a person that shares all
    or most of their views; compromise is usually heavy.

  22. Bob,

    On the more important question of Iraq and the like, purely
    pragmatically, I doubt there will be any interventions
    elsewhere. It’s possible that the U.S. has taken on a
    bigger problem than it knows how to solve. It’s possible
    we might see a repeat of something like what happened
    in Algeria fifty years ago. There is in other words
    a possibility for a nightmare outcome for the U.S.

    Much of the European media has unfortunately been very eager
    to portray a nightmare outcome already (and to take the
    side of our enemies) but it may be that their efforts are
    not really reality-based.

    The fact that the U.S. is out of the dragon-slaying business
    for a while may seem like good news for many on this
    forum, but I have wondered and continue to wonder if people
    have really thought through the consequences of having nuclear
    weapons so widely spread.

  23. Hello.
    Interesting discussion.

    The following quotation reflects my sentiments perfectly right now:

    “This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all. And the dead will be commemorated, and we’ll struggle on with the living, and we are not going away. We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.”

    Angels in America (Tony Kushner).

    You can make your own inferences…

  24. Two americas will not emerge!

    Yes, some large inefficient industries would not mind this… but how can the Republicans actually hold on and get elected if their end goal is to represent the “rich” side? . All the new immigrants, all the good ol boys, all the working people, all the teachers, just about all of every significant population group is not part of some wealthy elite… the average decently paid middle-class person cannot afford a full-time nanny or maid unless they have an “under the table foreigner working for them-even then, few do”. The people are all too equal in economic status …

    This we-them mentality is something dishonest “leaders” try to propogate. Perhaps, some church based following could be built into a selfish and non-inclusive block, but this would go against the constitution and american history.

    I think that perhaps the republican party was usurped by a non-representative group. The two party system is truly awful… we end up with almost no choice, usually.

  25. The election was close; does anyone actually think that a 3% difference meaningfully describes the view of the people when even the best candidates can never get to 70%?

    all 2 term winners in N America over the past 40 years have lied on THE Major Election Issue, if you call waiting one term before implementing the opposite of last terms promise a lie:

    Trudeau -Canada No price and wage controls
    Mulroony -Canada No Free Trade
    Chretien -Canada Scrap GST-goods and service tax
    Nixon – USA No bomb North Vietnam
    Regan – USA Balance budget-increased greatly
    Bush Sr. – USA Read My Lips-No new taxes(many)

    Except Clinton, who lied under oath ..and groveled like a few disgraced preachers we had over here in N America … (I know Europeans do not understand why it is important in a multicultural society that leaders be moral .. above being intelligent)….

    And Bush the son, who 1)took us to war on a ‘mistake’ and brought the VP’s company into the fray in a heartbeat-taking away the high ground america would have held versus the European countries that were in Iraq doing illegal activities..

    SO, the people have not really spoken. Yes, we can describe one half as SPOOKED by terror or religious, but I think we were just DUPED we always are .. and I am serious about this, always are .. it is the nature of a sophisticated two party system, that you lie on one major issue where you are weak, so that the other side that has necessarily manufactured this issue to offset your apparent lead ….lose.

    Next election, it will be a whole new set of issues, depending which way the wind is blowing..who can tell, perhaps the Democrats and Republicans will flip flop their positions, I mean, republicans running up the deficit is not the way they will stay in power … and the Democrats may show them how to fight a war, wioth the they will be the ones pushing for a war that probably is not in the interst of the USA..perhaps another meaningless European war….

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