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....
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.
1. Mark Baddeley wrote:
The extra factor along with this is one that was discussed in a post on GetReligion in the last couple of weeks.
Those on the left, across the various elements of the ‘Obama coalition’ have a lot of animosity towards religious conservatives. The comment was made that their hostility to that group is the thing that unites them, and that this kind of hostility towards one section in society has not been seen since (IIRC) the period either just before or during the Great Depression (can’t remember which).
This anger is not returned to the same degree or kind by conservatives or anyone else towards these various kinds of liberals.
If that’s right, then it’s not just that there’s two Americas, but that one of those really is viscerally negative to the other. That is an extra level of problem because in that situation anger distorts people’s thinking - you become ready to pursue courses of actions that are to everyone’s cost simply because it spites the other side, and that’s an end in itself for you. Angry people also usually think all their actions are reasonable and are unwilling to seriously question themselves - also setting up conditions for bad decision making.
I suspect it also creates a ‘burned over’ area much larger than those in the wake of Charles Finney’s revivals - would be hard to evangelize across this level of hostility.
November 7, 8:59 pm | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:
Only a relatively small number of people in any country are liberal activists. Evangelize the others.
November 7, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
3. Teatime2 wrote:
There are writers, publications, politicos, marketers, and a host of others who earn relevance and a sizable living from fostering and, in some cases, creating deep division. I don’t know if this writer and publication are part of that game but I do know that many of the points he makes are bogus.
First, we’re not more “affluent” because we have more stuff. The “stuff” happens to be a whole lot cheaper than it used to be so more people can afford it. It’s mass-produced by low-paid workers in Asian sweat shops. American wages, on the other hand, have been stagnant but if the goods are cheap, then buying power is greater. Is that “affluence?” I don’t think so.
Secondly, contrary to what the writer asserts, Californians, including Bay Area people, are moving in droves to Texas, including the DFW metroplex, for jobs. There is much speculation that Texas could become a swing state if the state continues to grow at the rate it has been. Weird that this writer would make a silly claim about Cali and Texas when it came out during the primaries that Rick Perry has assertively courted Cali businesses to move here.
Furthermore, he creates false dichotomies between fervent religionists and raging secularists when polls continue to show that most people have spiritual beliefs but are less inclined to identify with mainstream denominations. And media polarization between FOX and PBS? Please. Media offerings and choices are diverse.
IMO, a case can be made that any political polarization has been manufactured via an extremely long and expensive campaign and the only ones who benefit are the special interests and the media. When media and political campaigns highlight differences and divisions to keep stories and relevance alive, when differences are exaggerated and insisted upon for two years and everything is framed in terms of us and them, winning and losing, godly and godless, then suspicion and hatred and can be created.
November 8, 12:06 am | [comment link]
4. magnolia wrote:
“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).”
i thought most economists believe that the decade in question was the last time we were affluent and economically stable…
November 8, 12:14 am | [comment link]
5. Teatime2 wrote:
#4 magnolia, Exactly. Folks may have had less “stuff” and smaller homes, but there was stability and upward mobility back then.
November 8, 1:06 am | [comment link]
6. Sarah wrote:
I think I’m with Barone.
The fact is, we have two competing and antithetical political worldviews in this counry and one side won this time.
Because the two worldviews are mutually opposing, one side looks eagerly for the failure of the other. When the conservatives win, the libs quite naturally wish for their policies to fail. And I sure as the dickens wish for the libs policies to fail—which judging by the past four years is a sure thing.
A slim majority of the American people wanted more of the same.
So be it. It’s a pity that all of us must suffer because of that, but there we are. All those of us on one side can do is hunker down, try to make more cash to pay for what the other side demands, and work for our opportunity. But our opportunity won’t mean the other side has changed. It will merely mean that they lost that time.
Barone is right in his main thesis. There are two countries in this one country, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
November 8, 9:07 am | [comment link]
7. Charles52 wrote:
I don’t think there ever was a “culturally cohesive” society. Certainly not in the 50s. We had a media image of unity, but it was largely leftover “unity” necessary to win WWII.
I would, moreover, argue that the framework - and goal - for the U.S. is not cultural coherence, but a politics that allows for many cultures to coexist with a minimum of friction. The federal structure (now largely superseded by a cancerous national government), and the bill of rights don’t speak to me of cultural coherence, but the genuine tolerance fervent people show one another.
November 8, 10:53 am | [comment link]
8. Br. Michael wrote:
Indeed. As the federal government grows and invades all aspects of life the drive to conform the culture will grow. To the extent that Christians are on the opposing side the greater the persecution we can expect. Look how objections to being forced to pay for other people’s immorality is characterized as refusing to allow them to indulge in that immorality in the first place.
November 8, 12:12 pm | [comment link]
9. Teatime2 wrote:
#7 Charles, well said. We’ve always been a diverse people with different ideologies. The difference now is that we have a plethora of ways for a huge number of people to broadcast their views and random thoughts instantly, often, and globally.
And as with any disagreement, the loudest, most persistent, and most breath-taking remarks get the most attention and repetition. Now, though, we’ve got professionals who comb the masses for outrageousness to foment disgust and highlight divisions and examples of stereotypical otherness. We’ve got ‘‘Honey Boo Boo.’‘
Barone seems to promote such stereotypes by his comment about Dallas, for example. I don’t think he’s ever spent much time here. There are reasons for the majority GOP politicians beyond a largely conservative populous. Texas is actually diverse—the Democratic;;’
arty here is pathetic, though, and doesn’t field candidates. In many races, there was no Dem. challenger.
In fact, there were more libertarian and even Green party candidates than Dems on our ballot here. I would venture that Texans are more independent than Republican. And we’re far more generous, caring, and open than the likes of Barone would understand. That’s how Texans can defy the stereotypes and open their state and resources to tens of thousands of displaced Katrina victims.
November 8, 4:34 pm | [comment link]
10. Teatime2 wrote:
Wow, Sorry for the weird typos. My tablet is glitching, for some reason!
November 8, 4:36 pm | [comment link]
11. Charles52 wrote:
There is still a remnant politics in Texas from when elections were decided in the Democratic primary. Many conservative Democrats became Republicans, but a lot still feel like Democrats, even if they think conservative. That’s why a conservative city like Fort Worth elected a Democrat for state senate, has a gay city councilman, and a woman mayor. Dallas has had a black Democrat as mayor, two women majors, and the twice elected sheriff is a lesbian Latina. Come to think it, the major of Houston is a lesbian.
All of which to say is to say that real culture, outside the confines of traditional media and obsessions with national (especially presidential) politics is a gloriously complicated and interesting picture. Which means I find the new media is probably our hope for knowing how things really are, rather than what the newspaper editor downtown thinks we should know.
November 8, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
12. magnolia wrote:
no. 7 my parents came of age in the 50’s and i never heard them talk that way. the social contract seemed to be strong; people married young, men took care of their families and women supported their men; both felt the family unit was more important than their individual selfishness. most people shared the same religion, more things held us together than not.
i hear talk all the time from libs who say everyone was miserable except for white men, yet i never once heard my mother or any kinfolk complain about that. and they all stayed married until the end of their lives.
i will admit however that i find most of the 50’s fashions as ugly as all get out and i can only stand to listen to elvis or cash from that time period; but i can say the same of the sixties also, except none of that music was good!
November 8, 10:35 pm | [comment link]