One Republican assertion I consistently hear is a distinction between “real America” and what I guess is less real America. “Real America” has small towns, it’s more rural, and moves at a slower pace than our cities. Democrats get upset over this, and some of them who I have tons of respect for, including Jon Stewart and Dan Black : ). While it bothers me too, I have come to think that Republicans have a little bit of a point here, even if it is often crudely made and upsettingly exclusionary.
The fact is that an important part of our national identity, of any nation’s identity, is a connection to the land. Those that are more part and parcel with this land will feel, for better or ill, more “purely” American, especially when those less connected to the land seem to disagree with them on a number of important political and religious issues. For example, you cannot easily separate the Swiss national identity from their mountains. What is Japan, without the sea and fish? What is Australia, without their enormous tracts of dry land populated with Kangaroos and dingos? Likewise, what is America without the rockies, great plains, or the rolling hills of Appalachia?
Our political divide is not between blue states and red states. Maps of county results for the last several presidential elections shows, with exceptions of course, solid blue cities surrounded by seas of red. In 2008 for example, plenty of red counties are seen in places like rural New York and California. Cities like Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Atlanta, Cinicinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, and tons more, (look at the Florida cities) are surrounded by red. Look at the isolation of Lincoln, Nebraska, Kansas City and Wichita. Look at Virginia, which went for Obama in 2008. It’s so red!
Republicans have a right to think, in a small way, that their connection to the land entitles them to being automatically an important part of our national identity. However, America is much much more than our land. Our collective identity is and should be found more in principles like equality and opportunity, and should depend on all citizens, regardless of where they live. Those who divide the country between real and fake America are the ones acting un-American as they prove they do not understand the hierarchy of American values. But I suppose I contradict myself. I am willing to assert that others are unAmerican, based on what I think is important. So I guess my point is this: If you are going to call people un-American, please do so thoughtfully.
April 19th, 2011 at 8:52 PM
Another tack on this is the notion at the basis of our House/Senate apportionment: that care should be taken in governance to balance the needs of minorities against the wishes of majorities.
A great many voters in New York State wish that the New York Senate was apportioned geographically, and not by population, because the needs and wants of the citizens of the 59 counties that are not New York City are buried under the overwhelming population of the 3 counties that are New York City.
So much State legislation is passed that makes sense in three counties, and is senseless or detrimental to 59 counties…because of an overwhelming population disparity.
Democracy is wonderful…unless you are a minority. This is what the Red Countiers fear.
A simple issue is gun control. Red Countiers often rely on volunteer fire departments and eight or ten State Troopers per county to provide safety for an entire county. In a place where police response times can be as long as fifteen to twenty minutes (as opposed to four to eight in a major city) and is highly dependent on the number of officers available (two to four at any given time, sometimes none, verse the 48,000 sworn officers of the NYPD) gun control is more palatable in an urban area than in a rural one. And yet gun control laws passed at the state level are one size fits all and have the potential to leave rural residents out in the cold and defenseless.
So there’s another way to look at the Red County/Blue City split–as a minority way of life very aware of a shift away from their concerns and values.
April 16th, 2011 at 9:41 AM
Thanks for the shoutout, Jer. Yes, land-wise it’s The Republican State of America, but certainly not by population centers. If it comes down to where people live, it’s a different story. The trend is to move toward cities and into more education, both of which correlate to Democratic voting trends. If 99% of Americans live in NYC and voted Democratic and the remaining 1% lived in the rest of the country, who has a greater “hold” on the country?
April 16th, 2011 at 11:54 AM
I’ve heard the inevitability point about us becoming a bluer country as more people move to cities, but when is that going to happen? People have been talking about it for some time I think. Also, that means that Republicans are going to have to expand their platform to include more and more disparate groups. Maybe the the reactionary Tea Partiers and purists who shout “RINO!” (republican in name only) within the GOP indicate that we are seeing signs of the difficulty that the Old Gaurd is having with the need to continue to broaden their coalition.