You’ve probably read about Palin’s remarks about the "pro-American" parts of the US. Of course she tried to clarify that statement, but everyone knows what she’s talking about. And while I would use the term "pro-American," we can all recognize the serious ideological divides in our nation. The Republicans are playing divisive politics right now with comments like this and McCain’s accusation that Obama is playing at "class warfare." I recognize the strategy; it’s an effort to energize the conservative base. Meanwhile the Obama and Biden have been sticking more to the idea of everyone coming together, something we’ve since since 2004 from Obama. I recognize that strategy too. And I think both sides believe in the claims that lie behind those strategies. I wish I could believe that we could come together. My skepticism regarding that possibility is one of any number of reasons why I wouldn’t make a good president.
If you look at the polling, you will see nothing surprising. Across most of the South and the Plains, the Reps have double-digit leads. The Dems have similar leads in the NorthEast, the West coast, and across most of the Mid-West. So are these really different ideological universes? The opposing view has been this idea of "purple states" (purple state maps), that the mixture of left and right in America is more pronounced than what the red-blue state story would tell. I guess that depends on your viewpoint. Even if you live in the country in a deeply red state, say 2/3 McCain, one of your neighbors is voting Democrat. But is that person voting Obama because they share ideological perspectives with the majority of urbanites? Or you can switch it around, does the Manhattanite voting Republican share an ideology with the rural Texan? I would think not.
So the patriotism line is a rallying call for a particular ideology of course that claims to celebrate the American individual (as long as those individuals think like me: if not then they hate America and are terrorists). On Larry King last night some conservative talking head called Obama a Marxist. King asked if that meant that Republicans were fascists. Of course not was the reply, b/c Republicanism is about the individual. This was the obvious retort but King didn’t go there.
Now I don’t expect or desire to live in a country were everyone share the same ideology. There have likely only been a few short periods when Americans came together like that: Pearl Harbor, 9/11, etc. But then soon afterward we were divisive again.
But most importantly, we shouldn’t imagine that democracy is a rational process. If you have a preference for McDonalds over BK or Coke over Pepsi or Bud over Miller, are these rational choices? Or would it be more accurate to say that they are affective responses? That one feels better. If you thought that the election of Bush in 2004 was irrational, if Obama gets elected this time around, do you think it will be b/c Americans suddenly became rational? And you can flip that around if you are coming from the other political perspective. What % of American voters do you think can give a reasonable accounting of the candidate’s policies and offer a logically functional argument for why they prefer one over the other?
You know it can’t be more than 10% or so. Besides even the experts can’t say with much certainty what, if anything, will work to fix our economic and political woes. So how can anyone make a rational choice between plans? No, the election has to be pure ideology and affect. And I absolutely do not mean to suggest that we should abandon the democratic process! I just mean that we can’t expect the process to be rational.