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April 27, 2004

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

This entry isn't really more than links to some articles I've enjoyed in the last several hours from the Washington Post. Three articles in a series, plus a chat transcript (that I recommend reading, too), that profile both the evident division in this country, as well as profiles of two familes, one Republican, and one Democratic.


Oh, but I do ramble on a bit here.

In the article about the division, Senator Jeffords—uniquely independent—calls the division a "chasm", and I also feel it's huge. There are a multitude of issues creating separation, and I think I could personally overlook most of those to unite on things we all want (safe roads, reliable financial markets, freedom to associate, etc.), but there is one belief that astonishes me in mature adults that if mostly expelled might fix most of the division. It is this: that one's belief about reality is so certain that it makes another's reality, where there is conflict, wrong. Not just wrong for the one, but wrong for the other, too, when the other's adherence to the conflicting view neither breaks one's leg nor picks one's pocket.

Of course, passive marginalization of the other's community sucks, too.

One of the family members in the article on the Democrats points out one of the strongest feelings I had when reading about the Republicans: that they can see the world the way they do because nothing is really impinging on their little world.


"They're eating well," Harrison continues. "They've got a roof over their heads. They're feeding their kids. They've got everything. There are no luckier people. How can they complain? About anything?" And yet they do, he says, griping about taxes, about the size of government and about politicians as though every last one of them were a one-dimensional cartoon.

How do the Republicans in this article feel about this?


"They make me feel like I have no hope. They make you feel like, why wake up in the morning?" Lannom says of Blue Americans he sees on TV or hears on the radio. "It's like every time I hear Al Franken speak, the world we live in is sooo bad, everything is going sooo wrong. Is it really that bad?"

"We see life as it is," May says.

"They seem bitter," Lannom says. "They just never seem happy. Every time you hear them talking, they're bitching about something."

"They're whiners," Stein agrees.

Part of me thinks, these people simply aren't suffering enough. At the same time, I often feel overdosed on bleak, too, but that doesn't mean that the problems don't exist.

Harpers has had an article in each of the last two issues that connect to this issue of division. I wish they were available on the web so that you could point and click your way to further engagement. The first is "Lie Down For America: How the Republican Party Sows Ruin on the Great Plains" in the April 2004 issue. I hadn't quite clued in to how consciously the political right uses God and values to manipulate its constituents; this article talks about that and the way it has changed the alleged heartland. (For example, Kansas, once the land of populism.)

The other article is in the May 2005 issue and is titled, "What Democracy? The Case for Abolishing the United States Senate". I've always thought the senate was a funny idea, due to the unequal representation; this article talks about its origins and its parallel to the English House of Lords. I've wished out loud for a single legislative body with proportional representation and a plurality of parties, and I've even wondered how I could make that a reality. (There are some bent on that already—but, curses, I cannot now find their web site—but this article suggests that the English eventually did to the House of Lords what we might more easily do to our Senate than abolish it.)

Posted by Gary at April 27, 2004 12:01 AM | TrackBack
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Woe is me, I can't find my link, EITHER, but somewhere in the dust and cobweb covered box where I keep my optimism is a quote by Howard Zinn. He says something like "One of the amazing things about the US is that we are so divided and yet we strive desparately to reach consensus through our government. Where other nations would devolve into civil war, we duke it out in Congress." Or something like that. With sincerest apologies to Howard Zinn, it's worth noting that while the divide is indeed huge, we're not arming the militia to take down the Confederates. Yet. (I've often wondered if we Seattle-ites should break of from the rest off the state, or if we should establish a coastal republic, but then you have to deal with California, and that just creates more confusion.) Optimism aside, I keep thinking about that quote "A house divided against itself can not stand." And we are so divided, so painfully divided, that I wonder how long it can last. And I wonder what the alternatives are. No answers here, just more questions.

Posted by: pam on April 27, 2004 05:44 AM

Have you heard of The Republic of Cascadia? While checking that out, also see an article on the same site about how my favorite dreamland, Belgium, does not exist.

Posted by: Gary on April 27, 2004 08:33 AM

And now to comment on my own comment: One of my feelings when I ponder the divide is a desire to move all of the red states together and all of the blue states together. If we could do that, Belgium would definitely be a case for study before committing to reorganization. While I thoroughly enjoyed being a tourist there, I read something recently that said that the division between the Flemish north and the Walloon south is growing (or still growing), and the federal government has been ceding more and more power to the regional governments in an effort to keep everyone in the union.

Ah, I know! We put the maroon and purple states between the red and blue states to create a buffer state.

Posted by: Gary on April 27, 2004 09:05 AM


I've wished out loud for a single legislative body with proportional representation and a plurality of parties, and I've even wondered how I could make that a reality.


Be careful what you wish for. It was interesting living in the UK when the debate about inherited Lordships was at its peak. The gut reaction is an obvious one: of course they should be elected, not appointed, right?

But there are lots of arguments in favour of a Senate-like body in the bicameral system. The most appealing one to me is the "flywheel" argument: you need a body of government which operates on a slower timescale, so that the government isn't always reacting to the issues of the hour without due consideration. I think there's a role for a body of government which isn't driven by the needs of populism -- or the need to be re-elected in 6 months -- and driven instead by the needs of society as a whole.

Sure, Senators and Lords can seem outdated and old fashioned, but sometimes a group of grumpy old men (and such they usually are) can also help tame the wanton excesses of the Lower House.

Posted by: david on April 27, 2004 09:52 AM

David, you hit on both an issue I worried about when posting (whether I understood that for which I wished) and some points the author of the essay that I referenced addresses near the end. In the essay, Richard N. Rosenfeld suggests earlier on that some of the critiques leveled against the Commons/House could also be certainly true of the Lords/Senators, so why double the trouble? (The reason appears to Mr. Rosenfeld to have been one primarily of the wealthly wanting more control.) He also suggests that rules and procedures could compensate for whatever problems a single body more beholden to the whims of a populist constituency might display (e.g., greater majorities for passage, "cooling off" periods).

If I recall his writing correctly, he interprets the six-year term of a senator to be more a problem of entrenchment that exacerbates the control of the very privileged—particularly due to the powers wielded by the Senate only, like approval of appointments to the Supreme Court Justices—rather than a beneficial source of stability.

Posted by: Gary on April 28, 2004 01:19 AM
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