America Is Two Countries, Not on Speaking Terms

America Is Two Countries, Not on Speaking Terms


America Is Two Countries, Not on Speaking Terms

You know who won the election (or whether we face another Florida 2000), and as I write I don’t.

But whether Barack Obama is re-elected to a second term or Mitt Romney is elected the 45th president, the contours of their support during this fiercely fought campaign show that we live in Two Americas.

The culturally cohesive America of the 1950s that some of us remember, usually glossing over racial segregation and the civil rights movement, is no longer with us and hasn’t been for some time.

That was an America of universal media, in which everyone watched one of three similar TV channels and newscasts every night. Radio, 1930s and 1940s movies, and 1950s and early 1960s television painted a reasonably true picture of what was typically American.

That’s not the America we live in now. Niche media has replaced universal media.

One America listens to Rush Limbaugh; the other to NPR. Each America has its favorite cable news channel. As for entertainment, Americans have 100-plus cable channels to choose from, and the Internet provides many more options.

Bill Bishop highlighted the political consequences of this in his 2008 book, “The Big Sort.” He noted that in 1976 only 27 percent of voters lived in counties carried by one presidential candidate by 20 percent or more. In 2004, nearly twice as many, 48 percent, lived in these landslide counties. That percentage may be even higher this year

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.

There are plenty of smart and creative and successful people in both Americas. But they don’t like to mix with each other these days.

They especially don’t like to talk about politics and the cultural issues that, despite the prominence of economic concerns today, have largely determined our political allegiances over the last two decades.

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 on average, skeptical of business and supportive of government as an instrument to advance liberal causes.





  1. This is so very true. There was another time when there were two countries here. One of the saddest times in our history.

  2. Thanks for articulating it so well. I would add that because of the destruction of objective education, the left trends to higher education while the right is more intuitive and common-sensical.

  3. The bad thing is that one America is picking up the tab on the other America, that is not sustainable. If the producers decide to live off the dole and then all we have is Cuba.

  4. We are a young nation. When things aren't working and the people are discontent enough, changes will be made. Either branching off of independent nations or reformation. It didn't take long in the Soviet Union after Gorbachev allowed freer speech before the goverment realized their ethicly diverse nation was not going to get along so well. Diversity and freedom of speech create disentegration of a nation. Soviet Union divided and thus ceased to exit. This time is not the most important that will be in American history. And my grandchildren will be reading the names of our current leaders only to spit them back out on a test and move on to more important sections of their history book.

  5. When speaking of the news sources used by the populace, this article neglected to mention that a huge slice of America, mainly young voters, get their news from comedians such as Jon Steward , Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher. Perhaps that will explain why a relative (who will remain nameless) asked me how I could support Romney. I asked him what he felt was wrong with Mr. Romney. His answer, "When he was in office, he took away all your rights as a woman!". After sadly shaking my head (and even more perplexed as to why some people should be permitted to vote) I told him to sit his behind down and proceeded to educate him about the candidates. He listened, I doubt he retained! This relative is close to my age. Just sad, folks!