Looking at the electoral map today, I wonder whether President Obama still thinks there is no red America or blue America, as he proclaimed in that famous speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. Back then, he confidently assured us that there was “only the United States of America.”
But he was much younger then.
As I moved the cursor over the 50 states in Nate Silver’s New York Times blog, I was amazed at how often the chance of a Mitt Romney or Barack Obama victory in a particular state was 100 percent – or within a point or two of 100 percent.
Obviously, the states are united no longer – if they ever were.
I read an article today that discussed the evolution of the Republican Party as a rural phenomenon – an anti-urban phenomenon even. According to the article, Republicans aren’t even trying to campaign in cities in this election.
And when you see where the Republican brand is strongest, you might agree. Take Wyoming, for example. In Wyoming, where an almost all-white population own ranches and grow rich from the oil, natural gas and coal buried beneath the earth, Obama has no chance.
He has no chance in West Virginia either. They don’t like Democrats there. Democrats, you know, don’t approve of multimillionaires blasting the tops off mountains and poisoning the lakes and streams in their gluttony for coal. Dirty coal. Mining the stuff has been a sad story of brutal exploitation, including physical violence against workers striking for a few more pennies. Burning the stuff has fouled the air for generations. Despite those smarmy ads touting “clean coal,” clouds of soot and ash and carbon dioxide still billow from coal-fired plants. And any attempt to regulate coal-burning plants is sure to meet with furious opposition.
The irony is that so manyof the victims of this perennial tyranny will go to the polls next month and vote for the people who oppress them. I suppose it must be fear that drives them. Fear of what will happen to them if they dare to stand up for their rights. Fear of losing their jobs, dismal though those jobs might be.
Of course, Obama is 100 percent persona non grata in the Old South. But we knew that. America has come a long way, baby, but the South still has a long way to go before most of the folks there can accept a black family in the White House. The same goes for Texas, where those good ole boys dragged that black man to death behind their pick-up truck just for the sport of it. Remember?
In places like Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Montana, Idaho … the “heartland,” I think the region is called, a lot of voters are driven by Christian zeal turned upside down, a blasphemous perversion of Christ’s teachings, the Word of God deliberately misinterpreted in order to promote bigotry and intolerance.
As Obama was pilloried for observing back in 2008, a lot of these people cling to their Bibles and their guns, misreading the Bible and irrationally fearing that the government plans to take away their hunting rifles.
As I ponder this clear-cut divide in America, I worry not only about the coming election but also about the nation’s future. In my mind I hear this warning from Jesus himself: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”