01.12.2011 0

The Tale of Two Americas

2010 Republican and Democrat Election Map

By Rick Manning

John Edwards ran his ill-fated presidential campaign around the theme that there are “two Americas,” one that is wealthy and powerful, and the other that is poor and weak.

Events that have occurred since the Tucson shooting tragedy have revealed that there are indeed two Americas, just not the two that Edwards envisioned.

The first America exists largely along the coasts and big cities, gets their news from Katie Couric and reads the Huffington Post or Daily Kos.

The second America exists in the heartland, the suburbs, exurbs and rural area, gets their news from FOX, the radio and regularly visits Drudge, Redstate or NetRightDaily.

The first America believes that government is the solution to problems and that paying unemployment benefits has far more stimulative effect on the economy than lowering taxes.

The second America believes that individuals and private enterprise are the solution to problems and the government’s role is just to make certain that people play by the rules.

The first America hears Rush Limbaugh, and they cringe as he attacks their belief system attributing his disagreement and humor at their expense as hate speech.

The second America hears Rush Limbaugh and cheers because finally someone is espousing their values.

The first America sees Sarah Palin and dismisses her because she doesn’t have the Ivy education that they value so highly.

The second America hears Sarah Palin and gets excited as she stands toe to toe with the Ivy educated masters of the universe and gives better than she gets.

The first America listens to National Public Radio and doesn’t think it is liberal, but instead it is just informed.

The second America views Glenn Beck, and finds him to be interesting, and enlightening as he tackles topics that others veer away from.

The first America preaches tolerance and decries harsh rhetoric while at the same time calling the second America racist homophobes.

The second America can’t understand why they are attacked by the first America, but secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, suspect that the first America consists of godless socialists who are bent on destroying their nation.

The first and second America view the same event and come to entirely different and conflicting conclusions. This may be because they get their information about these events through entirely different lenses, or it could be that we choose different lenses because we view events from entirely different perspectives.

With all of the challenges facing our nation, perhaps the largest is can these two Americas co-exist when they don’t speak the same language, get their information from the same sources, or even have a common frame of reference?

A pretty common comedic gag is for a protagonist to be speaking to someone who speaks a different language, and when he is not understood, he speaks more loudly.

The answer to our national communication problem is not to speak more loudly, or even more clearly. The answer is to communicate using language that the other America understands. It is the one thing that Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had in common, they each were able to speak across the communications barrier between the first and second Americas. However, today, the first and second Americas not only don’t share language, they don’t share common national experiences.

Evidence of this is that the Washington Post editors and reporters completely missed a major political storm brewing over the appointment of Van Jones to a post early in the Obama Administration. They did not write about it, they did not even know about it, until Jones’ appointment was politically cooked and he left the Administration.

Afterward, the Post evaluated their situation and discovered that they did not have anyone in the news or political reporting team who was at all connected with what was happening in the conservative blogosphere. So, they took action to solve that problem by hiring someone to monitor what was going on so they were not caught completely unaware with a major political story blowing up. Of course, they hired someone from the first America, and this served to discredit their entire effort.

But their first instinct was right. The first and second America need to figure out what each other are talking about, what each other care about, and hopefully find common ground in these things.

Unfortunately, what we learned from the Tucson shootings is that the first America is more interested in casting stones at the second America even when the facts don’t warrant the attack, and the second America is so sick of being cast as the bad guy, they fought back with heated rhetoric that the first America dismissed.

This sad spectacle takes me back to a feature that used to and may still be in Parade magazine, “Can this Marriage Be Saved?” For the first time in my life, I not only don’t know if the marriage can be saved, I am not certain that either party wants it to be.

As a member of the second America it is my prayer that both the first and second America will be renewed in common purpose by the hope that is America, a land of endless opportunity for people who are willing to work and take risks to achieve their dreams. Of course, the first America will probably just observe a meaningless moment of silence.

Unfortunately, the gunman in Tucson may have done more than attack a Member of Congress, he may have set off a national self-evaluation that questions everything, including whether the two Americas can continue to live together.

So, can this marriage be saved?

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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