all right you have won you will kill the brave men our friends tonight there is nothing left to do we are beaten… they have built the electricchair and hired the executioner to throw the switch all right we are two nations
U.S.A. John Dos Passos
The great proletarian novelist was referring to the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927, an event that seemed to split the nation in two. On one side were the agitators in sympathy with two immigrants, possibly framed for an act of violence. On the other were the rightists who wanted the anarchist bastards to fry.
The cry, “All right we are two nations” has been revived in every generation since then. There was, for example, Harry Truman vs. Douglas McArthur. When the President fired the five-star general he won the plaudits of his followers and the enmity of pro-military conservatives. Then there were the flag-burning protesters in the Viet Nam era pitted against the America-Love-It-Or-Leave-It crowd who wore Old Glory lapel pins. Then there were the Clinton haters who accused him of everything from drug-pushing to murder, and the Clinton defenders who twice put him in office. Then there were the bellicose pro-Bush Republicans who twice put him in office, and the Democrat anti-Bush demonstrators who drew Hitler moustaches on the President’s picture and rhymed General Petraeus with General Betray-Us.
Today, as the candidates circle each other, first in Iowa and then in New Hampshire, the two Americas have never been more evident. You can see it in everything from the standup comics’ routines to the bestseller list. In 2007, a slew of popular political books appeared on Barnes and Noble’s shelves.
On the left:
The Assault on Reason by Al Gore.
The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman.
Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches by John W. Dean.
Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration’s War on American Values by Keith Olbermann.
Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch’s Assault on America’s Fundamental Rights by Molly Ivins.
A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency by Glenn Greenwald.
On the right:
Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations by John Bolton.
World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism by Norman Podhoretz.
America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It by Mark Steyn.
Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right: How One Side Lost Its Mind and the Other Lost Its Nerve by Bernard Goldberg.
Power to the People by Laura Ingraham.
If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans by Ann Coulter.
Each of these volumes found a large audience, and the split continues. Throughout the country, major newspapers are almost exclusively liberal in outlook, and AM radio almost exclusively conservative in content. On TV, the CNN runs pro-Palestinian documentaries, and Fox promotes the cause of Israel, the one and only democracy in the Middle East. Again, the two Americas make themselves evident.
Which means that whoever gets elected and however the Iraq war goes, the internal war in the U. S. is guaranteed to continue.
The Democrats will run Hillary Clinton. Period.
(The other candidates are pushed energetically by members of the press who know in their heart of hearts that Edwards has failed to catch on, that the Obama/Oprah axis is a fantasy, that Biden and Dodd are perennial also-rans, that Kuchinich is a bad joke left over from the 1960’s, and that Richardson is being primed to be Mrs. Clinton’s running mate.)
This, even though nearly half of America hates the junior senator from New York.
The Republicans have only a little more leeway. They will run either Mitt Romney or John McCain. (Their upbeat features on all the GOP candidates notwithstanding, members of the press are keenly aware that Giuliani hasn’t played well in the heartland, that Huckabee has the staying power of a mayfly, that Fred Thompson’s act never got going, and that Paul and Tancredo are gargoyles, not ornaments, on the main building.)
This, though nearly half of America will detest the Republican choice.
There will be no electoral sweep, no landslide. Whoever wins will do so narrowly, with barely half (or, perhaps, less than half, of the vote as in the case of Bill Clinton and George Bush.) Thus, there will be no candidate remotely capable of bringing the nation together.
The only hope for reconciliation is for some embittered voters to change their minds after the election. Impossible? In fact, irony is never far from the polling booth, and stranger things have happened in politics. It’s well to recall that the left-winger Dos Passos wound up in the half of America he once derided. The last vote he cast in a presidential election was for Barry Goldwater.
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