ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE SUDERMAN
The distance between my two home counties-Marion County in Kansas and Cook County in Illinois was evident as I examined the results of the presidential election.
Bush swept Marion County in Kansas and John Kerry swept all of Cook County-both Chicago and the first ring of suburbs.
At Thanksgiving, when I drive from Chicago to Kansas, I can stay in Bush counties the entire way. All I have to do is bypass the college towns of Champaign-Urbana and Lawrence and take state roads to avoid St. Louis and Kansas City.
In fact, one could drive from New York City to Los Angeles or from Miami to Seattle and by avoiding major cities, college towns, Indian Reservations, the historic African-American counties in the South and never leave the Bush counties.
The Kerry counties are isolated little spots of blue scattered across the American map.
If the electoral college were based on winning individual counties, the resident won by a thousand to one. The actual tally of popular votes and the number of states won is less of a landslide.
How does one account for the radical geographic difference in voting patterns? All of America watched the same presidential debates and saw the same news coverage on television. Yet voters came to strikingly different conclusions based on geography.
The Bush counties are in Wal-Mart country. When their residents stand in line to buy cheap stuff from China, they see other folks of their same race and ethnicity who attend their same church or a similar church and read the same holy books.
They are in the land of heart-felt religion with a strong foundation in both tradition and sentiment.
They are friendly, helpful and congenial folks who shun argument and debate and try to live in peace with their neighbors living up the street and down the road from them.
They are social conservatives-on everything but liquor-by-the-drink and lotteries. For them, some undefined “they” wants to take away their traditional marriages, their civil religion of patriotism and piety, their Bibles and their guns.
The hostile aliens live in strange cities and strange countries-Osama Bin Laden and Hillary Clinton are equally daemonic.
The Kerry counties are the land of Starbucks. Standing in line for a double latte, they know it is unlikely their fellow imbibers share their religion or even language or citizenship.
They have families and friends. Many have passports or green cards that connect them to other countries.
(If you ask what a green card is, you almost certainly live in a Bush county.)
They live with the pushing and shoving of protests, picketing, petitioning and even riots as a natural part of factions getting a piece of the action.
They believe that eventually through arguments, compromises, coalitions and careful planning and policies there is room for everybody.
John Kerry in the debates was articulate, logical and claimed to have a plan. He spoke in the common language of urban and urbane America.
George W. Bush claimed he had a heart-felt religion and worked hard. He spoke in the language of rural and small-town America.
The critical question in the coming decades remains: Is there a common language for this country?
You can contact the author at Suderman@aol.com