01.26.2011 1

The Myth of a Divided America

By David Bozeman –

A prevailing myth, common among both liberals and conservatives, is that America is sharply divided, with roughly 35 percent of us liberal (though most polls put that number around 20), 35 percent conservative, with the remaining 30 that could go either way. You know the drill: Because we are so polarized, we must find common ground, we need to work together, and, in the spirit of unity, we have got to blah, blah, blah…

True, we certainly appear divided, but our tradition of robust, spirited debate should be as much a source of pride as it is a cause for national handwringing. In fact, we remain a people galvanized behind such defining concepts as individual initiative, responsibility, free enterprise and American exceptionalism.

We like our trucks big and our cars fast (so you know what you can do with your Cap & Trade). We devour excess, and we lovingly reward our kids with Happy Meals and bestow Wal-Mart gift cards to friends. If the above choices seem crass and commercial, America offers such a wide array of options in both lifestyle and thought that we are truly the envy of the world. The epic conflict today lies not among classes of citizens but between a relatively tiny cadre of elitists in Washington and the rest of this country.

America is largely a friendly nation, and our political discourse is among the most civil in the world. Our citizens are not at war with each other but are merely resisting attempts to “transform” (candidate Barack Obama on numerous occasions in 2008) a great nation.

Liberalism constantly butts heads with America’s most cherished defining traditions and institutions: prayer, Christmas, the Boy Scouts and our military (by way of banning many college ROTC programs). It is liberals who audaciously claim dominion over large segments of our nation’s economy. It is liberalism that advances itself not by the tacit acceptance of large majorities of the electorate but by judicial fiat and incrementalism.

The overriding point, however, is not that America is a center-right nation. In fact, on issues such as the minimum wage, entitlements and maybe a few others, we tend to lean left. And, unfortunately for Republicans, our votes don’t always reflect our ideological balance, which is where Democrat presidents tend to hit the hard wall of reality. President Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, is learning that continued electoral success rests on moving to the center and abandoning (or at least concealing) his hard left agenda. Republicans, on the other hand, who stay to the right and offer the starkest contrasts, tend to succeed beyond their wildest expectations.

But, again, what matters is not so much America’s left/right make-up. We define ourselves less on ideological persuasion than on common-sense values. And we are not divided, at least not to the extent that some in the media would claim.

A free people tend to resolve their differences peacefully, whether as individuals or groups. The idea of two Americas would tend to benefit those power-hungry pointy-heads who always place themselves above the fray and whose recipe for calm typically entails one particular side ceding or diluting their free speech in the name of “civility.”

Indeed, always beware of those who emphasize and foster division. It is the motives of career politicians, pundits and activists and not the honest concerns and conflicts of average Americans that demand scrutiny. We are not as much divided as we are under siege and only our cherished freedom to publicly accuse our ruling classes will sustain us as a nation and as a beacon for the rest of the world.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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