Many Democrats blame the unenlightened people of red-state America for John Kerry's defeat. But most working-class Americans remain politically centrist and a rising number simply want to live in the fast-growing suburbs of middle America. Liberals should stop sneering at the people they aspire to leadby Michael Lind / January 16, 2005 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2005 issue of Prospect Magazine
Is the United States turning into the Republic of Gilead? That was the name of the theocratic Christian America that Margaret Atwood imagined in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Following the November election in the US, a map circulating on the internet showed the blue states of the east and west coasts annexed to Canada, with the red-state portions of the country that had voted Republican labelled “Jesusland.”
The election of 2004 confirmed the status of the Republican party in the US as the majority party at all levels – but it did not prove that Americans have turned into reactionaries. Unlike Nixon and Reagan, who were re-elected in landslides, Bush barely squeaked by. He remains a divisive and unpopular president. And self-described conservatives, like self-described liberals, remain a minority in the US.
The American right has managed to unite the centre with the right in a majority coalition. But it has not converted the centre to the right. Indeed, in this election, as in 2000, Bush downplayed his hardline conservatism and campaigned on the basis of widely shared American values. The Republicans have successfully reached out to red-state America – while the Democrats have turned their backs on it.
Before the election, John Sperling, a liberal billionaire, bought ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post to promote the book The Great Divide, which he co-authored. “Michael Moore vs Mel Gibson. Hillary Clinton vs Newt Gingrich. Smarter kids vs smarter bombs” – these dichotomies were supposed to illustrate the difference between cool, liberal “metro America” and vulgar, conservative “retro America.”
According to Sperling, “America is not a unified country with common traditions, needs and desires. Rather it is an amalgam of antithetical entities: two nations…