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County Hall Corner: Two Worlds – One Family?

Since 2020 is a presidential election year, and what happens in Washington, D.C. significantly impacts what happens in our area, I am going to periodically present an outlook from a higher view than local politics. The year 2020 promises to be like few others in American history. Both sides of the political spectrum predict a

Since 2020 is a presidential election year, and what happens in Washington, D.C. significantly impacts what happens in our area, I am going to periodically present an outlook from a higher view than local politics. The year 2020 promises to be like few others in American history. Both sides of the political spectrum predict a “voter-turnout tsunami” that has been building for years. Nationally, the 2018 increase in voters represented the largest share of eligible voters to turn out in a mid-term year since 1914. In CNN polls of voters who stated they were “extremely enthusiastic” about voting for president in the coming year’s election was just 19% in 2003, rose to 28% in 2011 (Obama running for a second term), but has now hit 45%.

The intensity is found in both major parties, which hold very different perspectives. Though it is often termed as “conservative” and “progressive,” the divide is clearly seen geographically. According to calculations by the Pew Research Center, Hillary Clinton won 87 percent of the nation’s largest counties in the 2016 presidential election, whereas Trump won over 2,400 of the remaining 3,000 counties. His total number of counties was higher than any other nominee in either party since Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in 1984.

The Clinton counties were primarily in major population centers along the two coasts, which is why the phrase “flyover country” is used to explain Donald Trump’s base of support. The city mouse/country mouse divide is very real, but the opinions of each group also differ greatly. The Public Religion Research Institute (generally recognized as being nonpartisan) noted in a recent survey that 92 percent of voters who approved of Trump said Republicans are working “to protect the American way of life against outside threats.” At the same time, 75 percent of voters who disapproved of him said the GOP has been taken over by racists. Conversely, three-fourths of Trump approvers said Democrats have been taken over by socialists, while three-fourths of those who disapproved of him said the Democratic Party is endeavoring to make capitalism work better for average Americans.

Why are Americans so divided on such fundamental issues? Though it might be painful to say this, it might just be in our forefather’s DNA who passed it on to us. In colonial days, the Virginia settlers focused on plantations and the unfortunate need for slave labor while New Englanders preferred living in cities and employing indentured servants which could be black or white.

Even the Revolutionary War was not universally accepted by the colonies. Historians do not completely agree on the percentages, but it ranges from around 33-45 percent of support for independence, even after the British ultimately surrendered. The divide continued when the Constitution was proposed, and there was a conflict between federalists (those who wanted a strong union) and the anti-federalists (who preferred strong states and weak central government). The Federalist Papers, which have been quoted recently in relation to impeachment were a product of this federalist/anti-federalist debate.

Do we need to discuss the hot button issues in our country’s history such as the Civil War, Reconstruction, Populism, Suffrage, Temperance, Socialism, Civil Rights, Nuclear Disarmament, Abortion, etc.? Our 50/50 national mindset even applies up to the present day on the subject of lotteries — half of Americans have bought a state lottery ticket in the past year, which means the other half have not.

So, as we come to 2020 and we hear those who denounce that our country has never been more divided than it is now, it speaks volumes about their misunderstanding of American history and character. It is true that President Trump appears to enjoy highlighting the differences between peoples in our country rather than focusing on our common ideals but to infer that he is creating this divide borders on the ridiculous.

We honestly should not be tremendously surprised that Democrats are primarily concerned about climate change, closing the wage gap, and equality/inclusiveness issues, whereas Republicans are focused on economic development, security, personal freedoms, and patriotism. Americans are like members of the same family who live under the same roof but have a hard time agreeing on
anything. But we are Americans, living together in the land of the free and the home of the brave. That we have in common.

Larry Stout welcomes your comments or input. He can be reached by email: lionwebbweekly@gmail.com.

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