Can Academics Bridge the Red State-Blue State Divide?

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Mr. Bray is a graduate student in history at UCLA. His blog may be viewed here.

In January, 1861, swimming with the secessionist tide that followed Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency, Mayor Fernando Wood proposed that New York City declare its independence from the United States. Wood wasn’t proposing to join the Confederacy, exactly. Instead, recognizing that the city’s prosperity was tied closely to agricultural trade, the political leader of America’s commercial center was suggesting that New York become something like the “State of Manhattan.” Such a “free city,” the historian Edward Spann has written, would have had the latitude to “continue trade with the seceded states.”

The suggestion was a bit crazy, but it didn’t come out of nowhere: Manhattan and the Deep South shared too many interests to cut the ties between them without lasting pain.

In the wreckage of a bitter election this year, urban America is widely understood to be stuck on one side of a cultural gap, staring across the divide at its unfamiliar rural and exurban countrymen. Somehow we’ve turned into two irreconcilable nations, one progressive and one traditional, each wondering what on earth it has to do with the other. But seeing these two Americas as somehow fundamentally different requires that we overlook the way both grew up together, intimately connected and feeding from a common table.

Take the history of Chicago. William Cronon has traced the course of the city's growth, showing how it emerged in the nineteenth century from the western landscape it helped to commercialize. New transportation technology, financed and managed in urban offices, created gateways between rural markets. Midwestern farmers sold grain through Chicago, then used the money to buy lumber and ship it home; wooden houses arose on treeless plains. The wood and the wheat both passed through the same city railyards.

Closer to my own home, the California ranchers Henry Miller and Charles Lux built a rural empire from the deft manipulation of urban institutions. As David Igler has shown, the pair raked up extraordinary control over Central Valley property between 1850 and 1920 because they knew how to make use of aggressive lawyers, clever lobbyists, and friendly bankers. Their agricultural partnership was only half-rural; Miller preferred the company of livestock, while Lux hated to leave the comforts of the city. Lux, we gather, was in charge of the really important business relationships.

If urban and rural America have grown up in commercial exchange, they have grown up as well around a long exchange of ideas. That bluest of blue state institutions, the university, has a long history that belies much of the current academic self-image. Columbia University, for example, was for many decades the central point for the national distribution of a dangerously powerful and profoundly racist historical narrative.

In 1907, the Columbia historian William Dunning published a work of southern history that would dominate the field until the Civil Rights era. Reconstruction in the South had failed, Dunning insisted, because congressional radicals had tried to grant political rights to an “ignorant and degraded” race that had no hope of fulfilling its new role; southern states had become “Africanized.” Dunning became an exceptionally important figure in academia, training the next generation of history professors in one of the most highly regarded departments in the field. The southern alibi found its greatest support in an elite cluster of Manhattan seminar rooms.

From these common successes and failures, living in the same economy and sharing the same (sometimes appalling) ideas, Americans have supposedly arrived in the opening years of the twenty-first century as two enemy camps, urban sophisticates and rural atavists, blue and red. To some degree, the route to that historical disconnection traveled through the university, where scholars decided that it was more important to talk than to listen.

The Port Huron Statement, a manifesto for the New Left adopted in 1962 by members of the fledgling Students For a Democratic Society, argued for the university as “a significant source of social criticism.” In this model, the college campus would become a “community of controversy” that would inform the nation what was wrong with it. Academics would engage in diagnosis and etiology, shaking the sick patient back to his senses: “They must make debate and controversy, not dull pedantic cant, the common style for educational life. They must consciously build a base for their assault upon the loci of power.” The underlying presumptions in that statement are pretty clear.

But none of us have ever been quite that wise, or quite that pure. Americans, red and blue, are very much in it together, and we’ll have to figure out a way of sustaining a nation on that premise. The point is not for either side of the foolishly named “culture war” to abandon its principles, or even its grievances; the point, rather, is that both begin to recognize their shared path toward a common future.

Eric Foner has spoken recently about the need for the left to rediscover an effective political language premised on the idea of freedom. This seems like rich territory, particularly in a Brandeisian formulation that recognizes the costs of social and economic imbalance.

But note that Louis Brandeis, whose progressivism actually worked to produce social change, wasn’t self-consciously a political proselytizer. He regarded himself as an educator, believing his responsibility was to develop factual and reasoned arguments that could then be placed calmly before other human beings who were similarly capable of reasoning. Brandeis communicated effectively with labor and business, left and right, lawyers and laymen. He was not inclined to impute hopeless ignorance to people who disagreed with him, and he avoided the temptation to regard himself as someone uniquely wise. He engaged in patient exchange, avoided facile social labeling, and worked steadily toward the world he wanted to see.

An academy that abandoned the New Left’s self-aggrandizing “assault upon the loci of power” would have better luck at producing meaningful social change; calm discussion, in a climate of mutual respect, would cause more harm to the kind of atavistic right represented by David Horowitz and Michelle Malkin than would another fifty years of politicized scholarship. Extreme postures produce extreme responses. Culture warriors, denied the power of hyperbole and hate, lose their base.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


The facts that matter here are (1) that the discussion WAS about whether there is a serious lasting "divide" amongst Americans or just a series of close national elections, and if so whether that has anything to do with trendy politically correct cliches about "culture wars" or "world views", (2) that you have been attempting with limited success to derail the conversation into your silly fantasy about African American voters being drawn to your clown of a president and foolish political party that cannot see that its emperor has no clothes, (3) that blacks have voted 90% Democratic ever since the Republican Party decided to use racism to win over southern white voters 40+ years ago and (4) that your pitiful attempts at deception are not going to convince me or any of those 90% who might understandably use much harsher language in response to your condescending and cheap-trick-ridden baloney - if any of them were wasting time around here. In contrast, your track record of "trading insults" on this website is unmistakable to any thinking follower of these comment boards.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Marx had a number of good and insighful ideas, but the damage done by the abuse of those ideas, and by his bad ideas, far exceeds the good done by the good ideas. Just my personal opinion - from various sources, including having travelled in a number of eastern European countries before and after 1989.

As for the rich-poor gap's explanatory power: it explains a lot in terms of international relations but very little in terms of "blue" vs "red" states within the U.S. In America, as you may realize having also lived elsewhere yourself, the rich often behave like cultural morons, and the poor mostly want to be rich. America, so far, has been too vast, too de-centralized, and too chaotically fluid for"class consciousness" to develop deep, lasting historical significance. I doubt, for example, that you could find a great statistical difference in income or wealth distribution between those who voted for Bush, Kerry and Nader.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

This is a serious and well-intentioned piece. Too bad it is based on a fundamental misconception: that "urban America is widely understood to be stuck on one side of a cultural gap". Actually, it is widely MISunderstood that the so-called "cultural gap" amounts to anything much more than the shallow sheep-like behavior of the dumbed-down U.S. news media.

One way to realize this is to travel abroad, and notice how the cultural differences between all of America most of the rest of this globalizing world far outweigh regional distinctions in America. A second realization is that great divide of the late 1960s, "love it or leave it" versus "change it or lose it", vanished with fall of Saigon, because it was more rhetoric than substance. A third aspect can be appreciated by reviewing the history of electoral maps and noting the malleable longevity of the two-party system. Fifty years ago, the Democrats had a solid base in what is now the bedrock of the “red states” AND in most of the urban ethnic zones.

To his credit, Mr. Bray attempts to resituate the dichotomy on historically more solid ground: the urban-rural divide. This won't really fly either. Most Americans are now suburbanites, culturally speaking.

To put it bluntly, the operative division is tripartite: between people too stupid to realize the disaster wreaked on the country by Dick Cheney, people too apathetic to give a hoot, and a "silent majority" that knows better "in their hearts" but has not yet found a consistent or convincing voice on the subject. It may ultimately be up to historians to do that. Meanwhile the proper role of the "academy" will remain to educate, not to engage in social engineering or in pandering to media fads.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I agree re the educational gap (see my earlier comments esp. the first).
On the other hand, "Left" and "Right" are (in today's political world) empty phrases used by empty minds. Better leave them to Heuisler and his less adept comrade Livingston.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

If any party getting a mere 48% of the national vote in a U.S. presidential election considered itself "no longer" a "truly national political party" and therefore gave up its national political ambitions, America would have been a one party state for most of its history. Maybe that is what Livingston really wants. If he even knows. On the other hand, perhaps by the time he learns how to spell "demographic" he might realize that if population growth were the key to human happiness, the best places in the world to live would be such future-looking paradises as Aceh, Saudi Arabia, and Rwanda. In the meantime, perhaps his ridiculous Europhobia could be eased if he were to stop speaking an "out-classed" "aging" "socialist" European language like English. Who knows, maybe he is actually literate in some other language like Mandarin.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Bashing gays, slashing taxes for the wealthy and social services for the poor, and sending Americans to die abroad in wars based on treasonous lies: these realities of Bush's Republican Party known to every African American are only part of the disastrous legacy of a tongue-twisted joke of a president. If you want to win black votes, Bill, you'll have to pull your head out of the sand and start building a clear alternative to the most incompetent Republican top dog since Warren G. Harding. Then your party can perhaps begin to slowly construct a new departure from the searing memory that the once Democratic "solid South" went Republican because of hateful racism against blacks. It is a tall order which allows little time for ignorant rants and historical mythmaking on HNN.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

If your long chickenfeed litany added up to anything of substance, black voters would have to be very ignorant indeed to continue voting 90% Democratic decade after decade. In reality, this pretend argument is typical of your demogagic and selective use of history for propaganda purposes. And typically non-credible to boot. Of course, blacks are conservative when it comes to family and religion. And you really think Cheney and Limbaugh and Enron and Fox News give a hoot about conservative values ? The bottom line is: if Republicans had been running the country in the 1960s, we quite possibly still might have segregated lunch counters, lynch-mob justice and disenfranchisement in the South. And Bush's juvenile blunders aren't doing jack for the long term prospects of Republicans with black voters. You haven't got a leg to stand on.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

"One of the limiting factors is time."
Another consideration might be diversity. Not diversity in the phoney program of incorporating more blacks merely because they are black, but diversity of thought. Possibly more attention might be paid to viewpoints, concerns, and employment to those that do not prescribe to the liberal, socialist dogma of the overwhelming numbers of academia.

Arnold Shcherban - 1/13/2005

As it becomes crystal clear from Mr Mahan's posts, everything left of KKK and Nazis is liberal and socialist
to him. Trying to play democracy supporter...
What a drag!

Arnold Shcherban - 1/11/2005

Mr Heuisler,

May I dare to give you one little advise?
You see the traditional rules and logic of polemics
is to forward one's arguments and respond to others'
counter-arguments, not ignoring the latter and covering
them with one's new arguments.

But I understand: that's how you manage to escape the
visible, material defeat.
Now, my response to your new "arguments".

I would be really delighted if you could talk dialectics, i.e. analyzing phenomena of nature and history in all their complexity, instead of tearing out separate (though maybe important) parts out of the live fabric of the phenomenon by that destroying the essence of the whole.

Alas, your response to my last comments, shows that not only you are as far from dialectics, as one can possibly be, but that an elementary logic and you are complete strangers.
First of all, no one here made any attempts to issue the apology to the murderous regimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other bloody Leftish dictators
and/or regimes.
On the other hand, only big-time crook can deny the enormous
scale of violence those “Marxists” submitted the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin,
(and other pundits of socialism and communism) to. The social and political structures those dictators imposed on their country-men had much less to do
with socialism (and nothing at all with communism) than today’s West European-style state capitalism and the British-style capitalism of the seventeen century.

I specifically emphasized the distinction between the socio-economic theoretization and its practical implementations by referring to "theoretical ideas", but of course, you as a loyal representative of the best tradition of American conservative thought, had to pretend that this distinction is outlandish to your intellectual facilities.
However, when someone tries to "repudiate" the advancement of the freedoms and democracy a-la-USA through the use of force continuously perpetrated by this country, "in the face of all deaths" and destruction caused by the latter, the distinction pops up by the military order: noble cause, with (at the best) regrettable "collateral damage", doesn't it?
Then the theoretical somehow remains theoretical and "noble" at that and cannot be repudiated on the reasons of any number of well-predictable, sometimes planned for, casualties/deaths.
To think differently is equivalent of committing, a crime, albeit intellectual; one against same ol' American intellectual tradition.

More of that, following your logic of blaming socio-economic theoretical structures for the crimes committed by the political leaders and their supporters who claimed their complete ideological loyalty to those structures,
one can easily accuse ideas of capitalism and private property for the crimes
Committed by Hitler and Nazis of capitalist Germany.
Can I timidly mention in the same regard the numerous crimes of British Empire,
French colonial rulers, and imperialist “mistakes” (‘crimes’ in international jargon) of the US, recently being reconstituted as moral and military victories
by the neocons in South-East Asia, Central and Latin America, not mentioning
horrific crimes by proxy all over the world.

It is mighty cynical of you to mention Pol-Pot (I would add Jeng-Sari), by wide
international opinion - the worst mass murderers of the twentieth century, whose
regime was overthrown not by the greatest fighter for human rights and democracy, always ready “to stand tall” facing the enemy of freedom, but by the
Vietnamese “Marxists” themselves, who immediately received fierce condemnation and the aggressor’s title for allegedly stealing the noble deed from the otherwise indifferent giant. Only at this point, hearing the sign of relief coming from the people of Cambodia, the noblest and “altruistic” of all started to provide support to... Khmer Rouge murderers.

Should I add that while absolute majority of those “demagogical” Left you Bill so passionately hate have been openly and decisively condemning the crimes
of their alleged ideological comrades for decades (though, along with the crimes of the US elite), the conservatives like yourself, stubbornly
and despite the overwhelming opinions of the international community refuse to
admit the respective crimes of the US managers even in the ‘mistake’ status?

Should I also mention that the so thoroughly “repudiated” ideas of socialism
are successfully working right now, in one form or another, all over the world,
within the capitalist socio-economical formations, in this very country, inclusive!?

If the ideas of socialism has died as soon first Kulak died in Ukraine, the
conservative ideas of world’s capitalism has been dead for much longer time,
since the first aborigen died of the bullets of British colonial gangsters,
thousands of miles away from the British territory.

Thanks Bill, it’s been a lot of fun.

Bill Heuisler - 1/10/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
Our disagreement about socialism and capitalism must be confined to history and historical events or we merely engage in dialectic. The history of capitalism is the history of the rise of individual freedom from the power of the guilds against monarchs through the Scottish enlightenment through the grand experiment of the US. On the other hand, many millions died during the failure of managed socialist economies in the Ukraine, China and Burma, to name only the worst.

On a scale of starvation, execution and forced famine there can be no comparison between the two systems. Do you defend Pol Pot's attempt at socialism, for instance?
Or perhaps Fidel Castro's version of the socialist dream?To use terms like, "religion-like axioms" in the face of recorded historical data of deliberate murders reduces our argument to absurdity. As for Chomsky, he's been a primary defender of Mao, Pol Pot and Minh's attempts at socialization - the starvation and murder of millions. He has written volumes about the crimes of capitalism, but never addresses the disparity in human lives lost.

Howard Zinn dislikes our free system. In January, 2001 he said, "It's a bad move for progressive organizations to tie themselves to the electoral system because the electoral system is a great grave into which we are invited to get lost. For progressive movements, the future does not lie with electoral politics. It lies in street warfare -- protest movements and demonstrations, civil disobedience, strikes and boycotts -- using all of the power consumers and workers have in direct action against the government and corporations. To sink too much of our energy into electoral politics is a mistake."

This breathtaking repudiation of freedom in the face of all the deaths in history when the socialist alternative has been tried reduces Zinn to a hopeless ideologue in my opinion. My point: the "theoretical social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin" are not theoretical and have not been theoretical since the first Kulak died of starvation.

It seems to me the divide must be between those who learn from history and those who do not.
Bill Heuisler

Arnold Shcherban - 1/10/2005

Mr. Heuisler,

<You've discovered the divide and apparently aren't aware.>

What is this supposed to mean???
That I've "discovered the divide" a couple of days, or
months ago?
And what am I not aware of?
Are you testing some "right" version of English on me?

Then, like in confirmation of my latter interpretation of the language you use, you write:
<The other half is far more personal. The rest? Blood and self interest.>

Whether "the rest" is equal to "the other half" remains a mystery... My best guess would be 'yes', since otherwise
"the rest" must constitute zero, nothing.
Even provided "the rest" is the other half, the rest of the quote, i.e. "blood and self-interest" remains undeciphered. I yet to find any explanation in your comments, whatever timid and indecisive it might have been, to what "blood and self-interest" have to do with
adherence of many intellectuals in this country to socialist ideas, "especially" those of Marx and Lenin.
I'm especially interested in: first - what do you mean by "blood" in that respect, and second - how is, whatever
your interpretation of "blood" means, it closely related
to the ideological statute of American intellectuals.

Moving further in your comments, I have to say that, moderately speaking, I'm not fond of some inflamed commentaries, say in the form of encouragement of terrorism, in general and killing of American and other nationals, in particular (and I mean 'terrorism' according to its definition by international community, not to the pundits of imperialism), regardless what direction those comments come from - Left or Right.(Despite the acknowleged fact that sometimes I made the comments that can be interpreted this way myself, which I apologize for.)
Those comments and their authors are wrong, as long as the comments in question are not torn out of the
context, in which they were to mean something else, by their ideological/political adversaries, nowadays, knowingly frequent phenomenon.
In fact, mentioned (and clearly hated by you) Chomsky or Zinn in their books, articles or public appearances related to Iraq's invasion, has never made any statements that can be fairly interpreted as encouragement of terrorism against this country or killing of US soldiers.
Only ideological "evildoers" can interpret their writings and speeches this way.
The pathos of their writings and public speeches in the mentioned regard can be very briefly summarized as the condemnation of terrorism perpetrated by anyone, INCLUDING this country's goverments and citizens and the
bright illustration given to this country propaganda's
and intellectual mainstream's double standards, concocted lies and apologies for its imperialist policies.

As far as your last "wonderism" goes, that was exactly the question I wanted to ask you and almost precisely in your terms: isn't it a real wonder
that given "the verdict of history", you emphasized our attention at, on Socialism, this "doctrine" remains to be "so powerful and enduring an influence over not only such inquiring and active mind like" mine, but over many millions of folks around the world, at the very least, thousands of which possessing much more imaginative and productive minds than you (may I say this?) and me.
Should I add that most of them got/get much more trouble, (putting aside most seriously endangering their lives),
than benefits in doing so, especially in countries with
big "deficiencies" in the sphere of human rights?
The real eighth wonder of the modern world, isn't it...
if the reactionary, capitalism-is-forever, non-scientific, religion-like axioms are applied to the analysis of the historical events.
Wait, may be this is the key to unraveling the miracle - the scientific and factual approach to the analysis of history!? Doesn't it immediately answers the question why
many bright, great analytical minds (the authors of these ideas inclusive) find theoretical social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin, so attractive, as opposed to, say, religion?

Bill Heuisler - 1/7/2005

Mr. Shcherban,
You've discovered the divide and apparently aren't aware.
The statement the "...intellectually ablest men living in big cities and teaching in the best Universities..." inhabit the Left is only half the story. The other half is far more personal. The rest? Blood and self interest.

A frequent contributor to Nation (can't recall his name) was interviewed yesterday on a radio talk show and he stated that he and most of his colleagues agreed with the University professor who sympathized with terrorists and called for a "thousand Mogadishus" right after 9/11. He further identified the Left in this country with Kramer, Becker, Cohen, Holmes and Flounders of organizations who support Ho Chi Minh, Castro, North Korea and terrorists now killing American soldiers in Iraq. Note how these countries and causes have a common hatred of freedom.
More specific: they share a hatred of individual freedom.

When you examine the doctrinaire hatred of freedom and Democracy exhibited by these tyrants of minds and bodies and their blind disciples on Left in this country led by the Chomskys, Zinns, Markowitzes, Coles and Foners, you can understand why people who wish to elect their own government and manage their own lives consider that very same grotesque professorial elite to be alien to their future well-being. And also why they vote in opposition.

Further, any organized group of thought that considers the death of American soldiers and Marines a vindication or a victory of sorts is abhorrant to me and to other millions of Americans who mourn those deaths and consider that kindred blood spilled for freedom and democracy.

The irony unseen by your, "intellectually ablest men" is that, were their fondest wishes to come true, they would be the first imprisoned and among the first against the very American walls they defile with their teachings. To paraphrase Keynes, I wonder how a doctrine so illogical and so dull as Socialism can - given the verdict of history - have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over an inquiring, active mind like yours.
Bill Heuisler

Oscar Chamberlain - 1/7/2005

I think your description of my colleagues is a bit over the top. As a group we do tend toward the left slope of the normal curve, but we're hardly socialist.

Otherwise I actually agree. People won't listen to us if we don't listen to them, and really listening means, at minimum, accepting the possibility that someone else knows something that we don't.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Peter Clarke might broaden his perspective of America if he spent more time traveling here at home in Red state areas rather than wasting his time in a decadent Europe committing demograhic suicide.

What Europeans have to say is largely irrelevant on the world stage, which is why European political & cultural elites are so resentful of the economic, political, military & cultural strength of the U.S., especially in comparison to a Europe in decline in its ability to project power abroad & in perhaps terminal decline demographically. Europe is out-classed not only by the U.S., but also on the economic scene by an Asia with far lower wage costs than Europe & that is increasingly more innovative technologically.

On the other hand, Europe should be an historian's dreamland, with its socialist economies & aging population it lives in the past. But America & Asia are the future of mankind.

For all Peter is correct to note that a half century ago the Democrats had a lock on most of today's Red states in addition to their alliance with big labor, a lock too on urban America. But, labor unions are sliding into oblivion, a relic of the past and following the moral advice of Hollywood & perhaps academics too the Democrats chose to abandon traditional American cultural values and as a consequence have recently lost election after election. Of course, another consequence has been that the Democratic Party having written off the dynamic in population growth & economics South for the forseeable future, can no longer reasonably be considered a truly national political party.

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

To understand that Bray's argument that the cultural divide in America is between urban & rural America is in error all one need do is look at the latest edition of the Red/Blue map. While it's true most urban areas on the map are colored blue & most rural areas are colored red, it is true too that some of the most rural areas in the country, norther Maine, northern Minnesota, & the Upper Peninusla of Michigan had most, but not all of their counties go for Kerry rather than for Bush. Contraywise, urban areas, counties, in Texas, Oklahoma,Utah, & Nebraska all went for Bush,

Arnold Shcherban - 1/6/2005


The pathos of my remarks targeted Bill Heuisler's blaming
"lemming Left..., since Marx and Lenin" for this country's
racial and cultural divide?! (see the quote at the start
of my original posting).
I just found his complaints in this regard most irrelevant, ridiculous and clearly ideologically motivated. Since I commonly stick to the topic of the discussion, I had no intention of invoking
the polemics about the validity of Marxist ideas, which you referred to.

You may be quite right about the lack of "great statistical difference in income or wealth distribution between those who voted for Bush, Kerry and Nader" in the last presidential election.
And you definitely right about the absence (on multiple reasons) of "lasting historical significance" of the "class consciousness" in the USA.

But Mr Heuisler was talking about the main cause of racial and cultural divide in this country, that consequently affected the results of recent elections and the overall socio-ideological climate, and so did I.
I suggested economic and financial gap as the
cause of racial and cultural divide because the 'divide'
in question apparently plays only insignificant role in social relations and ideological motivations of rich white
and non-white folks, while mostly manifesting itself in
presence of large economical and financial differences between those people.
We seemingly keep on forgetting that the latter 'divide'
had and still having multitude of direct and indirect consequences that might present a good account for the racial and cultural differences existing in this country, like access to better education and consequently better paying jobs, and then to richer cultural heritage and views of the world at large.
I clearly see at least one good explanation of urban and rural cultural differences: low, on average, educational
level of the habitants of rural areas comparing to urban
The fact that the intellectually ablest men living in big cities and teaching in the best Universities are mostly Left speaks for itself.
No high-brow neocon has been able to explain this fact
without resorting to logically absurd and factually rebuffed socio-psychological speculations.

Arnold Shcherban - 1/5/2005

<Cultural elites tend to live in the cities and their preference for the lemming Left has been endemic since Marx and Lenin. This self-destructive social pathology can only be partially explained as delusion.>

First of all, one has to be lazy or ignorant or ideologically evil-minded to blame Left (unless one define 'Left' as everybody left of KKK and Nazis), and especially Marx and Lenin for the racial
and cultural division (which, no argument, is real) in this country.
Its like blaming a doctor for diagnosing the deseases that
originated when the doctor hasn't been born yet.
Secondly, the extent of the influence of the real Left, i.e. socialist and communist, ideologies and ideals in this country has been so negligibly small, the fact which has been historically unmistakably reflected in the election processes and results on all levels of governance, that I really wonder whether it needs any arguments to be established (as it has been for along time).
This is, perhaps, the only country in the world, one can definitively state the latter about without stirring much of the controversy.

To be constructive, not just critical, let me throw in one possible 'divide' reason (that most of the polemists on this board are too idealistic to keep in mind in cases it can be applied to with unpredictable conclusions to follow): economical one.

Can that divide be partially atrributed to tremendous
and unprecedented for any other largely democratic societies financial, and, as a direct and indirect consequence, social gap between rich and relatively poor (by local, national standards) Americans, the gap, which continue to grow in the course of the last three decades?

Or is it so purely and clearly Marxist idea that it should be completely excluded from the discussion?

Bill Heuisler - 1/4/2005

Mr. Clarke,
As usual, you fill the ether with shallow opinion and silly pejoratives like "chickenfeed litany" and "pretend argument" in response to facts, names and actual issues. You don't even bother to counter assertions of fact with counter assertions. Please strain mightily and produce one small argument for a change. Please cite one Southern Democrat who furthered black aspirations. Please cite one Democrat initiative that has furthered the conditions of black individuals and black communities or added to the real quality of black life in inner cities. Defend Urban Renewal or Aid to Dependent Children. Please explain how false premises like minority set-asides or preferential hiring have accomplished anything for blacks except lowering their expectations while insulting them.

Your superficial opinions are less than useful in a discussion. Trading insults is a waste of time.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 1/4/2005

Mr. Clarke, is yours. You may hold certain beliefs in a tightly constricted world view, but black people have been poorly served since they gave their allegiance to FDR in the hope the Democrats would improve their lot.
Since the New Deal and Great Society the upwardly mobil black middle class has nearly disappeared, 70% of all black children are born out of wedlock, welfare has sapped the dreams and fortunes of four generations and every four years the Democrats promise to do something about Black people in America. Every four years.
But every four years it gets worse.

Roosevelt resisted civil rights for blacks, as did Kennedy and Johnson until Republican Congrssmen and Senators made that Democrat racism impossible. Even then, Civil Rights legislation was only passed with a majority of the minority party's votes and only after Republicans (Everett Dirkson for one) forced it to the forefront of the legislative calender over the objections of vaunted Democrats like Fulbright, Gore and Byrd.

Each time the Democrats have gained control of the Senate over the last twenty years they have elected an ex-KKK racist as Senate President. The new Democrat Minority Leader, Reid, cannot help himself, but must call the only black Supreme Court Justice an embarrassment and cites a Thomas dissent as poorly written "below 8th grade level" while praising Scalia's dissent on the very same matter
"excellent". Problem? There was no Scalia dissent on the matter cited and the Thomas dissent was well written and followed established tradition and citations. Most objective observers realize Reid is merely another Democrat racist raised to Party leadership.

Democrats favor abortion, oppose school vouchers and the Protection of Marriage Amendment. Three times as many black babies are aborted, on a percentage basis, than white babies. Blacks are held prisoner in poor schools without the right to choose and an overwhelming majority of blacks oppose gay marriage. Blacks tend conservative in matters of family and religion while the Democrat Party tends to promote the destruction of both.

Lastly, President Bush has appointed more blacks in Cabinet-level leadership positions than all the last four Democrat Presidents combined. These facts are apparent to any person who looks with an unjaundiced eye. They are also apparent to black voters. The reckoning is at hand.
Or do you think black voters are ignorant also?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 1/4/2005

The real divide in this country is cultural and racial, rather than rural and urban. Wouldn't a closer focus on the nature and identity of urban voters be productive? Cultural elites tend to live in the cities and their preference for the lemming Left has been endemic since Marx and Lenin. This self-destructive social pathology can only be partially explained as delusion.

But Blacks? Consider the contradictory nature of the overwhelming black vote for Democrats. Recall how the majority of Blacks were Republican pre-Roosevelt (MLK's father was a Republican). Were the black vote in the next decade to become reflective of their polled opinions on abortion, school vouchers and sexual conservatism, the Democrat Party would win no more elections.

Getting ten million, or (90%), of black voters keeps the Democrat Party alive. This anomoly should raise questions rather than set assumptions. My opinion? Soon the current black leadership - NAACP and pulpit - will see the real future and begin to make deals with Republicans rather than mock them. In '06 the end of a "blue" consensus will begin and the only blue voters will be cultural oddities.
Bill Heuisler

Oscar Chamberlain - 1/4/2005

You know, there is a pretty interesting idea here, even if the description of the gap is overly simplistic. Really, it's part of what we--and colleagues in other fields--should be doing, which is to strip away hyperbole, loook for the truth, and evidence respect for those who differ.

Of course to some extent we do it now. In fact, I think academic historians are rather better than their reputation (except, alas, for the prose). Still we need to do these things more often and in more public forums.

One of the limiting factors is time. One simple change to help that would be for departments to give more credit for outreach [community service, whatever} when making tenure decisions.

John H. Lederer - 1/4/2005

I think the urban rural divide is real. View the following map:

The heighth of the columns is the margin (in no. votes) of Kerry or Bush.

Though there are rural blue areas, and urban red areas, the overall picture is of a marked urban/rural split.

To a very real degree, the Democrats have become an urban party.Moreover, though the map doesn't show it, they are dependent on large majorities in cities to be competitive overall.