“We have met the enemy and he is us,” said Pogo, a cartoon critter located, with his pals, in the Okefenokee swamps in Louisiana. While this quote appeared in Walt Kelly’s cartoon strip during the 1970s, it was never more true than in today’s on-going political and social events. The country has never been more divided in the nearly 150 years since the Civil War ended. As a result, consequences adversely affecting our economy and and society as a whole are multiplying on a daily basis due to our highly polarized and dysfunctional government. And this polarized government merely reflects the deep divisions and fault lines that have developed among the citizenry of this country. Unless some leadership rises to the forefront that has a uniting ability to bring us together, we are becoming the divided states of America.
Let’s take a gander at some of these fault lines. Red states, those that reliably and consistently vote Republican, exist throughout the entire south, except, perhaps, for Northern Virginia and Florida. Red states also exist in parts of the mid-west and west, such as Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana. Blue states, those that more often vote Democratic, are situated primarily in the northeast, and west coast, along with several in the mid-west such as Ohio and Illinois. The problem is that there is a world of difference between the political, social and religious views of majorities in the Red and Blue states. Red state majorities are becoming more religiously fundamentalist, and politically right-wing in their views of American society. The tea party’s primary political clout comes mostly from southern Red states. Their extremism is made obvious in issues that were once thought to be settled policy, but are now up for grabs. For example, a woman’s right to obtain birth control pills, an issue thought to be firmly established by the early 1960s, suddenly became a big deal in the 2012 election. Also, Red states have been establishing more and more stringent abortion rules, to the point where it’s getting almost impossible for women in Mississippi or Texas or other Red states to obtain legal abortion services. The quest to overturn Roe V. Wade is a driving force among and Red state partisans.
Red states are also circumventing the Voting Rights Act of 1964 by enacting new barriers for the poor and minorities to cast their ballots. Knowing that these groups usually vote Democratic, Red states are now requiring that potential voters obtain photo IDs before being registered. Since many poor can’t afford cars, and thus don’t have a driver’s license, (the only photo ID I have in my wallet) the effort to cast one’s vote can become exceedingly difficult. But, a primary tactic, if you belong to the tea party, in keeping the “riff-raff” out of the voting booth, and assuring that Red states remain solidly red. The culture wars are also a casualty of the Red state-Blue state divide. While many, if not most Blue states have legalized gay marriage, almost all Red states are fighting gay rights and marriage, tooth-and-nail. In Red state country, homosexuality is still among the deepest of sins and an abomination. This past summer, the CEO of Chick-Fil-A, a fried chicken chain located mostly in the south and mid-west, likened approval of gay rights to punching God in the face. If we don’t change our ways, he warned, God will wreck his vengeance on this country. To show solidarity with that kind of thinking, this past summer, hundreds, if not thousands, of like-minded customers, lined up for hours in front of Chick-Fil-A outlets to gobble down some greasy fried chicken.
The worsening of the political, social, religious, and cultural chasms afflicting our country came to a boiling point in the latest government shutdown we all experienced. Led by Red state tea-partiers in the Senate, and, especially, in the House, Republicans were quite willing to have the government cease functioning unless the President agreed to defund his signature health care legislation. This political suicide mission was led by Senator Ted Cruz, the recently elected tea-party favorite from, of course, Texas. The son of Rafael Cruz, who fought with Fidel Castro to overthrow the Batista regime in Cuba; but who, subsequently fell out of favor with Castro and fled to the U.S. To atone for supporting Castro in the first place, Rafael established a large fundamentalist, evangelical church in Texas which he runs to this day. He also imbued son Ted with a deep hatred of secular, all-powerful government, to the point where Senator Ted equates the Obama administration to the regime run by Castro in Cuba. Thus, Senator Cruz’s kamikaze mission to defund and destroy Obamacare.
Of course, this tea party effort has been greatly abetted by unbelievable Democratic ineptitude. An overly clumsy piece of legislation to begin with, but with 3 years to prepare, the rollout of Obamacare on-line has been a mind-bogling nightmare. Administration sloppiness in implementing this Act is, in effect, the Democrats doing the Republicans dirty work for them. Perhaps the Democrats will finally get their act together, and create a reasonable, glitch-free on-line site, where, in the near future, people that are uninsured, can actually obtain reasonably priced health insurance. Don’t hold your breath, however.
Of course, tea-party Republicans, (most are now, especially in the House) will keep coming like the charge of the light brigade, that I wrote about previously, to destroy Obamacare and the rest of the President’s political agenda. Even if it’s a similar suicide mission. The agreement to re-open the government has an expiration date come January, when Washington, once again gets to put its fiscal follies on stage. Meanwhile the political, social, religious, and cultural values dividing this country, grow deeper and more entrenched. Nothing good can ever come of that.