The Great Divide

I imagine most of you watched tonight’s health-care speech. My first day back at work was a long one, and so I missed almost all of it; I’ll have to find a transcript. From the post-mortems I did see on the news channels it seems the central issues linger, including perhaps the most central of all: how on earth is all this to be paid for? The notion, for example, that in order to cover new costs we will squeeze $9 trillion out of Medicare by trimming fat without reducing services is obviously a vaporous fantasy, but seems to be part of the plan.

As has been the case throughout, both sides seem far more interested in ideological purity than practical problem-solving, and have busied themselves setting up straw-man caricatures of each other’s positions. Sarah Palin, for example, did nobody any favors by coining the ghoulish term “death panels”; the Democrats, in return, deny reality by pretending that in amongst a vastly expanded national health-care bureaucracy there will be no government panels making life-and-death decisions about allocation of resources. I am not about to rehearse here the many valid concerns that conservatives have about this initiative, but there are indeed a great many of them, and they are not all, despite Democratic protestations to the contrary, rooted in corporate greed and calumnious falsehoods. And there are a great many things that I think indeed ought to be done that could be agreed upon by almost everyone; I certainly wouldn’t suggest that things are just fine as they are, and I don’t think anyone is.

What has struck me most of all, recently, in American politics, is not only how very polarized we are — how deeply the Right and the Left in this country differ in their view of what this country ought to be — but, in particular, how very evenly divided we are. Congressional power seesaws back and forth, but in poll after poll, on issue after issue, we seem split almost exactly in half.

Why, I wonder, should that be?

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  1. Kevin Kim says

    Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, as most of us have convinced ourselves of the rightness of the “two-party” system. Who knows?


    Posted September 10, 2009 at 1:09 am | Permalink
  2. JK says

    This may be overly simplistic but I consider demographic-geography has quite a bit to do with it. But like Kevin, “Who knows?”

    It is curious.

    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Well, as for geography, one remarkable recent example took place entirely within the state of Minnesota, where the Senate race came down to a few tens of votes out of millions.

    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  4. Jack says

    rural vs. urban? maybe an even demographic divide?

    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  5. JK says

    Good point. I suppose we could ask former Governor Ventura about that.

    Of course that takes nothing away from the curiousness of that seeming 50/50 something split. Perhaps curiouser, I found myself recently engaged in debate (an online local newspaper – Southern US) and found that while nearly all agreed “Houston, we have a problem” the most vicious comments came from the anti-changers. Strangely (perhaps) my best guesstimate was that of that group 95% were on Medicare, VA or both. The[ir] main objection was “We don’t want government controlling our healthcare choices.”

    Disclosure – I recognize a need for change – but I’ve not a clue (except, in part, perhaps a ban on pharmaceutical advertising) on how best to achieve it.

    Posted September 10, 2009 at 11:11 pm | Permalink