Depending on which poll you believe, the gap between stentorian frontrunner John Kerry and struggling incumbent George W. Bush is somewhere between seven points (LA Times) or two points (FoxNews). In any case, following the more important swing state polls reveals we're pretty much headed for another neck-and-neck Presidential race in November - and, we read all the time, we've never been more divided as a society between the reds (conservatives, ironically enough) and the blues (liberals).
But wait a minute. Although the reds and blues I know disagree passionately about the merits of George W. Bush - regular readers of this blog know it's Bush lovers Fitz and Tom K. vs. liberales Bruce, Ralph, and Chervokas - do we really disagree so much about the key issues of our day aside from the embarassing, prestige-losing, lets-send-the-lower-middle-class-kids-to-die-for-Vietnam-dodging-oil-plutocrats Iraq disaster?
A fascinating piece in today's New York York Times (a blue newspaper that kisses red ass) argues that the great American center is not only holding, it's expanding, despite the hyberbolic vitriol. John Tierney's article is a must-read for combatants on both sides, and he argues pursuasively that it's the parties that have grown farther apart, not the people in them:
Just because a state votes red or blue in a presidential election doesn't mean that its voters are fixed permanently on one side of a political divide or culture gap. The six bluest states in 2000, the ones where George W. Bush fared worst - Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut and Maryland - all have Republican governors. Even California went red last year when Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, became governor. Most voters are still centrists willing to consider a candidate from either party, but they rarely get the chance.
Tierney points to the work of scholars Morris P. Fiorina of Stanford, Samuel J. Abrams of Harvard and Jeremy C. Pope of Stanford, who point out that:
Majorities in both places support stricter gun control as well as the death penalty; they strongly oppose giving blacks preference in hiring while also wanting the government to guarantee that blacks are treated fairly by employers. They're against outlawing abortion completely or allowing it under any circumstances, and their opinions on abortion have been fairly stable for three decades. Virtually identical majorities of Blues and Reds don't want a single party controlling the White House and Congress.
Funnily enough, this argument holds true for the warring parties on this Weblog - we argue viciously over the lack of leadership of the President, the Iraq adventure, and the success or failure of each party. But we never argue about the key social issues. Is that why liberal Republicans keep getting elected? Could that be because we agree?