The Nature Of Our Divisions

I was among those who breathed a big sigh of relief at the results of the French election, and the defeat (once again) of far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen. (I also worried, along with many others, about the fact that–despite the very comfortable margin of Macron’s win–  Le Pen increased her vote from former match-ups.)

Among the various news reports and opinion pieces describing the French election results was a column in the Washington Post that got to the essence of the challenge faced not just by the French, but by all Western democracies. 

A center-left leader can be a champion of tolerance, a force to fight climate change and an advocate for an agenda that a majority of voters favor. But they must do so while facing deep divisions between urban and rural populations, between religious and secular voters and between the well-educated and less-educated. That makes it virtually impossible for competent, well-intentioned leaders to fend off constant criticism from a 24/7 media or to withstand fierce opposing factions and cynical voters.

And there it is.

Commenters to this blog will point out–accurately–that not every rural voters is a bigot or a MAGA fanatic, and that is absolutely true.  It’s also true that not every urban resident is a progressive voter. Overall, however, it is undeniably the case that rural America is Red and urban America is Blue.

It is patently unfair to accuse all religious voters of being Christian Nationalists; I have several good friends among the Christian Clergy who are liberal–or, as we might once have labeled them, advocates of the Social Gospel. That said, they aren’t the ones leading the charge to discriminate against gay and transgender youth. They aren’t looking askance (or worse) at Muslim or Jewish Americans. My friends’ churches aren’t among the concerning numbers of Evangelical congregations encouraging acceptance of the “Big Lie,” and insisting that only White Christians are “real Americans.”

I’d also be one of the first people to argue that education and intellect are not the same thing. (Education and job training aren’t the same thing either.) I think of my mother, who bitterly regretted not having been able to go to college; like many others who lacked that experience, she was widely-read, well-informed and highly intelligent. But again, when we look at the population at large, we find statistically-significant differences between people who have and have not been introduced to logic, to respect for evidence (and an understanding of what does and does not constitute evidence), and to the intellectual inheritance of humankind. Educated people are–on average– more likely to recognize complexity and connection, more likely to understand the role of culture and the consequences of systemic forms of discrimination.

If these are the fault-lines of today’s political environment–and I think they are–what are the challenges that situation poses for political leadership? What is the result when more than a third of a country comes from the ranks of those who see governance in terms of culture war and personal loss, rather than an exercise in effective management of the infrastructure of the state?

First, a politician who considers it their job to solve problems, as opposed to channeling anger and fanning cultural resentment, will rarely receive credit for achieving half or even three-quarters of a loaf. No matter how well the president helps the country recover from the recession, how many jobs are created on their watch or how effective an international leader they become, anything less than perfect will be met with unforgiving criticism. The temptation to paint a president as a loser is overwhelming for allies who are disappointed with the results. This is made worse in a media environment that thrives on conflict and a political environment in which the opposition party is unwilling to give credit for any achievement. Therefore, one can expect few, if any constructive problem-solvers on the center left enjoying high approval ratings.

In France, center-left Macron won, despite polling in the low 40s.  He did that by making the case that the alternative was a rightwing, unhinged, grievance-mongering opponent. As the linked column noted, the French were not particularly enamored with Macron– but given the “binary choice between him and Le Pen,” most French voters opted for competence and sanity.

The key to escaping fascism in the U.S. is to ensure that enough educated, urban, secular voters understand that the election is between democracy and authoritarianism; between free markets and crony capitalism, and between genuine religious freedom and Christian nationalism–and then getting enough of those voters to the polls.


  1. Sheila… this is so spot on, I read it twice. I might add there is an abundance of our population who refuse to become more educated on whatever topic and likely on both sides of an issue. We’ve arrived at a place where anything different from how we currently believe is “wrong” and those trying to challenge present thought are evil. Thus we see many in our country who view higher education as one of our problems, not a solution to them.

  2. The poster-boy for misunderstood and maligned US presidents has to be Jimmy Carter whose life and efforts exemplify the true Christian principles in American culture. He is an American hero without the cape and bodysuit; a shining example of what it means to be an humanitarian with the ironclad determination of any of the Marvel magazine cartoons.

  3. That is some good propaganda from the WaPo. It’s almost like they are making a case to vote for Biden, who has done nothing for the people who went to the polls for him two years ago. Even worse, he’s thrown the people under the bus so his campaign contributors and owners can profit from a destabilized Eastern Europe. Bravo!

    But at least he’s not a bigot. There’s that.

    Once again, the “greatest nation in the world for now” will offer up two despicable choices for POTUS. Bravo! The people continue losing while the Oligarchy gets what they want.

    The Oligarchy’s propaganda media can’t even make that palatable to anybody with a critical brain. I don’t see Blue going to the polls in November if we can survive Nuclear Joe.

    And the economic tsunami heading our way along with a war with China will wipe out all chances for Joe and the Dems in 2024.

  4. Todd, that you could even compare Biden and Trump as the same sort of “despicable “ tells me all I need to know about you. This sounds like the same Bernie or Bust pablum that, well, busted, and got us four years of Trump.
    Some extremists apparently can’t learn.

  5. 2 positive comments and then negative ts showed up
    I think SK was referring to his bs ilk

  6. For all of you who have been calling for a third party to end the problems with our two party system (while forgetting the other two parties on our ballots); we now have an unofficial third party, Trump’s White National MAGA party, the small number of the idle and silent remaining staunch Republican party and the Democratic party. Whatever the outcome of the November 8, 2022 mid-term election; how will the two unofficial GOP parties vote in 2024. We know they won’t vote for any Democratic presidential candidate so how divisive will that election be and how will it be decided? Millions voted for Libertarian and Green Party candidates in 2016 and in 2020 rather than the choices we had; that division cost us heavily in 2016. Trump is still crying “Wolf”; as we should expect any “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to cry.

    President Biden is following the rules and the laws of this country; he is upholding his Oath of Office, dotting all “i”s and crossing all “t”s and the deeply embedded “Corleone” family is still in control from their minority position because of the divisive Manchin faction which is overruling Chuck Schumer’s leadership position.

    I am an UNeducated high school dropout with a GED, SUBurban, old white woman with no religious affiliation but aware of a higher power, whatever form it takes, living on my barely above poverty level income and I fight to get people to understand what is actually going on in this country’s bull-headed run toward fascism. I am donating to Democratic candidates in other states to try to increase the slim Democratic majority across this nation and at the federal level.

    Anita was correct in her observation of this country’s misunderstanding and maligning of President Jimmy Carter. I have asked before and will ask again; what is the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, etc., version of “Christian” values. Trump and his bunch have dirtied and bastardized the entire Christian religion; we are fighting to save democracy, civil and human rights, NOT Christianity.

  7. I wonder how this group feels about the Ministry of Truth? Pres. Obama and Biden seem to favor it; Pres. Trump says he would get rid of it.

  8. I know many uneducated college graduates and many very well educated high school graduates. Some seem to believe that it should be easy to make the changes they see as being necessary to living a good life. Change, however isn’t that simple unless you live under a government that is totally controlled by one party or one dictator. You probably won’t get the change you want, but you will get change quickly based on the whims of those in power. Over the past few days, I have seen interviews with people who think Biden can protect Roe. He can’t. Right now it takes 218 Representatives and 60 Senators plus Biden, but since Biden is being blamed for inflation, pandemic deaths, and stock market declines, why not blame him for this, too?

  9. Some who comment on this blog regularly seem to take pleasure in pissing everyone else off. I think it is better to ignore him. Maybe he will go away.

  10. Gordon, by calling the new group that Homeland Security is putting together to attempt to find and stop disinformation coming from foreign entities “the Ministry of Truth,” you are being disingenuous at best. We have all wished for a way to stop the junk from coming to our desktops and laptops. Homeland is grasping at ways to fix a problem. It probably won’t work, but it is a first step. Do you have a better proposal? I’m listening.

  11. Gordon,

    For one to monitor disinformation, one must start at a place of truth. The last honest journalist who held the US government accountable has been tortured by the US/UK governments for over a decade.

    We also know that the US government has been influencing Big Tech to censor and demonetize truth-seeking journalists who have left the establishment platforms where the Oligarchic-controlled editors and publishers control the message.

    Therefore, the “Disinformation Board” is just another scam cooked up by the puppet government in Washington, especially, the Military-Industrial Complex. They don’t want any “dissenters” of wars they cook up to make profits from selling weapons of destruction. Both the Dems and GOP are lapdogs of the MIC and their media.

    Dissenters beware as only war propaganda will be allowed. Order your flags today on Amazon.

  12. OK.. Sheila pointed out that there are lots of people that don’t go along with the racism, and cronyism and that things are never so black and white. So are those people they standing silently by and not voting? Are they still voting for Republican candidates because they are not Democrats?

    We did 4 years of crazy and I personally hope to never see that again. I suspect the people of France saw what happened in the US, and while a good number of the French believed the hype, lies, and the fear mongering, a larger number saw enough of what happened in the US to avoid that trap.

    When any political group gets so radical that do things that hurt their own constituents just to prove a point, they (see: Florida and the Mickey Mouse slap-down, or Anti-Mask, or Anti-Vax) they have beyond sane and rational.

  13. Another perspective is of the whys behind the whats. It might be useful to some of us.

    Why the difference between urban and rural? Urban life on the average reveals diversity every day. Urban life in many cases involves going to work in large multinational corporations doing modern knowledge society work using global networked computers and travel and frequent communication with those whose English is their second (or 10th) language.

    Rural life is, in more ways, unchanged from life decades ago. The same families, the same community, the same uniformity of people, places and conversations. What many know of cities they know primarily through entertainment media and some travel and both reveal what they hate about cities.

    Rural culture is threatened by Urban culture but Urban life is naturally multicultural so the opposite is not true.

    The Republican electorate is centered in rural America so the party maintains its political hold on the promise of using the force of government to lock in rural culture. This of course would make the country more at odds with the direction the world has been going for quite awhile now but builds rural internal comfort. Governing culture is at odds with both what government should do and is effective at doing. In fact our vaunted freedom of religion was early recognition that government and culture have to be disconnected.

    The Democrat electorate is centered in urban America so they maintain their political relevance by the promise of multicultural freedom for diverse people. This is the way the world is going in modern times.

    Apparently this tension between the old and the new, from local to global, from personal to technical, has gone global.

  14. It always seemed to me that Archie Bunker was rural America forced to live urban. Edith too. Meathead and Gloria were born in the city so never noticed or honored any of what Archie constantly ranted about.

  15. Given the direction of the SCOUTS the US is on a path toward fascism. Don’t like saying so but the US will no longer be a democracy in a few years, just one in name only.

  16. For those who may have read a bit more about the French election. They had a large number of what they call “abstains”…not voting. This is becoming larger and larger here, especially in primaries (allowing the most extreme candidates to win) and in off-year elections. They also had a large number of “white sheet votes” – in France you can show you want “none of the above” by voting a blank ballot.

    The Ohio primary this week may be a preview of the rest of ’22 elections, more GOP voters, fewer DEM voters. The GOP are TOGETHER – angry and angrier/crazy (MAGAs). The DEMS – a few crazed progressives and the rest turned off politics. The “independents”… also turned off.

  17. Dont like saying this, But am afraid Stan is correct. Even the word Democracy it self is trying to be erased. Republic?

  18. How do you get rid of Rot?

    When there is disease and or infection in the body, it’s either treated by antibiotics, or surgically removed. Or, the body is medicated enough so that death will not be overwhelmingly harsh and cruel.

    Three choices, two of them can possibly repair the status quo if they work, the other, brings about the end of the body! And what happens after that death? Probably nothing good!

    If a government allows religious freedom, it absolutely cannot allow one particular religion to become a sponsor of secular government. At that point a government would cease to be secular and become Theocratic or a theocracy.

    Eventually that government would mandate subservience to that particular religious dogma, and, the banning of other religious viewpoints even in the home. This is already happening in Russia! It’s already happening in China!

    Religion can be based on anything that is revered or worshiped. Money, Flags, Individuals (athletes, entertainers, the wealthy, the influencers, the famous that are famous because they are famous) 🤨, dogmas, even nut jobs! All of this corrupts morality, all of this corrupts the conscience.

    But, where does the conscience come from and, the veil of free will?

    Bioethics? Socratic philosophy? Intuition? Cultural representations? Empiricism? Sigmund Freud’s superego? Historical injustice? Personal entitlement? A Faustian bargain, LOL!? An innate feeling of freedom and responsibility? Determinism? Libertarianism (universal indeterminism), compatibilism (Aristotle), St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, (theological omnipotence), modern compatibilism (Hobbes), causation (Hume), contemporary compatibilism, metaphysical (Chisholm).

    A lot of ideas about conscience and free will, most circulate back to metaphysical!

    So, how to correct an issue of conscience or free will when there are so many opinions on the subject? Short answer, it will not voluntarily happen. (Aaahh, the freedom to do or not to do)! How do you herd cats?

    So, a suggestion would be to write your leader, the president, and everyone tell him to stop what’s happening! He has the power to do it! Will he? It might be a matter of his conscience and his conscience might not reconcile with yours.

    When you’re dealing with disease/infection, as was mentioned at the beginning, you can’t delay, and you can’t wait on something miraculous to happen. Action has to be taken. Otherwise, the body dies!

  19. “The key to escaping fascism in the U.S. is to ensure that enough educated, urban, secular voters understand that the election is between democracy and authoritarianism; between free markets and crony capitalism, and between genuine religious freedom and Christian nationalism–and then getting enough of those voters to the polls.”

    That is why Biden has to take to the hustings, and work that message!

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