Monday, November 29, 2004
From Alternet, Blue Islands, Red Seas: Weve all seen the map of the 2004 presidential election, with the "three coasts" of blue states parted by the red sea of conservatism. Thats fine and good if we simply want to understand electoral politics on a state-by-state basis. Trouble is, thats not an accurate way to understand what happened on Nov. 2.
The real great American divide is not between the red and blue states, it is between urban and rural America.
The way I would express it: there is a cultural difference between urban and rural America. I hear all the time about the "malling" of America, the appearance of the same identical stores from town to town creating a bland sameness of shopping and brand names. I also hear about the smoothing out of regional differences when everyone watches the same TV programs and news through cable and satellite. But I don't think these things actually create or sustain cultural experience and propagation. That happens day to day, face to face.
Although people, urban and rural, may watch many of the same TV shows, the individual interpretation of these shows comes from a cultural context and background. Someone living in the country may have a church, not just as a place they go on Sunday mornings, but also as their major social outlet/center. Perhaps they also go to Bible study group on Friday, put their children in Sunday school for religious education, etc. I'm not trying to make this into a Christian or religious thing, it was just the easiest example for a rural cultural center.
This is part of what I think George Lakoff is getting at when he says people don't necessarily vote their interests (economic, etc.) but they vote their identity (peer group, core beliefs, etc.)
In this way, different groups perceive things differently. So some people can watch, say, Will & Grace and see a fairly ordinary situation comedy. Others may see it as a breakthrough in gay visibility on network TV. Others still may see it as forcing homosexual values on ordinary people. Same sitcom, different perceptions.