Barack Obama’s re-election: A country divided | The Economist
I said I didn’t know. But it’s certainly not a silly question. A recent broadcast of “This American Life”, which focused on people who have lost close friends in recent years over politics, seemed to capture the mood pretty accurately. One sequence portrayed a student with a life-threatening pre-existing condition that until recently rendered him uninsurable, who has stopped talking to a conservative friend who refuses to support ObamaCare because he said it felt as though the friend didn’t value his life. A conservative man describes being unable to continue talking to a former friend who supports a president he is convinced is destroying the country. Two sisters can’t agree on who is being rude and condescending to whom after a furious falling-out over political philosophy.
Barack Obama has just won re-election, but America remains a country bitterly divided, as it has been for well over a decade. The divide is simultaneously very narrow in numerical terms, and gaping in ideological or partisan terms. This is what strikes one most strongly looking back at America from across an ocean: the country seems repeatedly embroiled in savage 51-49 electoral campaigns, and it seems to be increasingly paralysed by irresolvable rancour between right and left.
And think about it for a second: this is bizarre. If Americans are in fact divided between two extremely different political ideologies, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if each of those philosophies were to hold the allegiance of nearly equal blocs of support. That situation ought not to be stable. Adherence to these two ideologies ought to shift enough just due to demographics that the 50-50 split should deteriorate. And yet the even split seems to be stable. What’s going on?