It is time to confront the unhappy
fact about our country: There are now two Americas. Not a rich one and a poor
one; economic status plays little role in this division.
There is a red one and a blue one.
For most of my life I have
believed, in what I now regard as wishful thinking, that the right and left
wings have essentially the same vision for America, that it's only about ways
to get there in which the two sides differ. Right and left share the same ends,
That is not the case. For the most
part, right and left differ in their visions of America and that is why they
differ on policies.
Right and the left do not want the
The left wants America to look as
much like Western European countries as possible. The left wants Europe's
quasi-pacifism, cradle-to-grave socialism, egalitarianism and secularism in
America. The right wants none of those values to dominate America.
The left wants America not only to
have a secular government, but to have a secular society. The left feels that
if people want to be religious, they should do so at home and in their houses
of prayer, but never try to inject their religious values into society. The
right wants America to continue to be what it has always been – a
Judeo-Christian society with a largely secular government (that is not
indifferent to religion). These opposing visions explain, for example, their
opposite views concerning nondenominational prayer in school.
The left prefers to identify as
citizens of the world. The left fears nationalism in general (this has been
true for the European left since World War I), and since the 1960s, the American
left has come to fear American nationalism in particular. On the other side,
the right identifies first as citizens of America.
The left therefore regards the
notion of American exceptionalism as chauvinism; the United Nations and world
opinion are regarded as better arbiters of what is good than is America. The
right has a low opinion of the U.N.'s moral compass and of world opinion, both
of which it sees as having a much poorer record of stopping genocide and other
evils than America has.
The left is ambivalent about and
often hostile to overt displays of American patriotism. That is why, for
example, one is far more likely to find American flags displayed in Orange
County, Calif., on national holidays than in liberal neighborhoods in West Los
Angeles, Manhattan or San Francisco.
The left subscribes to the French
Revolution, whose guiding principles were "Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity." The right subscribes to the American formula, "Life,
Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." The French/European notion of
equality is not mentioned. The right rejects the French Revolution and does not
hold Western Europe as a model. The left does. That alone makes right and left
The left envisions an egalitarian
society. The right does not. The left values equality above other values
because it yearns for an America in which all people have similar amounts of
material possessions. This is what propels the left to advocate laws that would
force employers to pay women the same wages they pay men not only for the same
job but for "comparable" jobs (as if that is objectively
ascertainable). The right values equality in opportunity and strongly believes
that all people are created equal, but the right values liberty, a man-woman
based family and other values above equality.
The left wants a world – and
therefore an America – devoid of nuclear weapons. The right wants America to
have the best nuclear weapons. The right trusts American might more than universal
The left wants to redefine marriage
to include same-sex couples for the first time in history. The right wants gays
to have equal rights, but to keep marriage defined as man-woman. This, too,
constitutes an irreconcilable divide.
For these and other reasons, calls
for a unity among Americans that transcends left and right are either naive or
disingenuous. America will be united only when one of them prevails over the
other. The left knows this. Most on the right do not.