According to a NY Times article that appears today (November 4, 2016, “Voters Express Disgust Over U.S. Politics in New Times/CBS Poll”), roughly half of Republicans feel that the Trump candidacy has been a disservice to their party, and they would have preferred a different candidate. Think about that, seriously.
The Republican Party represents about 28% of the electorate so half of them equal about 15% of the voting public. That means a severe minority can find a way to make their candidate the party nominee and potentially, elect him or her the president of the United States! That is precisely the kind of situation that brought a Nazi maniac to power in Weimar Germany. The more divided we are as a people, the more possible and likely it is that some awful travesty will befall us as a nation, and if us, the world.
In another shocking article, also today and also in the NYT (“How Large Is the Divide Between Red and Blue America?”), it was revealed that in 2012 half of all voters lived in a county that voted in a landslide (by 20% or more) for a Republican or Democrat presidential candidate. It is believed that our divide will be even wider this time around.
In other words, since 1992 the proportion of people living in landslide counties has increased from 38% to 50%, which says we are becoming more and more divided. People are self-segregating as never before. The bluest counties represent only 7% of the landmass while the reddest counties own 47%, and yet that blue 7% holds 90 million votes to the red 70 million votes. The article points to a fascinating profile of our divide.
Still, we need to remember the reality on the ground is different than the statistics. Take Kansas, as fiercely “Red” as any state and yet, in 2012, Obama received about 430,000 votes out of roughly one million. While Romney received 250,000 more votes than Obama, nearly 40% of the people living in that very red state voted for Obama. But then again, reflecting the self-segregating nature of our divide, most of those Obama voters lived in two counties on the eastern edge of the state.
We need to fix this reality. We need to build bridges not ignite fires.
Ten to fifteen percent of the population is enough to start a wildfire of division and animosity that will engulf all of us, so the rest of us have to work together to dampen the heat and form common bonds with people we do not agree with, and as it turns out, do not live near.
For the past twenty years I have been living in reddish or purplish enclaves of very blue states, and it has reminded me that while the statistical divide is true, the reality on the ground offers an opportunity for those living in and around one another to bridge the gap.
To be honest, I am not sure how to do that except by intention, will, and grit. I do know that forming bonds across the gap is likely the only thing that will save us from a horrendous political future. I also know that we cannot count on the news media to be helpful because its self-interest is in attention-getting, explosive headlines and reporting. The Internet and social media, in addition to face-to-face relationship building, will be the means by which we touch one another.