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I recently read an article by David French in which he postulated that our country is headed for something akin to a divorce. And some of the numbers he cites are astonishing. In 1992, only about 30 percent of the country lived in a "landslide" county, that is, a county in which the winner of that county in the presidential election won the county by 20 percentage points or more. In 2016, that number had jumped to almost 60 percent of the country.
It's not just that we believe what we believe with passion and conviction; it's that our convictions are so strong that we're increasingly willing to surround ourselves with only people who think the same way we do.
Consider a few, um, interesting neighborhoods in this great country of ours. The pacific northwest features Oregon, which was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use and to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. And, right next door to Oregon is Idaho, which had more counties give John McCain 80 percent of the vote in 2008 than there were counties that voted for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ... combined.
Or take Barack Obama's home turf itself, Illinois. The home of Abraham Lincoln is now home to the strictest gun laws in the country, as well as a Democrat machine the likes of which would make Huey Long or Frank Underwood jealous. And, right next door, is Indiana, the home of the current Vice President and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he signed into law.
Talk about your "irreconcilable differences." It's like seeing the moving van pull up next door, and then watching Tim Matheson, John Belushi, and the rest of the boys of "Animal House" hop out to start unloading.
And that's just if you're, say, Kentucky.
Of course, nothing we're all worked up over these days is as important as, oh, say, freeing the slaves, so, at least so far, nobody is likely to want to start shooting California to make their point.
Sorry - any time I can insult California, I take it.
So, I say, if that's the case, then let's start treating politics like a giant divorce proceeding. Stop it with the whole one-side-writes-a-whole-bill, then starts to bribe enough of its members to sign on, then tries to hammer it through both chambers thing. Sit down in a room with each sides' divorce lawyer, and divvy up the assets.
Imagine health care reform like this:
Republicans: We want tort reform - a limit on medical liability.
Democrats: Okay, well we're gonna need the pre-existing conditions.
R: Fine. Then we want insurance to cross state lines.
D: Okay. Then kids need to be able to stay on their parents' plans until they're 26.
R: Fine, but we're going to need visitations and we get the dog.
D: Whatever. I always hated that dog.
Obviously, the two parties, the two Americas, are now so far apart that there is very little reason to hope for compromise. So, if we're going to blithely abandon any pretense of being a melting pot, I say let's just embrace the idea of making a big old salad and forcing everybody to choke it down, all together.
In fact, you don't really even have to do it strictly by party - you could do it by region. For instance, regarding immigration, New England could have relaxed requirements for Ph.D candidates, while the Industrial Midwest could have protections for manufacturing, the Deep South and the Plains could have open seasonal labor movement, the Mountain states could get strict enforcement with deportations, the Southwest could get some form of economic refugee status to help out, and, I guess, the Pacific Coast could, get, I don't know ... more legal marijuana.
I know that's a pretty bad take on a lot of regional stereotypes, and I apologize for that, but it makes a point: as painful as it is to admit, it's hard to imagine an American household any more.
So, let's decide: stay together for the kids' sake? Or start to hire lawyers?
Because lawyers always make things better.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com
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