by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina often spoke of “two Americas”: the haves and have-nots. We Republicans hooted at this. Edwards seemed to be saying that half the country was in dire straits. In the middle of the Great Depression, FDR had spoken of only a third! (“Ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.”)
Edwards lost the nomination to another senator, John Kerry of Massachusetts. But Kerry made him his running mate. At the Republican convention in New York, Rudy Giuliani, the ex-mayor of that city, had a little fun with the Democratic ticket. Kerry liked to take two positions on issues, Giuliani said. “Maybe this explains John Edwards’s need for two Americas.” We laughed our heads off.
Some of us aren’t laughing now. The country is clearly divided, though not between haves and have-nots: There are rich, poor, and in between on either side. The country is divided between “red” and “blue,” “conservative” and “liberal,” Fox and CNN, etc. We are divided not just by culture and politics, but also by geography. Those of like mind tend to live together. Americans are hived off.
In 1980, there were about 400 “landslide counties” — counties in which one presidential candidate walloped the other. Votes from those counties accounted for 4 percent of the total. In 2020, there were about 1,700 landslide counties, whose votes accounted for 35 percent of the total. …
… An expert on all this is David French, a writer and editor at The Dispatch, formerly of National Review. He is the author of a new book, Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation. …
… “It’s time for Americans to wake up to a fundamental reality,” he says in the first sentence of his book: “The continued unity of the United States of America cannot be guaranteed.” In the last sentence of the book, he writes, “We cannot simply presume our national unity will last.”