Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 4 News List

US Election: Analysts disagree over whether US is riven by discord

GOD, GUNS AND GAYS Talk of a Red-Blue divide has become a staple of the US media, but it's unclear whether the split is cultural, political or just imaginary


A quick look at the electoral map of the US shows a split country, with the liberal coasts going to Senator John Kerry and the conservative middle voting overwhelmingly for President George W. Bush.

But on closer inspection, is the US really that divided? After Republicans cemented control of the US Congress in addition to the White House in Tuesday's election, is it still correct to speak of a country at odds with itself?

"The idea of a divided nation is a conceit to some extent. The Republicans won everything," said Wlady Pleszczynski, editorial director of The American Spectator magazine.

"By its nature, the two-party system represents a division. But there's always going to be a winner and a loser," he told reporters. "You might as well say America is `divided' into 50 states."

In the language of US politics, the so-called "Blue" states are those won by Democrats and "Red" states are Republican, and talk of a Red-Blue divide has become a staple of US political commentary. As TV networks broadcast the vote results, election maps showed a glowing red country with only fringes of blue along the east and west coasts -- more liberal areas like New York, California and Kerry's home state of Massachusetts that traditionally vote Democratic.

Byron York, White House correspondent for National Review magazine, said that part of the divergent vote reflected a cultural difference with the US heartland, which is more rural, more religious and more conservative.

"People in the Red states did get a sense that people from places like Massachusetts maybe thought they were stupid. I do think that there is this cultural divide," York said on Wednesday.

But he said the election also indicated a split on "real issues" for Americans, most notably national security.

"Bush's last message was: `I am asking for your vote and I will never relent in defending America.' Kerry's message was: `The world is watching us,'" York said.

"Those were two hugely different messages and they play out in policy. They're more than just God, guns and gays," he said, recalling the phrase used by failed Democratic candidate Howard Dean.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof argued in favor of an implicit split in the US, saying that the Democrats had "lost touch" with blue-collar voters who were once the backbone of the party.

Pleszczynski's colleague Geor-ge Neumayr ridiculed talk of a divided nation, saying the only split was between the American people and "elite" media commentators who did not understand them.

"It chafes on reporters that the American people voted for George Bush not in spite of his faith but because of it," Neumayr said. "The American people don't have a problem with Bush's faith -- the media do."

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