Next Tuesday, the two Americas will go to war, which, thankfully in a stable democracy, means they hold an election.
One America — call it “Old America” — is overwhelmingly white, mostly older and male, but also full of married, suburban women. It is increasingly conservative and sour on many of the socioeconomic innovations of the 20th century, from anti-poverty programs to freely available birth control and legal abortion. Old America worries that the nation’s generosity is being abused by layabouts and illegal immigrants. It is worried about debt. Well, Democrat-created debt, anyway.
Like the questioner who prompted Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remark at a Boca Raton fundraiser, Old America thinks people ought to learn to fend for themselves — to stop leeching off the successful. It thinks too many people are asking for “handouts.” It is southern and Midwestern and rural and suburban. It is holed up in a mansion, growling about voter fraud and yearning for the days when government knew its job was to hand out defense contracts and then go away. Old America is sick of hearing about racism and doesn’t get why the left gets so worked up over an Obama monkey joke or two.
The other America — “New America” — is a patchwork of white and black and beige and brown. It is youthful, but not entirely young. It is home to rich celebrities and the inner city poor. It mixes hip-hop with rock ’n’ roll. It over-indexes on Twitter. New America prefers the city to the ’burbs and favors the Daily Show and Letterman over the local news and Leno.
Old America idealizes the 1950s, when the only women a man had to worry about were his wife, his daughter, his mother and his secretary. And maybe his mistress. Women and minorities “had no interest” in being executives at its private equity firm, as Mitt Romney once said of Bain Capital. If a woman did work, she still made it home in time to prepare dinner. She didn’t bellyache for equal pay.
New America isn’t pressed about marriage. It prefers to eat out, and it doesn’t matter who cooks. It takes for granted that Billy might have two moms or two dads, and that the CEO might be a she. It could care less if gays serve in the military. It can’t imagine abortion or contraceptives being illegal. New America doesn’t think the ’50s were the good old days. It thinks Mad Men is a good TV show, but so is The Walking Dead. New America knows it won the “culture wars” a long time ago, and sometimes gives in to the temptation to mock Old America as backward and dumb. New America doesn’t get that that’s probably not helpful.
Old America wants tax cuts, and to “unleash” business. It wonders why union workers think they’re so special.
New America has friends that work on Wall Street, but it secretly considers them sell-outs. It thinks the government should regulate the banks and it’s glad the Feds saved Detroit. New America isn’t sure Medicare will be there when it gets old, but it doesn’t think the answer is to throw future grannies into the insurance market.
Old America wants a president who’ll tell the world to get with the program or get crushed. It would rather America be feared than liked. It’s skeptical of science and thinks all that climate talk is just another excuse for government to pick the businessman’s pocket. It believes God and private charity are the real cures for the nation’s ills.
New America wants a president who’ll seek a global consensus on climate change. It’s sick of war and grossed out by drone warfare (its biggest knock on President Obama). But it has no beef with the military, where a lot of its friends are. New America doesn’t need the president (or God) to constantly say it’s exceptional.
Mitt Romney is winning Old America in a landslide. His share of white men in particular is at generational highs. He is ahead among voters over 60, even with their anxiety over his and Paul Ryan’s plans to voucherize Medicare.
Barack Obama is winning New America in a walk. His share of black, Hispanic and Asian voters is in the blowout range. He is winning young people and single women.
The polls show a close election because the two Americas are roughly equal in size. But not for long.
New America is growing, fast. In many ways, Tuesday is Old America’s last stand.