Cliff Schecter, 5/4/2012 [Archive]

A House Divided?

A House Divided?

By Cliff Schecter

In the wake of the 2004 presidential election, a satirical map of "red" and "blue" states became an instant online hit. On it you could find "Jesusland," or the states where George W. Bush somehow convinced the populace that his part Calvin Coolidge, part Kardashian-marriage presidency deserved four more years (Mission Accomplished!).

Meanwhile, mostly to the north of these states, "The United States of Canada," was born, where Senator John Kerry windsurfed his way to victory. For those well versed in American history, the state-by-state breakdown possessed an eerie resemblance to another more somber map: That of the free states, slave states and territories permitting slavery just before the Civil War.

President Barack Obama shook up this equation somewhat in 2008, winning back some antebellum "free states" in the Midwest (Iowa, Indiana, Ohio). He also carried Southern (Virginia, North Carolina, Florida) and Southwestern (Colorado, Nevada) swing states that have seen their electoral leanings migrate leftward due to a large influx of Hispanics, youth and Northeastern snowbirds retiring to their environs.

Yet, it is still somewhat dispiriting to look at the map from pre-1860 and realize how relevant it is today, when predicting who will have racially-tinged immigration laws, collective bargaining rights, kill-at-will Stand Your Ground laws or comedy clubs where people actually laugh at Jeff Foxworthy.

In fact, as blue states move in the direction of progress while those of a more crimson hue embrace antediluvian delusion, it would almost be irresponsible not to wonder what, if anything, will hold the United States together in 20 years time?

The answer used to be simple: the federal government. But with a right-wing assault on the very concept, from Justice Scalia's self-satisfied, blarney-based reading of the Constitution that state's rights make might, to the Republican default position that the federal government has no role in protecting women from workplace discrimination or violence, times have clearly changed.

This is not hyperbole. Two thirds of the Republican Senate Caucus voted against reauthorizing The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) last week, because according to Senator Mike Lee of Utah, "...the real danger is of the federal government unduly interfering with the ability of states and localities to address activities and concerns in their communities."

Of course, if you were a woman and potential victim of a violent assault you might see things differently. You might--and I'm just spitballing here-- view "the real danger" as coming more from someone about to beat or kill you than the federal government's "interfering." But hey, all 31 Republican Senators who opposed VAWA were men, so you know, no worries bro!

While Oklahoma and Tennessee were working on legislation to actually ban the teaching of global warming and evolution, Connecticut was abolishing the death penalty. While "Republican legislators in Texas have voted to eliminate funding for any women's healthcare clinic with an affiliation to an abortion provider -- even if the affiliation is merely a shared name, employee, or board member," the California state legislature is pushing to liberalize abortion laws, increasing the eligible pool of those able to assist a woman in exercising her right to choose.

Meanwhile, Arizona, not one for being shy about their crazy, has passed legislation (which is clearly unconstitutional) saying, "life begins at menstruation" for potential mothers-to-be. I hear next they're looking to change the standard to "when she has that gleam in her eye" or after the first Milwaukee's Best at a frat party.

States have a common history, but a very different view of it. We do share language, but then again, we also share a basic dialect with New Zealand. Blue states might even start questioning why their tax dollars disproportionately fund red, welfare-hating, "welfare" states that take in more federal dollars than they send back to Washington.

Of course the only answer is to push back against assaults on the federal government. Just as it was needed to end slavery and enact civil rights, is the only force that can give this country a common cultural understanding of what is acceptable and what being a democracy means.

We must either defeat the ideology of anti-government zealotry ascendant among today's right-wing Randroids, or I don't see what will be holding us together a generation down the road.

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©Copyright 2012 Cliff Schecter, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. For more info contact Sales at 800- 696-7561 or email sales@cagle.com.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller "The Real McCain." Email Cliff at cliffschecter@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.




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