Last year, former governor Sarah Palin famously campaigned on a theme of “real America.” This widely derided message implied that only “real Americans” vote Republican.
Yet there is something to Mrs. Palin’s theory. However unintentionally, it lays bare a fundamental truth of American politics.
Think about how most people picture Americans. In fact, take a moment to imagine an average American: detail everything possible about this person.
Here is how I picture this American – let’s name him Bob Smith. Bob is a happy white male, with a lovely wife (he is straight, of course) and one or two beautiful kids. Bob calls himself a Christian – a Protestant, actually – but goes to church less than he should. Like his American parents and grandparents, Bob lives in a well-off suburb. Bob went to college but not graduate school; he makes a firmly middle or upper-class income but labels himself middle-class. Bob is the archtypal American, and he loves America very much.
Bob is a Republican.
It is the Bob Smiths of this country that compose the core of the Republican Party. American to their bones, they are fully assimilated into the country and happy with the way it is. Bob has never encountered resentment or hostility because of who he is, and he never will. People like him define the soul of the United States. They vote conservatively – for things to remain much the same as they are today – because they are content with the status quo.
The Democratic Party is composed of persons who have cause of complaint. They are not Bob – they do not have the luck of being white, male, and middle-class. Their last names are not like Smith – they are names like Zai, Contreras, Chakicherla, Alazzeh, and Obama. Many do not call themselves Protestants, or even Christians. Some live in immigrant communities; others in inner-city ghettos. Nearly all have – or believe they have – been treated unfairly by America’s institutions. These folk want things to be different, and so they vote for liberalism (which, distilled to its purest essence, constitutes change of the status quo).
That is the fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. It constitutes the defining chasm in American politics, even more than race.
So next election, when an agency like CNN pops out its exit polls of how this group voted and how that group voted, one doesn’t need complex statistical models to understand why one group voted Democratic and the other Republican. One merely needs to ask this simple question:
Which group would Bob Smith belong to?