The gulf between the American left and right continues to widen against a backdrop of high unemployment, weak growth and high octane cultural battles.
I got to thinking about this growing divide in the aftermath of the Colorado movie theater shooting spree that left 12 dead, 58 injured, and a nation in shock.
Once the gravity of the story began to sink in, my mind turned to an inconvenient (for some) thought: How many lives would have been saved if someone in that theater had access to a firearm of their own?
On the other side of the divide, gun control advocates raced to use the tragedy as an opportunity to expand federal gun laws. A group of usual suspects led by Sens.
The aftermath of the
Congressional reaction to the recent mortgage crisis is another example. Conservatives saw the meltdown as the result of inappropriate government meddling and regulation: first, encouraging the notion that nearly everyone could afford a mortgage without regard to credit history and income; second, ordering the lowering of underwriting standards at
On the left, the meltdown was seen as the result of Wall Street greed; of ever-hungry brokers knowingly selling toxic assets to the world in order to generate huge fees and bonuses. The increasingly infamous Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill with its enormous costs and thousands of pages of rules represents a typical Congressional response.
Perhaps no present-day debate makes my point better than how the respective sides view wealth. Conservatives tend to celebrate the status, especially where one's personal wealth is the result of blood, sweat, and toil. You know, that old "self made man" thing. Even the accumulation of great wealth is no cause for alarm — most wealthy people exercise their moral responsibility to give back. Check it out: Americans lead the world in philanthropic giving.
These disparate views of wealth also provide insight into why
Both see a jobless recovery, slow growth, gloomy economic forecasts, and a worried American middle class.
The Democrats' solution is predictable: additional stimulus, more public sector spending, and steep, progressive tax increases. Recall President
Across the aisle, Republicans respond in equally predictable fashion: less spending, entitlement reform, and a tax cut for small business owners.
The election of 2008 propelled a free-spending, doctrinaire progressive into the
Two years later, it was a quite different storyline as a Tea-Party inspired tide returned House control to the GOP. The president's domestic agenda has been stalled ever since.
Election 2012 will be the tie breaker. One of the two competing worldviews will carry the day.