Thursday, May 21, 2009


Schizoid Nation

Okay, so the "election" may have been decided mainly by text-messaging and phone calls, but "Red" America rose up and defeated "Blue" America Wednesday night.

Kris Allen, the wholesome, God-fearing rural Arkansan won "American Idol" upsetting Adam Lambert the androgynous urban goth with the big voice. It was the biggest vote tally in the show's history and ended with America choosing the traditionalist over the hipster.

America's split personality has been on display on the political front recently as well. An ascendant Democratic Party runs Washington and a popular liberal is president. Massive deficit spending is being deployed to stimulate the economy and a sweeping credit card reform was passed this week in the Senate and House. It might seem like the country is moving leftward, at least on economic matters.

But look what also got added to the credit card bill as completely unrelated measure -- the unambiguous right to bear arms in national parks. This isn't what blue state liberals thought they were getting when their party took control:

"We have a Democratic president, a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, and we're passing more gun legislation than when there was a Republican in the White House," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), a gun-control advocate. "It's disappointing."

Oops! Democrats regained Congress in 2006 by running cultural conservatives against Republican incumbents. Those Democrats may have been against the Iraq war and against GOP economic policies, but many were pro-Second Amendment and pro-life. Be careful what you wish for, Democrats, you just might get it.

It isn't just the gun lobby that is improbably gathering steam in a liberal era. The anti-abortion crowd may be as well. The University of Notre Dame was blasted by traditional Catholics for granting pro-choice President Obama an honorary degree and a platform as commencement speaker in the same week that a Gallup poll showed the abortion question is moving in the pro-life direction. That shift may be what is forcing Obama to, in the words of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, "engage" on the issue rather than simply denounce pro-lifers.

Meanwhile, poll numbers seem to be moving in the direction of the country becoming more accepting of gay marriage. Five states have some form of gay marriage and a mild plurality of respondents appears to approve it. Note, however, how Donald Trump -- in defending Miss California Carrie Prejean's "traditionalist" view on marriage -- reminded the media that she had the same view as President Obama (and Bill and Hillary Clinton for that matter).

No one can say whether "American Idol" voters are as conflicted as the rest of the electorate on political and cultural matters, but they seem to have picked the lesser singer. Was the choice made along the familiar lines of traditionalist vs. progressive? Maybe. Did the pictures of Lambert floating around the Internet kissing a guy create a tsunami from Allen's Southern base? Possibly.

Regardless, it may be another signal from America that on matters cultural and political, "not so fast" is the most tolerable pace of change. (Marc Ambinder points to a poll that also underscores the fact that Obama doesn't have quite the leeway on "change" that he might hope.)

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