Seeing red, feeling blue
By Ken Root
Most of rural America voted Republican (red) in the presidential election. The maps of many states that were won by Democrats (blue) showed very sizable areas of red but the urban areas were the strength of President Barack Obama even though farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses voted for Mitt Romney at a level as high as 85 percent. Now what? I think it is the most revealing mark of our character to react well to defeat. Is it possible for a divided country to come together with gracious winners and good losers uniting for the common good? Do we continue fighting in a burning house or do we form a bucket brigade and quench the flames?
My greatest concern for the welfare of this country is "Angry White Men." I am Caucasian but I do not understand how our culture has produced a subgroup that verbalizes hatred and blames every minority for stealing their birthright. America is a land of opportunity. No one has been given any more opportunity than white males and yet, regardless of income or socio-economic status, we are the ones who are most vindictive. A great disservice is being done to our country by empowering this mindset.
The logical next step for Congress is to lay down ideological differences and deal with real-world problems. We are in a huge financial bind, so let's fix that problem first. Then put real effort into prioritizing those problems that are growing. Near the top of the list is immigration. It is an economic issue, not a social issue. We need to bring in new Americans and get them on the payroll. The birthplace of their children is not our top priority.
The divide in America is remarkable. How can so many people within a state come down to less than one percent difference on the ballot? We appear to have cultivated a polarized society for so long that we've just about got it perfected. As I write this, Florida, one of the most diverse states in the country, is "gray." The breadth of cultures gathered in this country should be our strength rather than our weakness.
Our opinions are drawn from our "referential experiences" in life. A person growing up in a sparsely populated agrarian region would, logically, would have different life experiences than a person who was raised in an economically challenged urban area. The mark of America has been to draw strength from our upbringing, no matter the deprivation, and to work toward the common good. Our history shows that we are at our best when we have an external threat, real or perceived, and we are at our worst when we begin to fight with each other.
We also face the prospect of retribution by the winners. In agriculture, the Obama administration has been a strong supporter of biofuels and economic development of rural communities. With a small minority of of the agricultural vote in their favor, what will they offer rural America for the next four years?
Partisanship is fine as long as it is focused on issues and not individuals. We all have a moral code that was instilled in us by our parents, teachers and early influencers. In an effort to divide us politically, we have pulled moral issues into the broad context of governing. Why can't social conservatives work with moral liberals on budget issues that transcend their differences? Governing has to come from the middle in order to succeed.
The financial issues facing this country can't be overstated: We have to stop and back up from the "fiscal cliff." Neither party is capable of fairly cutting back the cost of social programs, military programs or operational functions without cooperation from the other side. Whether we consciously did it or not, the mixed majorities in the House and Senate have prevented a single ideology from prevailing and "running off the fiscal cliff." The presidency has shown that it is a weak player in the real world of economic recovery. Most everyone agrees that either candidate would face about the same problems over the next four years.
And one more thing: "The world is watching." We are the great hope. What we do economically, militarily and socially has an impact on every other country. Chaos here will create instability around the globe. We are respected whether we deserve it or not.
I hope we can turn down the rhetoric and re-evaluate our real problems. The business infrastructure is still strong and can create another upward move of our economy. The regulatory framework is clearly established for improving our environment. The educational system is in place to elevate another generation to great academic achievement. There is only a need to lay down our partisan bickering and walk to the middle to address the real issues that threaten our society and block our path to a bright future.
Editor's note: Ken Root has been an agricultural reporter for 37 years. Root now does daily radio and television programming and is a columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.