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Forget Politics, Here Are 10 Things That Really Divide Americans

Americans aren't as divided over politics as the pundits say. But they disagree on everything else.

Regrettably, we are entering the season in which nearly every cable TV news station, talk radio program, newspaper column and blog post will insist that America is deeply “polarized” and ineluctably “divided” along political party lines. This platitude has surpassed mere momentary talking point. It is vapid, ubiquitous tautology posing as substantive analysis — a thrumming, never-ending background noise that fills the silences when our monstrous Political-Media Industrial Complex pauses to take a breath.

The sad thing is, politics really isn’t that polarized. Despite the red-versus-blue summer-camp color war portrayed by the media, the last few years have seen a strong bipartisan consensus around  bank bailoutswarscivil liberties policies,deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy (to name a few issues). Indeed, considering this kleptocratic duopoly, a little more political polarization might be helpful.

That said, there are genuine divides in America — the kind that are so deep and unbridgeably “with-us-or-against-us” that each side has trouble understanding, getting along with and/or socializing with the other. These splits, which represent the realchasms in America, are so profound that each side becomes immediately suspicious of the other when finding out which side they are on. Here are 10 of the biggest ones in no particular order.

1. Dogs


Upon his election to the highest office in the land, why was Barack Obama so intently focused on  getting a Portuguese water dog? And why has Mitt Romney had to answer pointed questions about his  Irish setter’s road trips? It’s because they both understand that dogs deeply divide us — and that there are many of us on the Dog Lover side of the gap.

But while there are  78 million owned dogs in America, there is unfortunately a vociferous minority of Americans who genuinely despise the canine. As  USA Today’s Sharon Peters notes:

Some among us just don’t like dogs. I know it, you know it. Until last week, though, I hadn’t realized how deeply and intensely so many people are possessed of this feeling, how huge their level of outrage when they have contact with or even think about canines and the people who love them …These are people with such contempt for canines and their owners that they invest enormous energy in bad-mouthing dogs, seeking out like-minded people, writing down and distributing all the scores of reasons dogs are worthless, drumming up whatever support they can for their way of thinking.

These are the people who oppose dog parks, yell at dogs as they pass by their homes and try to ban dogs in public places. Speaking from the Dog Lover side of the fence, I’m immediately suspicious of self-declared Dog Haters — as I’m sure they are of me. That, of course, is the sign of a true cultural divide.

2. Marijuana Laws


According to  Gallup, marijuana laws are — statistically speaking — about as divisive as they come. Fifty percent of Americans want to legalize pot, while 46 percent oppose such a move — a virtual tie.

And yet, calling this moment’s fight between drug reformers and drug warriors a “debate” is to employ a misnomer. As this recent  exchange between U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Drug Enforcement Agency chief Michele Leonhart proves, the drug warriors are so committed to their position that they won’t even discuss basic facts about the cannabis in question. Indeed, they won’t even address why the federal government itself has broadcast ads labeling marijuana  “the safest thing in the world.”

Such head-in-the-sand behavior is one of the hallmarks of true polarization. When one side won’t even acknowledge the verifiable truth — won’t even engage in the argument — it’s a sure sign that what’s at issue has become a matter of deep cultural division.

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