The Two Americas Sen. Edwards Doesn't See

To hear Sen. John Edwards tell it, there isn’t one America, but there are two Americas. There is the America with those who are rich and living high on the hog, and the one with those who are eking out a meager existence, suffering because Evil Corporations conspire to keep them down.

There are those who live in their gated communities, and the Others, who must suffer in non-gated tract houses that lack granite countertops and hot tubs. Some of the downtrodden must drive SUVs without a leather interior and navigation system. It’s just like the Depression, only different.

It’s tricky though. The rhetoric can get confusing because so many members of the Second America look a lot like members of the First America.

Edwards is a trial lawyer who earned $27 million one recent year, but that doesn’t make him, or multi-millionaire husband-of-his-second-heiress Sen. John Kerry, members of the First America. They are fighters for the Second America, so it’s OK if they live in every perceivable way like the privileged members of the elite they rail against.

Of course, even bona fide Second Americans look a lot like First Americans, provided no one peeks at the mountain of consumer debt financing their upscale lifestyle.

Although Edwards needs to do a better job explaining who qualifies for which America, I do appreciate his point. There are two separate Americas living within our borders. It’s undeniably true. It’s just the dividing line is quite different from how the good senator describes it.

Quite simply, there is the America that still treasures the freedoms that established the real America, and those who trash and reject those freedoms (even if they give lip service to those freedoms), and give aid and comfort to politicians who loot and plunder.

Ironically, the two sides battling in the coming election have more in common with each other than they think. It’s not about red states and blue states. Both sides are members of the New America that has lost touch with the founders, and their differences with each other mostly are quibbles. The Old America is still out there, but sometimes it’s hard to find.

As readers of LRC, you know to which America you belong. But here’s a short quiz you can give your friends and associates to help them learn their place in this land:

1.The best way to fix the nation’s educational system is to:

  1. Implement a system of vouchers that gives public school kids a chance to select a private school, with tax dollars following the kids to the school of their choice.
  2. Stop depriving the public schools of the money they desperately need to teach our kids the things they desperately need to learn.
  3. Separate school and state completely by disbanding public schools and letting individuals pay for their own kids’ education.

2.Unions are:

  1. Something necessary, although their power has been abused at times and their preponderance in the public sector poses challenges.
  2. The best way to increase wages and stop corporate greed. Unions deserve the utmost protections by the government.
  3. A gangster-like enterprise designed to artificially inflate their members’ already-high wages at the expense of other workers and stockholders through government force or the threat of violence.

3.Which statement best describes police, federal agents and fire fighters:

  1. Heroes who protect the public good, and must battle not only the bad guys but ACLU attorneys when they mistakenly shoot the wrong guy in the back.
  2. They are sometimes abusive, but these public servants deserve every penny of their six-figure salaries and retirements because they put their lives on the line for us every day. And because as reliable members of unions they reliably support the right causes.
  3. Uniformed bureaucrats who represent the state, and will do anything at all to protect their power and privilege, and to protect the interests of the officials who employ them.

4.The War on Terror has led to:

  1. The destruction of terror cells in Afghanistan and the elimination of a Middle Eastern Hitler who threatened the entire universe, despite what the liberal pansies say about him.
  2. Some achievements, and some failures. It would be so much better if we sent more troops to necessary places, provided those troops are under the control of the United Nations. Or not, depending on what the polls happen to say on any given day.
  3. Death, destruction, misery overseas and the destruction of civil liberties in the United States.

5.Federal agencies (HUD, HHS, Labor, EPA, etc.) should be:

  1. Made to operate like a business, with streamlining so that more money can be earmarked to the right places.
  2. Expanded, so they can meet the desperate needs of more Americans.
  3. Shut down, instantly and completely.

6.Government is:

  1. Of vital importance in so many ways, especially with regard to protecting us against terrorists. It should not grow too fast domestically, at least not beyond the rate of inflation.
  2. Is the glue that binds us together as a nation. It must be efficient, but government is the means to achieve better education, better health care, fairness and decency.
  3. A criminal enterprise.

Obviously, the answers to "a" are the standard Republican answers and the answers to "b" are the standard Democratic answers. Those who embrace the first two answers — the vast majority of the public, I suppose — are members of one America, and those who answered "c" are members of the other America.

The one America is an America that embraces socialism and state control, and believes the government should have vast powers to order people around to achieve all sorts of things, ranging from national security to high wages to whatever is PC on any given day.

The other America believes in freedom and the marketplace. It believes that individuals, without coercion, will create a more humane, prosperous and decent society than one that relies on force. Those who believe this are small in number, a remnant perhaps. But no matter how small, they represent the original America better than those who have aligned their thinking with one major party or the other.

Yes, Sen. Edwards, there are two Americas.

Steven Greenhut (send him mail) is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register. He is the author of the new book, Abuse of Power.