Two Americas, close to home

I’ve been thinking for quite a while about how the divide between “red” and “blue” America does not occur at the state level. There are not “red” states and “blue” states. The winner-takes-all distribution of electoral votes (a foolish conceit that, fortunately, has only twice ever resulted in the “wrong” guy getting the job, but unfortunately, one of those was George W. Bush in 2000) belies the fact that the divisions occur on a much smaller level, between urban and rural, or between urban-plus-unionized-industry-towns and suburban-enclaves-and-rural-backwaters. The big mystery to me is still how the Republicans managed to convince the rural backwaters that their interests are being represented. (And lest my prejudices be misconstrued, let’s be clear that I’d prefer living in a rural backwater over a suburban enclave.)

With all of the hoopla over Michele Bachmann in the last few days — mainly in the form of the rest of the country realizing what a lunatic she is, even though most of us here in Minnesota (except in her own district, apparently) already knew it — I’ve been thinking more about these strange divisions.

Among the anti-Obama rumors spread since he announced his candidacy was the claim that he had taken his oath of office on the Qur’an. Not true. Never mind how problematic it is that such a fact would be considered outrageous; it’s in line with McCain cluelessly retorting to the woman (also in Minnesota, what the hell’s going on around here?) who claimed Obama was an Arab (how’s that again?) that, no, he is in fact a decent family man. Islam itself is not a pejorative. The fact of the Qur’an matter is that the congressman who took his oath on that book is none other than Keith Ellison, my congressional representative, from Minnesota’s Fifth District. Yes, the district directly adjacent to Michele Bachmann’s Sixth District.

That people’s values and sensibilities could be so segregated, based as far as I can tell upon little beyond population density, to create a situation where one (highly urban) district elects the nation’s first Muslim representative to the House, on the very same day that an adjacent (mostly suburban) district would elect the ultimate ignorant xenophobe, leaves me so flummoxed that I can’t find my way to the end of this sentence. Elbridge Gerry himself could not have drawn so convoluted a map dividing red from blue.

Needless to say, I consider Michele Bachmann an embarrassment to Minnesota. So even though I’m not in that district, I’m supporting Elwyn Tinklenberg, and I would encourage anyone who can afford to do so to make a contribution to his campaign, regardless of where you live. Besides the fact that he has a friggin’ awesome name (and a decent sense of humor — check out the videos on his site), he’s a good Democrat committed bringing sanity back to the Sixth.