With the devastating news from Wall Street compounding the already staggering problems we face as a nation -- faltering healthcare & educational systems, widespread foreclosures, an endangered environment -- one would hope that we would follow in the footsteps of generations past and rally as a nation, finding solidarity in times of profound crisis.
Rather than move forward and embrace the across-the-aisle dialogues, we desperately need to address these concerns; we are digging our partisan heels in on our respective sides of the political aisle and staying put, ensuring that the problems we face today will still be here tomorrow. Only bigger and more difficult to overcome.
How have we become so politically divided that we are no longer able to discuss the very issues that have the potential to devastate us all?
I went from coast to coast and interviewed Americans from all walks of life and all parts of the political spectrum to try to find an answer to this very question. The result of this journey is Split: A Divided America. Balancing opinions of everyday Americans with some of the most recognized voices analyzing government and society today, Split is a non-partisan investigation of the factors contributing to this political and cultural split -- modern day campaigning strategies, the media, the role of faith in our politics, among others.
As I traveled, I did indeed find that many echo the chorus that we are now Two Americas -- a political landscape that pits "Urban versus Rural" and "The Heartland versus the Coasts." The belief of it's us versus them was reiterated and reinforced from Scranton, PA to San Francisco, CA.
Most surprisingly, however, was that we seem less troubled by the fact that our country is so divided that civil discourse has all but disappeared from the public square. Whether due to a hold over from junior high civics or the nostalgia of more elevated dialogue (real or imagined) from a bygone era, the belief in healthy debate of our differences is rooted deep in our sense of who we are as a nation and that the competition in the 'market place of ideas' no longer matters because no one is showing up to watch the race struck a sour note with citizens in all states -- a sense of loss for profoundly meaningful to American Ideals.
We are simply turned off by the ugliness of the politics we see in America today -- inside the beltway and in our own homes.
This may very well be why so many Americans responded so positively to Senators John McCain and Barack Obama's earlier promises of ushering in a post-partisan era in Washington. This need for bi-partisan cooperation has only been more deeply underscored by the events of the last two weeks and these trying times will be a true test of whether they have the mettle to resist the conventions of divisiveness and stand by their words to the American people.
But if our political leaders are unable or unwilling to stand by their convictions in establishing this new tone in our politics, I discovered in making Split that American citizens, while divided, are eager and ready to shift from attacking one another to tackling our challenges - and ultimately move to a more productive era in our national conversations. Yes, despite the polls, my own journey has given me hope that in November, Americans will not just vote on the differences but on what makes us one nation, indivisible.