Plant yourself on any big city corner and ask “Who should be the next president?” Polls say you’re going to hear Hillary Clinton’s name a lot. Heck, forget the polls. Most of you reading this live and/or work in cities and your experience tells you it’s true. I was in Boston a few days ago, and the favored status of the Democratic nominee was palpable.
But as I was leaving I drove past the point where the city gives way to countryside and there was a man on a walkway above the road. He had a huge smile, he was waving, and he was pointing to a large sign above the traffic with a single word: Trump. Just like that, I was in the other America — where the Republican nominee is taken much, much more seriously.
And depending on where you stand, seeing from one America to the other can be difficult.
This is no surprise. For decades now the electorate was been growing ever more Balkanized; Democrats clustering mainly in the urban areas, Republicans overrunning many suburbs and beyond.
Some of this is because the parties have gerrymandered “safe” voting districts dominated by one political viewpoint. Some of it is because, like birds of a feather, humans flock together with those who share similar opinions. And some of it is because economic worries for cities and “everywhere else” are often quite different — meaning, political solutions to those problems are different too.
The result: In great swaths of the nation, people are so surrounded by like-minded individuals, they can’t imagine the “other” candidate could really win, or that his/her supporters are truly good, thoughtful citizens.
But in a lifetime of travels I have found the “other” America is really a great deal like your own no matter where you stand — full of people who care deeply about their country, their fellow citizens, equality, opportunity, fairness and justice. And if we can keep reminding ourselves of that fact, perhaps we — the people — can yet emerge victorious, no matter who wins this dreadful race.
(CNN’s Tom Foreman is a hopeless optimist, and the author of My Year of Running Dangerously)