NASHVILLE, Tenn. ñ David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times and senior editor at The Weekly Standard, will explore "The Geography of Politics" in a Vanderbilt University address on Wednesday, Oct. 22. The lecture begins at 6 p.m. in Ingram Hall at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. A reception with Brooks will precede the lecture at 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
During television coverage of the 2000 presidential election, Brooks noticed two Americas being depicted as he watched returns on election night: "Red America," the blocks of red stretched through the middle of the electoral map denoting states that went for George W. Bush, and "Blue America," the portions of blue around major cities on the coasts denoting states that went for Al Gore. As a proud Blue American, Brooks wondered, who is Red America, and do the differences between the red and blue factions of our country effectively split us into two nations?
In his Atlantic Monthly essay "One Nation, Slightly Divisible," Brooks describes some of the telltale differences. "Everything that people in my [Blue America] neighborhood do without motors, the people in Red America do with motors," he writes. "We sail; they powerboat. We cross-country ski, they snowmobileÖWhen it comes to yard work, they have rider mowers; we have illegal aliens."
"Different sorts of institutions dominate life in these two places," according to Brooks. "In Red America they have QVC, the Pro Bowlers Tour and hunting. In Blue America we have NPR, Doris Kearns Goodwin and socially conscious investing. In Red America the Wal-Marts are massive, with parking lots the size of state parks. In Blue America the stores are small but the markups are big."
But the differences also extend beyond the surface. For instance, in the immediate wake of Sept. 11, polling showed the people of Red and Blue America nearly unanimous in their approval of President Bush and support of U.S. military retaliation for the attacks. Very soon after, however, "there were hints that the solidarity was fraying," writes Brooks. Opinion pieces and talk radio shows emerged from Blue America decrying the "us-versus-them" mentality behind President Bush’s rhetoric. Many in Red and Blue America became polarized on the right of Americans, celebrity or otherwise, to publicly criticize the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
With such seemingly opposite views, Brooks asks, "Are Americans any longer a common people? Do we have one national conversation and one national culture?ÖDo our differences effectively split us into two nations, or are they just cracks in a still-united whole?"
Brooks began a regular column for the Op-Ed page of The New York Times in September 2003. He is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, a contributing editor at Newsweek and the Atlantic Monthly and a commentator on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer." He is the author of Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, published in 2000.
Brooks’ lecture marks the third this year in Vanderbilt’s Chancellor’s Lecture Series. The Chancellor’s Lecture Series serves to bring to the University and the wider Nashville community those intellectuals who are shaping the world today. For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the Vanderbilt News Service homepage at www.vanderbilt.edu/news.
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