Seeing Red, Seeing Blue — Seeing Clearly

Some of the best political commentary this season has appeared in The New York Times’ Sunday Arts & Leisure section, the handiwork of columnist Frank Rich, who earned a place on Campaign Desk’s career-making Honor Roll.

Now, thanks to the wonders of online editions, you can read Rich’s latest take on the November 2 election four days ahead of your buddies, and start talking about it now. (They may even think some of the ideas are yours!)

While the pundits and strategists, and their handmaidens in the press, are explaining the outcome this way — “It’s the culture, stupid” — Rich, not surprisingly, has a differing view:

There’s only one problem with the storyline proclaiming that the country swung to the right on cultural issues in 2004. Like so many other narratives that immediately calcify into our 24/7 media’s conventional wisdom, it is fiction. Everything about the election results — and about American culture itself — confirms an inescapable reality: John Kerry’s defeat notwithstanding, it’s blue America, not red, that is inexorably winning the culture war, and by a landslide. Kerry voters who have been flagellating themselves since Election Day with a vengeance worthy of “The Passion of the Christ” should wake up and smell the Chardonnay.

“The blue ascendancy is nearly as strong among Republicans as it is among Democrats,” writes Rich. “Excess and vulgarity, as always, enjoy a vast, bipartisan constituency, and in a democracy no political party will ever stamp them out.”

If anyone is laughing all the way to the bank this election year, it must be the undisputed king of the red cultural elite, Rupert Murdoch. Fox News is a rising profit center within his News Corporation, and each red-state dollar that it makes can be plowed back into the rest of Fox’s very blue entertainment portfolio.

Rich, as usual, cuts right to the heart of the matter, asking this provocative question: “If the Republican party’s next round of leaders are all cool with blue culture, why should Democrats run after the red?”

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.