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politics

Eat a snickers: The real America is not that divided

Published in the Sacramento Business Journal 

Eat a snickers: The real America is not that divided

I recently watched a commercial where hunger made a person so angry they were unrecognizable, but all they had to do was a eat a candy bar to assuage their hunger and return to their true self.  Maybe America needs to eat a Snickers.

But despite social media debates and breathless announcements from celebrities, politicians, pundits and the media – America is actually not that divided, nor is it hateful.  In fact, according to a recent study, over 56% of Americans are either disengaged or passive about political issues. 

That study by research group More In Common, reports that only a fraction of American’s are either committed Progressive or Conservative activists – eight and six percent respectively.  That 14% is what comprises the protesters and counter-protesters who promulgate, the pundits who proclaim, and the academics who propound.  They spend a lot of time trying to get the rest of us to buy into their narrative of division, envy, and even hate. 

But in truth, they really don’t represent the real America.

The real America is made up of church volunteers, many of them middle-school students, who meet every week to feed the homeless or deliver meals and companionship to the elderly who are abandoned by their own families; and the business men & women in Rotary who give their time and money to improve literacy with children. 

The real America is made up of parents struggling to keep up with bills, but still find a way to donate to their local school; and the workers whose commute keeps getting longer and longer, but still find time to volunteer in the community.  The real America is made up of soldiers and deputies who sacrifice time with their families – and sometimes their lives.

The real America is a High School student who notices that some kids are isolated so he spends his time organizing classmates to make sure No One Eats Alone; and a football team who disregards the score to give an autistic classmate a moment in the sun.

The real America is the thousands of families who open up their homes to foster kids and volunteers who stand up for abused children; the local Chamber of Commerce raising money for the widow of a fallen police officer; the community that organizes search parties to help a family find a lost child, or a caravan of people driving all night to deliver supplies or rescue pets displaced by fire.

The media doesn’t cover these American stories enough, in part because it doesn’t drive as many clicks as the titillating bombast from the “14 percenters” that populate the “outrage industry.”

Americans do see issues from different perspectives and cast ballots for different candidates, but most of them are too busy living, surviving, or helping to be truly divided by it. 

So the next time you hear proclamations about a “divided America” from politicians, pundits and media talking-heads, think about the real Americans – the 85 percent who are not activists.  Then eat a snickers and join the volunteers who are doing something real.

Tab Berg is an American public affairs and political consultant based in Sacramento, California.  He has worked on public education and political campaigns across the nation and has helped teach democratic principles and campaign strategy around the world in programs for the National Endowment for Democracy.  He is frequent commentator and lecturer on political and policy issues, and has been published in more than a dozen newspapers, TV News commentary, and was contributing author to the E-Voter Institute book about the interactions of social media and politics.