But we knew civility was done, even if it was a long time coming. The Times published a county map of the entire Union identifying every county that voted in a landslide for one party or the other. The definition of a landslide was a ‘win’ by 20 points or more - at least 60% voting for one candidate.
As recently as 1992 those landslide counties were a general light scattering on the map. The old South showed mostly Democratic, of course, and that rural/ag heart of America stretching northward from Texas all the way to the Canadian border balanced out the Southeast by leaning Republican. But every four years more and more counties were becoming landslides, creating a constantly broadening breach between urban and rural America.
This No holds barred cage match that was the Trump/Clinton election was a declaration of a new (un)Civil War. A painful war between the rural areas of states in the southeast and center of the nation against the major metropolitan areas of America. A war of far Western and Northeast urban aggression against a combative rural America. The Times’ new map was almost solidly red in the lightly populated middle with blue highlighting our heavily populated major urban centers, leading to a popular vote that was almost dead even.
But the extreme closeness of the vote was not reflected in the more important Electoral College. Rural and small-town America flexed its Collegiate muscle, pushing Donald J. Trump into office by a 290 to 228 margin. The majority of people living in the urban centers were horrified. Meanwhile, ranchers and farmers were dancing in the streets in places like Wichita, Sioux City, Bismarck and Pierre. (Rest assured most of the urbanites will have to Google at least the last three cities in that list)
Having one foot in each demographic - rural and urban - I listened to the arguments from both sides. Some were careful worded and well-reasoned; too many were couched in fact-free, emotionally-driven terms of the “If I’m one, you’re another” grade school playground type. A few city people complained about the unfair input of uneducated country rubes. Rural citizens sneered at no-nothing, do-nothing urban elites. It was pitch forks and shot guns against AK47s. John Deere green against BMW blue.
And that split created the nastiest campaign since WWII. History would probably have to look at Abraham Lincoln vs Breckinridge, Bell and Douglas or Andrew Jackson’s two campaigns against John Quincy Adams for a similarly savage political battle. What the two candidates said, as bad as it was, did not compare to what the average citizen on one side of this (un)Civil War was saying to his brother on the other side. Charges and counter charges phrased in the vilest of terms were levied. As in that first big American schism more than 150 years ago, old friendships were lost and families were split apart.