Help us sharing our research, consultation and experiences

Donate Now

The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Maturation of American Identity: A Study of the Elections of 1996 and 2000 and the War against Terrorism

This paper stems from my reflection on the experience of public disarray during the American Presidential election of 2000 between George Bush and Al Gore. During this period, Americans witnessed a remarkable internal political polarization and an unprecedented politicization of the judiciary to solve the political impasse. In addition, there appeared to be systematic interference with voting in ethnic and lower income areas. The split vote was extraordinarily precise, dividing the country in half. The political map presented on newscasts illustrated this political division by delineating in red the Republican center of the country and, in blue, the Democratic coastlines. This paper traces one speculative formulation of this precise political division in terms of the dynamic use of ethnicity in America and its relation to the evolution of American identity. In this red and blue political map of 2000, I saw an illumination of a split national identity where our outer boundaries (at the ethnically diverse edges of our country) were liberally opening for contact with the outside world while our internal life remained conservatively stable. It reflected to me a picture of national, political, and internal tension, with the center of our country holding a set of traditional Republican values about the importance of the individual and our outer boundaries illuminating the Democratic value of a differentiated community. It seemed to me as though the pressures of outside influences were leading us at our boundaries to renegotiate our identity, putting pressure on our internal sense of stability and familiarity.