By CNN's Jack Cafferty:
The polarization of America is like a cancer that is slowly killing us. And like many forms of cancer, there appears to be no cure.
We are more severely divided now than at any time in the last 25 years according to a new pew study.
And it's not the usual suspects of race, education level, income, gender and religion. Political differences are what's ripping the country apart.
This political divide peaked during the last decade - during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The Pew survey finds Democrats and Republicans are most divided on the social safety net for the poor with a 41-point gap between the two parties.
Other issues with huge divisions include: the environment, labor unions, equal opportunity and "government scope and performance."
This deepening polarization is something we see among voters and of course among our so-called leaders in Washington. The government is paralyzed - unable to get over their political differences in order to work together and address the people's business that desperately needs doing.
Perhaps the most serious consequence of partisanship is our skyrocketing national debt - now closing in on $16 trillion.
The Congressional Budget Office says that unless Congress does something about government spending and/or taxes, the federal debt is set to double by the middle of the next decade and will reach twice the size of the whole U.S. economy by 2037. We are committing economic suicide.
But don't expect Washington to do anything about it. There's an election in November.
Here’s my question to you: What can be done about the deepening polarization in America?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
Despite the election of America's first black president more than three years ago, the nation still has a long road to travel when it comes to race relations.
The New York Times reports that race remains a powerful factor among a small minority of voters - particularly in poor areas with a lot of white working-class people.
That includes places in the battleground state of Ohio, where a few votes could make a big difference.
In 50 interviews in one such Ohio county, five people raised race directly as a reason they will not vote for President Obama. Some of them said the only reason the president won in 2008 is because many blacks voted for the first time.
Others didn't mention race directly, but indirectly hinted at suspicions of Obama's background and faith.
The president recently described race in America as still "complicated." He says he never bought into the idea that the country was entering a post-racial period by electing him.
Maybe so - but a lot of people did. More than half of Americans in 2008 said that race relations would improve as a result of Obama's election.
Fast forward to 2012 and that view has changed dramatically.
A recent Newsweek poll shows only 32% believe race relations have improved under President Obama, while nearly 60% say race relations have either stayed the same or gotten worse. Whites are especially critical of Obama in this department.
Some suggest racism surfaces during tough times like the recession, high unemployment or the wars overseas - and can serve as an excuse for social anxieties.
Here’s my question to you: How much has America's first black president changed race relations?
As the national debate over the killing of Trayvon Martin rages on, a new poll suggests that a majority of Americans believe the country is divided by race.
The Newsweek/Daily Beast poll shows that 72% of whites and 89% of blacks say the country is racially divided.
And almost four years after the election of the nation's first black president, majorities of whites and blacks say race relations have either stayed the same or gotten worse.
There continue to be fundamental disagreements about when blacks will achieve racial equality. Whites are much more likely to think blacks have the same chance as they do to get housing and jobs.
As for the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black Florida teen, there are more differences along racial lines. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to say Martin's death was racially motivated. African-Americans are convinced that Martin was targeted because he was a young black man, while whites are divided.
Blacks overwhelmingly approve of how President Obama has handled the controversy, while a majority of whites disapprove.
The differences go on and on. It’s a sad statement on race relations in the U.S. in 2012.
Meanwhile, in the latest from Sanford, Florida, the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin shooting case has decided not to take the case to a grand jury. She says that she's never used a grand jury in similar cases and that the investigation continues.
The attorney for shooter George Zimmerman calls it a "courageous move."
You can bet this decision will fan the racial flames even further. Already, thousands have joined the Florida protests calling for Zimmerman's arrest.
Here’s my question to you: How racially divided is the United States today?
Newt Gingrich is clueless when in comes to African-Americans. So writes Peter Beinart in a pretty tough Daily Beast column using Gingrich's own words from last night's Republican debate as proof.
Before we start here, keep in mind this debate was held in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Juan Williams, who was one of the moderators and is black, asked Gingrich whether some poor and minority voters might be insulted by his comments, as when Gingrich said poor kids lack a work ethic and black people should be instructed to demand jobs, not food stamps.
Gingrich, a native Georgian, pretty much dismissed the question as the crowd applauded. So Williams tried again, asking if Gingrich's words aren't belittling to the poor and blacks.
Williams: You saw some of this reaction during your visit to a black church in South Carolina, where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as "the food stamp president." It sounds as if you are seeking to belittle people.
Gingrich: Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.
Now, I know among the politically correct, you're not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable.
Gingrich finished this exchange with a standing ovation from the mostly white crowd.
Beinart writes what is fascinating here is that Gingrich is not a racist and he believes the former house speaker genuinely cares about black poor people. Beinart suggests Gingrich's problem is ignorance. Suggesting blacks and their leaders don't consider jobs important shows how out of touch Gingrich is with African-American politics and the priority black leaders have put on jobs.
What's more - and this is probably the worst part - Gingrich doesn't get why calling Obama the "food stamp" president is highly offensive to blacks, given the history of blacks in this country.
Beinart writes: "The most plausible explanation is that Gingrich inhabits a cultural and intellectual bubble. A bubble called the Republican Party."
That’s tough stuff - and not so encouraging for the Republican Party when it comes to getting black voters.
Here’s my question to you: Does Newt Gingrich not have a clue when it comes to African Americans?
President Obama has made racism worse in America.
So says the African-American actor Morgan Freeman. He told CNN's Piers Morgan that the tea party's opposition to Mr. Obama, the nation's first black president, is rooted in racism.
Freeman claims tea partiers will do whatever it takes to "get this black man out of here."
He adds that the tea party shows the "weak, dark underside of America," and that "we're supposed to be better than that."
The only black Republican candidate for president pushed right back. Businessman and tea party member Herman Cain says most of the people who criticize the movement have never been to a tea party rally.
Cain says "name calling" will continue because opponents don't know how to stop the tea party movement.
Meanwhile - with black leaders grumbling that Mr. Obama hasn't done enough about staggering black unemployment - the president has evoked language that sounds a whole lot like the civil rights era.
He told the Congressional Black Caucus to march with him: "Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes."
Americans are split on how Mr. Obama's presidency has changed race relations in the U.S.
A recent USA Today/Gallup poll shows 35% of those surveyed said race relations have improved, while 23% say they've gotten worse under President Obama.
41% percent see no change.
Back in 2008, when the nation voted for "hope and change," Americans had a much rosier view of what this president would do for race relations.
Gallup found that the day after Mr. Obama was elected, a whopping 70% predicted race relations would improve.
Here’s my question to you: Has President Obama made racism worse?
Race relations have not improved as much in the U.S. as many hoped they would with the election of our first African-American president. When Barack Obama was elected, we heard a lot of talk about all the good it might do for racial tensions.
Well, maybe not... Consider this: 56 percent of Americans think a solution to this country's race relations problem will eventually be worked out. But that's exactly the same percentage of people who felt this way when Gallup first asked this question 46 years ago in December of 1963. So despite all the progress we've presumably made in the last half century - much has not changed.
Gallup conducted a one-night poll on November 5 of last year - right after President Obama won. At that point, 67 percent of those surveyed thought race relations would get better. They haven't.
Not surprisingly, blacks are much more pessimistic about this question than whites. Among blacks, optimism has decreased since last summer from 50 percent to 42 percent.
Gallup also found that 79 percent of Americans say blacks have equal employment opportunities to whites. That number is up since last summer. But - here again - blacks are overwhelmingly more pessimistic about equal job chances.
Lastly, the poll shows 51 percent of those surveyed agree that there's widespread racism against blacks in the U.S.
Here’s my question to you: Why hasn't the nation's first African-American president had a greater impact on race relations?
A white Louisiana justice of the peace has refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. It's 2009 - the United States has its first ever African-American president; and Louisiana has some knuckle-dragging moron Justice of the Peace who takes it upon himself to decide who can get married.
Terence McKay claims a justice of the peace refused to give him and his white girlfriend a marriage license.
Keith Bardwell of Tangipahoa Parish, north of New Orleans, insists he's not a racist and that he tries to treat everyone equally. Then he says this:
"I just don't believe in mixing the races that way. I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
In addition to being a justice of the peace, Bardwell is also a social scientist. He says the reason he refused this couple a marriage license was out of concern for any children they might have... saying neither black nor white society accepts biracial children, and they would suffer.
Bardwell says he's turned down about four couples during his career - and he still has a job? And Louisiana allows this kind of crap to go on?
The bride, who is white, insists this is all about discrimination and racism - and wants Bardwell to resign. She's right and he should be fired.
Civil rights groups are calling for him to go too.
The ACLU says the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that the government cannot tell people who they can marry... they want the state judiciary committee to investigate. I wonder if they will.
Here’s my question to you: What does it mean when an interracial couple is denied a marriage license in Louisiana in 2009?
Former President Jimmy Carter says racism plays a major role in the recent opposition to President Obama. Carter says part of this "intensely demonstrated animosity" is based on the fact that the president is black.
Former President Carter tells "NBC Nightly News" that racism has surfaced in opposition to President Obama.
Carter says that racism is bubbling up among many white people all around the country because they think African-Americans aren't qualified to lead. he calls it "an abominable circumstance."
The former president also says racism was at play in the recent outburst by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who called President Obama a liar. Some say a white president would never be treated this way.
But critics say all this is nonsense. The head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele says President Carter is "flat-out wrong." Steele, who is black, says the opposition isn't about race, but rather about policy. He calls these charges of racism a distraction by Democrats to shift the debate away from health care reform.
Then there's Rush Limbaugh - he talks about how race rules all in what he calls "Obama's America." The right wing radio host suggests that race is at play in nearly every aspect of society today... including the story of the white kid who got beat up on an Illinois bus by black students.
Limbaugh also says racism is behind the media's treatment of Kanye West after his stunt at the video music awards, which Limbaugh considered relatively mild behavior.
Here’s my question to you: Does racism have anything to do with the opposition to President Obama?
Congressman Charlie Rangel played the race card in the health care debate. Rangel says racial bias and prejudice against President Obama because he's an African-American are behind the opposition to health care reform.
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)
Rangel stated: "Some Americans have not gotten over the fact that Obama is president of the United States. They go to sleep wondering, 'how did this happen?'"
It's a cheap shot and probably just about the last thing that President Obama needs in the already-heated debate. And it's even more of a cheap shot coming from Rangel, considering the fact that the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is under investigation for several ethics violations.
Mr. Rangel was forced to file amended financial reports to the House Ethics Committee after it was discovered he apparently "forgot" to report millions of dollars in assets and income. Just another hack politician who when the going gets tough resorts to race politics.
The Washington Post is calling on Rangel to resign as chairman of that committee.
But I'm sure he's not going anywhere - any more than Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina or Larry Craig of Idaho or any of a number of so-called public servants who use their elected office as a way of avoiding the rules the rest of us live by.
For his part, Rangel says it's not fair for him to comment until the ethics committee wraps up its investigation. In the meantime, he should just go away.
Here’s my question to you: Is Congressman Charlie Rangel, up to his ears in ethics investigations, out of line in saying race is at the center of the health care debate?
Pres. Obama (R), Sgt. Crowley (2nd R), Prof. Gates (2nd L), and VP Biden (L) drank beers on the White House South last night. The so-called Beer Summit was held after Crowley arrested Gates at his home, sparking tensions and racial furor. (PHOTO CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
After beers at the White House - Sgt. James Crowley and Prof. Henry Gates say their talks were productive and that they plan to meet again.
The two men - at the center of what grew into a national conversation on race - met with President Obama and Vice President Biden at a patio table outside the White House.
Crowley says it was a frank discussion - that they agreed to move forward rather than dwell on the past. He didn't give more specifics except to say that no one apologized. Gates says he hopes the experience will "prove an occasion for education, not recrimination."
President Obama said he was thankful to both men for joining him for a "friendly, thoughtful conversation." The White House is probably glad to have this meeting done with, hoping the president can get the nation to focus on his priority of health care.
It probably wasn't the president's finest moment - a new Pew poll shows 41-percent of those surveyed disapproved of the president's handling of the Gates arrest - only 29 percent approved.
Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct - after making charges of racism against Crowley. President Obama inserted himself into the debate by saying the Cambridge police acted "stupidly" while admitting he didn't know all of the facts. Later, the president walked back his comments a bit - but stopped short of apologizing.
Here’s my question to you: Sgt. Crowley says no one apologized at the White House meeting. Were apologies in order?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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