Better, Not Bitter: Why We Are Not Divided

I remember a commercial from many years ago for a company well-known for bottling grapefruit juice. The company had released a new flavor, and in the ad, people were giving it a taste test. At least three different people on the commercial remarked that the new flavor was “better, not bitter.” It wasn’t clear whether the taste testers were actors or actual people off the street, but they were unanimous in their surprise at how good the new flavor tasted.

The main purpose of the commercial -- besides selling grapefruit juice, of course -- was to show how conventional wisdom can be totally wrong. In his new book Dispatches from Bitter America (also available for Kindle), Fox News Radio reporter and commentator Todd Starnes attempts to do the same thing -- to prove that conservative Americans are “better, not bitter.”

The concept of “bitter America” is one that’s fresh in our minds. In one of the most notorious moments of the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama told a group at a fundraiser his theory on the voting habits of small-town voters:

It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The quote turned into a rallying cry for Obama's opponents, from Hillary Clinton in the primaries to virtually everybody on the Right. Plenty of people have used it as evidence that Obama is out of touch with everyday Americans, while others have tried to prove Obama wrong. Starnes tries both tacks in this collection of essays and short interviews -- proving the Left's distance from mainstream America and presenting a positive image of conservative citizens. For the most part, he succeeds.