So the challenge is different. But the solution once again is to be found in the education system—particularly America’s rotten public schools. Republicans are, generally speaking, reluctant to spend more money—partly because they represent people in richer school districts and partly because so much cash has already been wasted (America spends much more than other countries). Meanwhile Democrats, enslaved to the teachers’ unions, are generally unwilling to countenance reforms such as school vouchers and testing; and they are also keener on affirmative action, the system of race-based preferences which makes universities less competitive and keeps the poison of race in a debate which is best focused on income.
This is depressing. But a political solution of sorts is going begging. Republicans should be willing to spend more cash on schools in poor areas (including on teachers’ salaries) in exchange for the Democrats accepting structural reform. The No Child Left Behind Act, which introduced some forms of testing and the daring possibility of shutting down some bad schools, was an important step forward. But more is needed. Otherwise two Americas really will start to jump out off the map.