Sometimes it’s useful to hear the views of someone whose not directly involved with your situation, just to get a different perspective. It’s in that spirit that a writer for England’s Observer newspaper looks at the current political split in the US between red and blue – not just states but also people – using his in-laws, who are American, as examples. Calling the article Divided We Stand should give you a pretty good idea of what he observes.

Welcome to the Armageddon election, an election which pits fathers against sons, and brothers against sisters, and in which no one can agree any longer on the time of day. Never mind the war in Iraq. The battle for the hearts, souls and ultimately the votes that will decide who gets to occupy the White House for the next four years is far more bloody and divisive.

America has always been polarised along racial and geographic lines. What makes the 2004 presidential election campaign such depressing viewing is that the war of words between Republicans and Democrats is increasingly dividing families along generational and cultural lines. In New York this summer I heard countless stories of children who were no longer on speaking terms with their parents because, while they were holding up placards outside the Republican convention in Madison Square Garden that read ‘Somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot’, their parents were back in Branson, Missouri, running Bush registration drives.

What’s really depressing about what the writer observes is that the split will probably get worse after the election as the two parties become even more polarized. Maybe what we need is a third party such as the Common Sense Party proposed by a writer in this morning’s paper. Maybe enough of us could get behind a movement that refuses to accept the extremes of either party. Or maybe not.

[Common sense as a concept] lacks the polarizing attraction of, say, the abortion rights movement or the gun groups. It doesn’t inspire the kind of passion, anger or fear that would drive a direct-mail campaign. Few would contribute to a Common Sense PAC.

So it turns out that common sense is not so common after all, at least in the political sphere. This is bad news for our fledgling political party. We’ll just have to keep holding our noses while the political parties keep catering to their flanks.

Oh, well, back to the barricades.