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What is the number one thing you learned about America from your trip?

I was surprised to find out how many Americans were hesitant to define themselves as a Republican or Democrat. More people than I could have possibly anticipated defined themselves as independents and seemed almost embarrassed to claim either political party. It was shocking to me and I think says quite a lot about the extreme partisan politics in Washington right now.

As you traveled, what were some of the biggest challenges facing Americans that you saw?

The economy first and foremost. We met a lot of people whose lives had been drastically altered by the recession. We heard a lot of extremely heart breaking stories about people losing their jobs, struggling to make it all work, having to decide between health insurance and college tuitions for their children, that type of thing. The economy and jobs were by far the most brought up topic on the road from people.

 

What are some of the stranger situations you found yourself in during the trip?

There were so many strange and crazy situations. Everything from hanging out at strip clubs, to staying with strangers who were family friends of friends, to simply being on the road with a stranger for a month. It was all strange and extremely fun at the same time.

 

What was it like to tour with a Democrat in some of the more liberal states?

Michael is very open minded so it really wasn’t any different than being in a red state with him. I think it was probably weirder for him to be in the really conservative parts of the country with me.

 

What made you decide to stop at Fort Campbell?

We wanted to tour a military base and speak with the men and women currently serving in the armed forces about what it’s like serving, especially during a time of war and conflict. We had an incredible time at Fort Campbell and I can honestly say that Michael and I both had an incredible experience there and that the men and women we met and spoke with could not have been nicer and more hospitable.  Truly the greatest young men and women in America serve in our military, and it was an honor to be able to spend time with them at Fort Campbell.

 

What did you take away from your visit to the Clinton library in Little Rock, Arkansas?

You know, The Clinton Library was not my favorite stop. I understand that a Presidential library is only going to show the President in the most flattering of lights, but it was disappointing nonetheless. I took away that Presidents can and probably all do rewrite their own life narrative when they open up their library.

 

After touring, do you think there really are red and blue states, or do you think all of them are more purplish?

I think there are red and blue states but I think the majority of Americans are a lot more in the middle with their politics than they are on the extreme right or left. We found a great sense of disgust among people about the divisiveness in politics and Washington D.C. when we were on the road, and I think that’s a reflection that many Americans are being misrepresented by both the politicians representing them and the media as well.

 

What was the one place you were looking forward to going to the most on this trip? Did it live up to expectations or did something else beat it out in the end?

I was extremely excited to go to Branson, Missouri because I had never been there before and it had been described to me as “The Vegas of the Midwest.” Let me tell you, Branson greatly exceeded my expectations and both Michael and I had an amazing time. I had a little bit of a quarter-life existential crisis in Branson as well after seeing Yakov Smirnoff’s stand up performance. You’re going to have to buy the book if you want to hear more about that.

 

You met a lot of diverse people from strippers and hippies to Mormons and anarchists. Was there any one person or group that challenged your ideas the most?

It’s too difficult to choose. Honestly, and I know this sounds cliché, every single person we met with changed my opinion in a small way. I think that’s what made the experience so memorable and special.

 

If you could take the trip again, would you?

Yes, in a heartbeat.

 

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Meghan McCain writes a weekly column for the Daily Beast and is the author of Dirty Sexy Politics. Her new book with Michael Ian Black, is America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom.  She lives in New York City.

 

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TNB Nonfiction TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others. 

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JULIA GOLDBERG is the Nonfiction Editor. She is a full-time faculty member in the Creative Writing Department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, teaching a variety of nonfiction and journalism courses. She spent ten years as the editor of The Santa Fe Reporter newspaper, during which time the paper won numerous regional and national awards for writing, design and web innovation. Goldberg’s writing has appeared in numerous state and national publications, including The Rumpus, Salon, Alternet and In These Times. She is a contributing author and editor for Best Altweekly Writing 2009-2010 from Northwestern University Press.

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