12.02.12 Red state blues: a retraction

My post-election post suggesting that we kick out all the red states generated more disagreement than anything else I’ve posted. I was really just blowing off steam and expressing my feeling of utter alienation from what I might call “red state thinking.” Now I realize I was entirely wrong.

This insight stretches back at least a dozen years, to the first time I saw a map of national election results in the New York Times, broken down by district or county. I saw then that, even in blue states, the blue in them was heavily concentrated just along the coasts or in big cities. The only exception to this was in New England, where entire states were blue. I paid somewhat less attention to the counter-case: even in red states, there were blue pockets for cities, albeit less in the south than elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I was aware that the political split in this country is only partly regional, but is mostly urban vs. rural. I ignored this phenomenon when I called for dispensing with the red states once and for all.

Now comes a fascinating piece of analysis in the Atlantic, titled Red State, Blue City: How the Urban-Rural Divide is Splitting America. I didn’t realize that even Dallas and Houston — in (nearly fascist) Texas — have voted blue in two consecutive elections. So have cities like Birmingham, Tucson, Little Rock, and Charleston, S.C. In fact (quoting from the article), “the only major cities that voted Republican in the 2012 presidential election were Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Salt Lake City.”

I have seen some other recent analysis (that I cannot put my finger on right now) that living in close quarters makes people blue: there is a need for more common infrastructure and regulations to keep life civil and flowing in large population centers. The Atlantic article, while not getting at root causes, makes that point: “The voting data suggest that people don’t make cities liberal — cities make people liberal.” It’s not that lefties move to cities because of arts, restaurants, and creative jobs, but rather that city life makes people need government in a way that rural living doesn’t.

Of course, there are some regional differences: a given city in a given southern state is less likely to be blue (or likely to be less blue) than a similar city elsewhere. And, as I mentioned previously, New England is the only part of the country where even rural areas are blue. But still, it is abundantly clear that population density trumps regionalism when it comes to voting.

So, can anybody think of a  way to get rural America to secede?

©2012 Keith Berner

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6 Comments on “12.02.12 Red state blues: a retraction”

  1. Wally Malakoff Says:

    Keith, Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been enjoying reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

    Wally Malakoff

    Like

    • Keith Berner Says:

      Why thanks, Wally. Your friendly neighborhood blogger sits alone in his room, never knowing whether anyone appreciates the arduous labor he puts in, so your good cheer is appreciated!

      Like

  2. Ken Firestone Says:

    In answer to your last question. The cities could demand visas/passports of the bumpkins before they are allowed into the city 😉

    But more seriously, Gail Collins, of NY Times fame, wrote a book about this last spring.

    Like

  3. Jerry Berner Says:

    Hi Keith, I’m glad to see your “:retraction” blog. I think that The Atlantic article that you referred to tried to explain some of the reasons that urban vs. rural populations have different philosophies regarding the role of government in our lives. I think that your last line about encouraging ” rural secession” was tongue- iin-cheek but the urban/rural split is the reality that our United States has to live with. I’d wish that our elected officials could see the larger picture of the need for a National rather than regional goal for our legislation..The Republicans should see how Lincoiln was able to adopt the larger picture as his goal .His methods may not have been so great but his goal to save the Nation was admirable. I’m glad that Obama is taking a stronger stance in confronting the Republicans in trying to avoid the fiscal cliff. Too bad that they are unaccepting of the view of majority of the electorate.

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