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