The Answer Guy Online

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Tuesday, December 03, 2002

I'm hearing a lot of self-congratulatory commentary by conservative pundits and politicians that the "real America" is behind them. It's been popular to speak of "Blue States" (i.e. states carried by Al Gore in the 2000 election) vs. "Red States" (i.e. states George W. Bush carried in that election) and the country's cultural divide along those fault lines.

The Blue States: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

The Red States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida(?), Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming

To the conservatives, it's the out-of-touch, big-city bicoastal cultural elite versus the "real Americans" of the Heartland. (Never mind that the Midwest itself is closely divided.) Because they're in power, that's what were mostly hearing in our media. You get stuff like this. Click here for the original article where this quote came from.

There are only 20 Blue States (plus D.C.) compared with 30 Red States, but there are more people in the Blue States. The Red States have a disproportionate voice in federal government policy, which has some visible policy effects - large agricultural subsidies, public land royalty schemes very favorable to extraction industries - when one looks closely.

Now, obviously, it's a crude map. If you looked closer (say, by county or by ZIP code) you would see some substantial clusters of blue shading in many "Red States" (particularly Texas and Florida) and some large pockets of red ink in most "Blue States" (Pennsylvania in particular comes to mind) so the picture is obviously more complex. Plus such a map ignores the difference between states that were very close this time around (Florida, Missouri, Iowa, Oregon) states that were not (Nebraska, Rhode Island) and of course the "Ralph Nader factor." Not to mention that even the most rock-solid conservative or Republican areas have some non-believers in their midst, and the biggest liberal or Democaratic bastions have conservatives living amongst them. Any broad strokes one would make could never be 100% accurate.

Therefore, it's obviously dangerous to overgeneralize in this fashion, but there is certainly something to this divide.

Someone needs to speak up for the Blue States, damn it. The Democrats are too scared to do so, partly because the deck is stacked against Blue States, so I guess I'm left to volunteer for the job.

For all of the "get the government off our backs" rhetoric you hear coming (mostly) from politicians in the Red States, government in general regularly effects large transfers of money from the Blue States to the Red States. The biggest net-contributors to federal coffers are nearly all Blue, and the biggest net-recipient states are nearly all Red. (This has been true for years, regardless of which party controlled Congress or the White House, though it is marginally more pronounced when Republicans are in the drivers' seat.) As much as you hear about hardworking rural Americans being overtaxed to keep the poor cities on the dole, it's generally the exact opposite that's true.

For all the "family values" and "personal responsibility" rhetoric emanating (primarily) from the Red States, the Red States have higher divorce rates and higher rates of teen pregnancy. The urban areas in the Red States (especially in the South) have higher crime rates than their Blue State counterparts. The same is true, for that matter, for the suburban and rural areas.

Most of the Blue States are more diverse, more educated, and have more diversified economies than most of the Red States. In other words, they look a lot more like the world's future. (Take away Florida from the Red column and it's even more stark.)

Finally, a counterweight to all that self-congratulatory blather on the right.

On a lighter note...Welcome to the blogosphere, Joe! Man, I hate that term.


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