The Great Divide

Melissa’s post on Illinois reminded me that the entire Red/Blue state dichotomy is very misleading. The true political division in this country is urban/rural, and is a replay of the 1920’s in that respect.

This link shows a county by county result from the Bush-Kerry contest in 2004. It is nearly identical to the 2000 result, here.

The Democrats win every urban county, with a couple of smaller exceptions such as Salt Lake City, but the only rural areas they have carried are the Mississippi Delta (which has an African-American majority) and western counties with considerable Hispanic populations.

In the 1920’s, the rural areas also rallied to the conservative party (the Dems, then) against modernization, urbanization, and change in general. In 1932, FDR led the D’s (remember, the conservative party) to total power because the GOP (the progressive party) was blamed for the Great Depression. In office, FDR leapfrogged the GOP to the left, pulling his entire party with him (except Dixiecrats, of course) and leading to their 40+ years of dominating government. FDR’s grand coalition of urban labor, minorities, and rural whites endured a long time.

2008 may well be a watershed moment similar to 1932, if current trends hold in Iraq and the economy.

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under 11_nightshift

12 responses to “The Great Divide

  1. Melissa’s post on Illinois reminded me that the entire Red/Blue state dichotomy is very misleading.

    I’m totally with ya on the whole blue/urban and red/rural correlation, but I’m not sure why that makes the blue/red dichotomy “very misleading.” Surely most people with two brain cells knocking together understand the color only means a majority of the state’s population is liberal or conservative, not every single person in the state.

    And, ultimately, that it tends to correlate with an urban/rural divide (which itself is historically representative of a diversity/lack of diversity divide), doesn’t make the color-coding “misleading.”

    In fact, I would argue that most people associate blue states with cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) and city people, and most people associate red states with hay-chomping yokels (she said from her red state, not, as it happens, chewing hay)–which suggests that people have internalized the urban/rural correlation with blue/red to an extreme.

  2. The Democrats win every urban county, with a couple of smaller exceptions such as Salt Lake City,

    Not so, Tarrant County – (Dallas, Fort Worth)
    and Harris County (Houston)are red on that map as well as Bexar (San Antonio, which is a bit surprising). It appears that Nueces County (Corpus Christi) is also red.

    These are some of the largest urban centers in America. Yes Texas is a reddest of the red state with a shitload of electorial votes.

    Only Austin is blue.

    😦

  3. For your amusement, here’s a link to the map in shades of purple.

    There’s a map out there (though I don’t have it) with the graphic scale of individual counties/states exagerated to reflect population. It’s quite a different picture…

  4. Griffin –

    The South doesn’t look so solidly red on that map does it?

    Makes you wonder why we can’t win the South. Could it be ….. Voter Fraud? ( The real type, not the Rove type)

  5. nightshift66

    Liss,
    I think you overestimate the number of people who possess two functioning brain cells. I cannot tell you how many sweeping generalizations I’ve heard about “liberal” California (Orange County & San Diego, anyone?) or “conservative” Southerners (see NOLA and Raleigh, NC). Too many people don’t understand that when one speaks of the aggregate, one is in statistics.

    Ken,
    I noted that there are exceptions both ways, but there is a very strong correlation in this country between population density and political persuasion. Also, you must remember that in the South, the racial correlationship of voting is stronger than anywhere else in the country. For state and national offices, that always favors the GOP; for local and county offices, it is often the reverse.

    Griffin,
    The map to which you refer is here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/ and it reflects that the country was closely balanced politically in the population as a whole.

  6. i must agree with you on this one. as one of a very few (although more than tolerated, i often feel appreciated and even liked) progressive voices in my mostly mormon, mostly republican area i have been watching my neighbors beginning to salivate over the prospect of a romney candidacy. i have quit even phoning my representative (flake, national socialist, arizona) because he isn’t interesting in anything that is not an “approved talking point” or in either the king james bible or the book of mormon. i do manage to get my licks in from time to time. but mostly, i just shut up and try to be a good friend and neighbor. i know that really fucks with them to like me as a human being when god tells them they should hate my apostate ass.

  7. The red/blue dictomy is misleading in a state like Connecticut because the “majority” dems are only a majority of those who have joined a party, and are only a few points more than republicans. The real majority of registered voters are unaffiliated, and go with whoever is less bug eyed at the moment.

  8. I think you overestimate the number of people who possess two functioning brain cells. I cannot tell you how many sweeping generalizations I’ve heard about “liberal” California (Orange County & San Diego, anyone?) or “conservative” Southerners (see NOLA and Raleigh, NC).

    You’re proving my point. People talk about liberal California because they’re thinking “San Francisco” (urban and wealthy and diverse). People talk about the conservative South because they’re thinking “Appalachia” (rural and poor and white). Blue and red axiomatically evoke for most Americans urban/diverse/liberal majorities and rural/white/conservative majorities, respectively.

    Like I said, I believe you’re ignoring that the blue/urban and red/rural connotations are deeply ingrained even in people who couldn’t articulate them. If most Americans have internalized the very associations you’re arguing are “true political division in this country,” we’re back to my original question: How is the blue/red divide “misleading”? I don’t understand what you think the “false political division in this country” is.

    It seems to me you’ve got it backwards. I think what you really wanted to do is just grouse about the fact that people make sweeping generalizations about whole states, based on their being blue or red, like all blue staters are sophisticates and all red staters are hayseeds. Which is idiotic, I grant you. But the fact that people do that underlines my point that the blue/urban and red/rural associations are firmly in place. You’ve got it backwards; it’s not that people don’t “get” the urban/rural thing, it’s that they take it too far.

  9. keshmeshi

    It’s inaccurate to describe the Dems before ’32 as “conservative” and the GOP as “progressive.” Despite the racism and fear of modernity that plagued the party at that time, the Dems did have some populist appeal. The Republicans were absolutely determined to never alter the function of government in society, even when faced with an unprecedented depression. Hoover even blamed poor people for being poor and claimed that people were selling apples on the street because they could make more money than doing a real job. Does that sound a little familiar?

  10. nightshift66

    kesh,
    Hoover had the federal government do more to combat the Great Depression than any president before him, and FDR ran in 1932 on a platform of balancing the federal budget. While the issues were different and there were exceptions, the Dems were the conservative party at the time.

    Melissa,
    Yes, what I was saying was that thinking of an entire state as either blue or red is simplistic and wrong in most cases. Rural counties are overwhelmingly conservative, and urban counties overwhelmingly liberal, with the noted exceptions. And I hadn’t even considered the usual ‘hick’ insults aspect of it, for the same reasons Dolly Parton doesn’t mind blonde jokes (she knows she isn’t dumb OR blonde; her words, not mine).

    I had hoped that the post would lead to a discussion about whether or not the next president will attempt to build another grand coalition a la FDR, or would continue to use the “51%” plan of Dubya. Many bloggers say things like “F*** the South” or “Who needs the rural West.” From a purely numerical standpoint, they are CORRECT. The Dems do not need the South or rural West to win the presidency and the House; they need only win their strongholds by sufficient margins.

    Further, there is some appeal to having the most ideologically ‘pure’ party one can have and still muster 50% plus one. The GOP turned razor-thin Congressional majorities into their darkest desires because they weren’t a broad coalition, and thus could maintain party discipline. I’m sure many Progressives would love to be able to emulate that aspect.

    I’m suggesting that a broader coalition approach for the Democrats could last for decades, as the FDR coalition did.

  11. shen

    “Surely most people with two brain cells knocking together understand the color only means a majority of the state’s population is liberal or conservative, not every single person in the state.”

    Melissa, out here in good ol red Utah, the majority do not, in fact, have 2 brain cells then.

    living in the most liberal part of the most liberal area of the most conservative state, i promise i have heard it all. trust me, the majority, at least here, don’t get it……..

  12. LS

    There’s a fascinating animation of the Purple US at
    http://www.princeton.edu/~rvdb/JAVA/election2004/

    showing presidential results from 1960 to 2004 – the usual red-blue plus green for 3rd-party. It’s interesting to watch, because you really can pinpoint major cities – just look for blue or dark purple spots that don’t color-shift at all year to year… except in ’72, when the whole country lights up red (and yes, even MA goes a reddish-purple). It’s also a startling look at how much the South really does vote together – more so in the early election years, when civil rights was the hot topic, but remaining a clear pattern. And also a pretty good visual on why there’s a good bit of truth to the idea that Clinton became president because Perot ran — try to ignore ’96 and compare ’92 to ’00 in the Midwest – the greenest counties become the reddest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s