A friend of mine who lives in a southern state wrote a frustrated blog entry Red State Blue State Schmoo State. This entry is my reply which was too long winded for her comment section.
Here’s my favorite election map. It’s from it’s from Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman at the University of Michigan. The map is a cartogram using a color scale that ranges from red for 70% Republican or more, to blue for 70% Democrat or more. Also, it looks like a fish (hence the title of the blog entry), well, it does to me anyway.
I understand why you’re frustrated. This as a terrible time to live in the US and, imo, a hard time to be American. But as someone who’s from California (blue, though red under Reagan) and has lived in both Louisiana (was blue then but barely) and Ohio (lived in a very red part), I think your anger is really being mis-directed. And wonder is screaming in caps at democrats who live in the “blue” states really more constructive?
What you’re seeing as an intellectual elite bashing “red states” I see as people who live in urban areas and in “liberal” parts of the US realizing (maybe later than we should have) that there’s a huge value divide right now in the US. Because I lived in Lima 10 years ago, I knew it already, but even I was shocked by this election — maybe I had gotten lulled by Clinton. What we’re seeing now is the religious right reaping their reward for 20 years of organization. I’ve got to say that religious fundimentalism came as a huge shock to me when I moved to Lima — both the political power of it and the (what to me seemed) extreme nature of some of the beliefs (ie not allowing kids to read Dr. Suess because the books promote humanism, women’s shelters being opposed because they were “destroying” families, white people accepting as fact and explaining to me that there’s “blacks” and then there’s “ni**ers”). I used to write letters home saying “you won’t believe this, but…”
And friends and family didn’t believe me. Well, except for my sister who fell in love there and lives there still.
I had a hard time finding anything in common with a lot of the people I lived around. There was no single value we seemed to share — even ones we seemed to agree on came from such different bases that if we talked for too long about those we’d still end up arguing (I must have seemed like I was from Mars). And I had it easy because the university where my ex-husband taught had faculty that operated as a sort of democratic party cell for Allen County.
But most people who live in very blue cities inside blue states (like CA and NY) have never lived in Allen County Ohio. They assume that even Republicans are mostly the same as them (except on taxes) because that’s how most Republicans are that live around them. The re-election of GWB over the corpse of gay marriage seems obscene and incomprehensible. The only reason most people can come up with is that people in states / counties that went 50% or more for Bush are either being willfully unaware, are so prejudiced against anyone from the urban northeast or west coast that they’d rather see Bush re-elected than vote for them, are terribly mean-spirited and xenophobic or that they are stupid enough to have fallen for the crap that Rove and his ilk have been shoveling. Add to that all the transplants from the rural midwest and south to NY and CA who are very quick to say “they’re just backwards and biggoted back home” (if they’d liked it there, they wouldn’t have moved here, right?). And, of course, sites like SorryEverybody.Com have a lot of photos from people in Repubican states calling the majority of voters in their states “stupid” or worse.
It’s made people here recoil over the past 4 years, both in horror and fear, from something they don’t understand and have no experience to use to help understand it.
Because I’ve lived in Lima, I don’t think that. Because I know people in the midwest and south, I know there’s a lot of democrats there. But think of the news we’re seeing. We don’t see democrats struggling in Utah or Alabama to GOTV. We see lots of Bush/Cheney people arguing against abortion and gay marriage. It doesn’t make them look like any place you’d want to spend a lot of time.
I know it must be frustrating for you in different ways. But try, for a moment to imagine what it would be like to live in an area that went 85% for Kerry and be trying to make sense of this election. I could go days without seeing a single Bush-Cheney sign or bumpers sticker in Los Angeles. Kerry ones were everywhere because so many people had ordered them (at a pretty high price too, helping pay to make them cheaper in “swing” states). I suspect the reverse is true in much of Utah. Being angry and calling other democrats liberal or elitist makes hearing the rest of what you have to say hard, especially given the number of people from “blue” states who gave up weeks or months of work or vacation time in their own states to GOTV and help Kerry in states that ended up going red.
You are right that name calling and accusations in each direction don’t help. But the divide is real. I know that even in the reddest county (like Allen, OH) there’s people who worked really really hard for Kerry. For my part I really do support democrats living in what have become “safe” Republican states. I’m just not sure what you (collective here) think I should be doing that I’m not.
I guess another problem is I couldn’t live there — when I did I felt afraid, belittled and smothered. And so, much as I love them, it’s hard to identify with progressives (even my own sister) who can and do. My impulse is to just try and get all of you out of there.
That probably sounded condesending to someone like yourself who grew-up and has family there. But I don’t mean it to be. Like you, I guess I’m just frustrated. Why not at least give me until all the votes are counted in this election to get over it and start planning for midterm 2006?