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The North Will Rise Again

Paul Waldman takes a good look at the real America / fake America rhetoric of the right and the self-hating media's awful tendency to swallow it. Beyond simple regional pride -- go Northeast! -- there's a serious point here. Virtually all of the globally competetive sectors of the American economy, film, television, music and other media, software, financial and legal services, etc. are concentrated in Blue America. The Reddish portions of the country are living off federal subsidies, tarrif barriers, and military spending. It's not a coincidence that the most dynamic portions of Dixie (the much-rumored "New South") are some of the Bluest parts (you also have some desperately poor, mostly black, rural counties) and growing Bluer. The North Carolina Research Triangle, Northern Virginia, Southern Florida, the Austin vicinity in Texas. In the non-Dixie, but still mostly Red, Southwest you see a similar dynamic where growth goes hand-in-hand with Blueification and Red is concentrated in sparsely populated deserts where the government owns most of the land and lets people exploit public resources at sub-market prices.

The interesting thing is that, some of the time, the president gets this. He and Dick Cheney both tried to turn questions about jobs into questions about education at the debates. For those currently suffering, that's meaningless, but they're right to say that the plan for the long-term involves the creation of a well-educated, highly-skilled workforce that can build on a high-tech infrastructure. The trouble for the Republicans is that the actual creation of such a society would doom them to oblivion. Check out the Democracy Corps analysis of the Education Gap (PDF) but instead of thinking, as they do, of the 2004 election think about the longterm outlook. A better-educated society would be devastating to American conservatism as currently understood by the movement's institutional leaders. I rather doubt the upshot would actually be a prolonged period of Democratic dominance, probably the GOP would adapt by becoming a less demagogic force, which would be all for the best. But maybe not.

October 25, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

better-educated society would be devastating to American conservatism as currently understood by the movement's institutional leaders. I rather doubt the upshot would actually be a prolonged period of Democratic dominance, probably the GOP would adapt by becoming a less demagogic force, which would be all for the best.

You are correct, IMHO.

The GOP has rewarded extremism for two decades now. The pendulum is due to swing back and the education of the "Reddish portions of the country ...living off federal subsidies, tarrif barriers, and military spending" will play a big part.

The Democrats survived their shift towards the middle. The GOP will not survive in its current form if it goes any further right.

If/When Kerry wins, 2008 vs McCain might just be the first major indicator signaling a swing back away from Limbaughesque conservatism which will hopefully continue for at least a generation.

Posted by: def | Oct 25, 2004 4:49:29 PM

I think the conservative attack on biased media and biased higher education is an attempt to lessen or negate the damage and 'take back' the universities for red America. Ha, I just realized, they're Reds. That makes my day.

Posted by: joe | Oct 25, 2004 4:56:58 PM

"The trouble for the Republicans is that the actual creation of such a society would doom them to oblivion."

You mean like in Minnesota? or in Wisconsin? Or maybe you mean New Jersey? Or Hawaii?

If you weren't a hack, you might have noticed how suburbanization turns blue states redder.

Posted by: Reg | Oct 25, 2004 4:59:52 PM

the most dynamic portions of Dixie (the much-rumored "New South") are some of the Bluest parts (you also have some desperately poor, mostly black, rural counties) and growing Bluer. The North Carolina Research Triangle, Northern Virginia, Southern Florida, the Austin vicinity in Texas.

Sure this is an interesting point, but you largely pick examples where the south has been essentially colonized by northerners! Perfectly prosperous areas of the South, such as Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Tampa, and Orlando seem to have no problem voting for conservatives. And don't forget that the Southern Democrats people in the "New South" are used to (even discounting Zell Miller--people like Fritz Hollings, Bob Graham, John Breaux) make the Democratic party as a whole look much more conservative than John Kerry. Thus the whole "John Kerry is a Massachusetts liberal" rhetoric.

I think Waldman misses an obvious fact in his otherwise good discussion: being from Texas bears an obvious geographical advantage because of its size and positioning. Specifically Bush can claim to be from the South, the West, and "middle america," and it's all essentially true. Kerry, of course, can fool no one into thinking he's anything but a New Englander, even if he has a ranch in Idaho. It's almost a wonder Bush doesn't try to play up his Connecticut heritage as a play for New Hampshire, Maine and Pennsylvania voters.

Posted by: right | Oct 25, 2004 5:00:15 PM

Matt,

You're spot on as always and mostly correct on the education front. My question is; why are several of my friends with at least bachelor degrees supporting the Chimp?

There's a level of cognative dissonance at work here that escapes me. Can you explain why college and Masters level folks are unable to see the truth about the neocons and their puppet president?

Posted by: Cleveland Bob | Oct 25, 2004 5:00:28 PM

A counter-argument:

Some of the most dynamic economic sectors over the next several decades will be dominated by blue collar jobs not requiring extensive education, most notably those involving the construction/deployment of a new energy infrastructure, and the restoration of infrastructure generally (which has been neglected over the past several decades). None of this inherently favors red states over blue states, and indeed in order to construct and deploy a new energy infrastructure one must actually research and develop it first (a task that will no doubt require a small army of highly educated and creative individuals), but the fact is that much of this work will not require PhDs. Furthermore, I would add that those with undergraduate degrees tend to vote Republican (although not by huge margins), and those with graduate degrees tend to vote Democrat.

Posted by: Ken | Oct 25, 2004 5:02:05 PM

Holy cow, I think you've made a major breakthrough!

Posted by: John Judis & Ruy Teixeira | Oct 25, 2004 5:03:18 PM

"Perfectly prosperous areas of the South, such as Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Tampa, and Orlando seem to have no problem voting for conservatives."

Well, the suburbs have no problem voting for conservatives, but as a current resident of Nashville and a former resident of midtown Memphis, I promise you that these areas have no problem voting for liberals. The suburbanites are actually considered rather parasitic (red-state, if you think about it) in that they tend to be pleased with sports teams, libraries, museums, etc., but scamper as far away from the city as possible because they'd rather have other people's taxes financing the amenities & infrastructure that they enjoy when convenient. I zing one of my colleagues on this regularly.

But the real vitality, both in economic & intellectual terms, is in the city limits, around here at least, and most likely throughout the South, because suburbs here are still isolated, cumbersome, and badly planned. In short, the 'burbs don't draw the really innovative types... I can't remember the name of the book on this topic, but it was spot on.

Posted by: latts | Oct 25, 2004 5:17:14 PM

Reg,
I have a serious question for you. If you think Matt is such a hack, why do you bother? Is it because, though you think he is not intellectually powerful, he is politically powerful? If not, why do you engage here? Of course, there's also the question of why you engage so abusively under any circumstances.

Posted by: Jeff L. | Oct 25, 2004 5:19:39 PM

Reg, you're actually missing the mark on this one. NJ became a blue state because of its suburbanization, not despite it. As the state shifted from being an agriculture state and a commuter residence for bankers in New York, the state became bluer when it became home to a thriving biotech and telecommunications hub.

The fastest-growing states, like Nevada, are red states. However, the consequence of this fast growth is that, over time, this ends up turning those states blue.

Minnesota seems to have gotten redder because the Democratic party was really the DFL-- a combinationt of dems, unions, and farmers. The middle classes thus didn't feel like they had a "home" and gravitated towards the Republican party. By contrast, the new suburban residents fast-growing red states generally find that they don't have much in common with the local Republican party, which is going to be pretty unfriendly to the economic interess of the new industries that take root there. The national Republican party is going to be the party of Big Energy, Big Retail, and Big Military. States whose growth is do to industries outside of those sectors are going to get more blue.

Posted by: Constantine | Oct 25, 2004 5:20:21 PM

I can't remember the name of the book on this topic, but it was spot on.

The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida.

Posted by: Constantine | Oct 25, 2004 5:21:45 PM

latts,

Was that "Bomb the Suburbs" by William Upski Wimsatt?

Posted by: Matt | Oct 25, 2004 5:21:45 PM

FWIW Ray Suarez's "The Old Neighborhood" is an interesting read on urban/suburban issues.

Posted by: Handle | Oct 25, 2004 5:26:23 PM

There are a few exceptions (Georgia), but you're largely right. But then, that same demographic revolution will change the Dems as well. Clintonism was merely the first expression of this shift.

As for Reggie's comments about WI, MN, NJ, and HI, the red exurban wave is still a glimmer in Karl Rove's eye. If anything NJ and WI are far less Republican than they were a decade ago. The Republicans haven't won a statewide election in either state.

I'll admit MN has elected some Republicans recently, but they've always had some success in the state. Heck, Coleman only won by 10K votes, and his opponent died in a plane crash. And Coleman's almost certainly to the left of Rudy Boschwitz, Wellstone's Republican predecessor.

Posted by: AWC | Oct 25, 2004 5:28:21 PM

Sure this is an interesting point, but you largely pick examples where the south has been essentially colonized by northerners! Perfectly prosperous areas of the South, such as Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Tampa, and Orlando seem to have no problem voting for conservatives. And don't forget that the Southern Democrats people in the "New South" are used to (even discounting Zell Miller--people like Fritz Hollings, Bob Graham, John Breaux) make the Democratic party as a whole look much more conservative than John Kerry. Thus the whole "John Kerry is a Massachusetts liberal" rhetoric

Rule number 1 of American politics: never underestimate the power of race.

Race plays a big part in the difficulty for Southern Democrats. Note that North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida are two of the least African-American and least Hispanic states in the South. You'll notice that there aren't any "New South" Democrats from places like Mississippi, despite the fact that to win 50%+1 of the vote would require only 21.5% of white voters. Abortion is the other killer; the white population in many southern states is overwhelmingly (60-70%) pro-life. Thus the Dems may be successfuly hammered with wedge issues on abortion and the Confederate flag.

In EDM, Teixeira and Judis make the point that simply becoming an "ideopolis" does not turn a region more Democratic. There must also be a reconciliation, largely racial, between the City and its Suburbs. They point to LA, Chicago, and New York as places where this succeded, and St Louis and Atlanta as places where it hasn't. Houston and Dallas are more like St Louis and Atlanta (wrt race relations) then they are like New York and Chicago.

The education gap is probably Bush-specific; should the GOP put forward a President who can speak in complete sentences, and maybe spin a little less, I suspect it would disappear again, leaving the GOP with a serious majority.

It's clear that Democrats must offer something to working-class whites in order to grow their coalition past 2004. Subsidizing wind power and cracking down on crystal meth production are probably two best ways to go, until health care can pass (which it sure can't now).

Posted by: niq | Oct 25, 2004 5:43:27 PM

Note that North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida are two of the least African-American and least Hispanic states in the South. You'll notice that there aren't any "New South" Democrats from places like Mississippi, despite the fact that to win 50%+1 of the vote would require only 21.5% of white voters.

I find it hard to believe that Florida is one of the least Hispanic states in the South... :)

But my point was this: Mississippi doesn't have the mythical "New Democrat" because no one in the north ever moves to Mississippi. If you could look at the population demographics of all the states below the Mason-Dixon line, I bet the degree of each state's blue-ness is directly correlated to the percentage of residents' whose grandparents did not live in the south. Thus, Florida is competitive because 80% of Orlando-Tampa-Miami's grandparents are from (a) New York or (b) Cuba, and Mississippi is solid red because 80% of their grandparents are from (a) Mississippi or (b) Alabama.

Posted by: right | Oct 25, 2004 5:52:58 PM

"In the non-Dixie, but still mostly Red, Southwest you see a similar dynamic where growth goes hand-in-hand with Blueification and Red is concentrated in sparsely populated deserts where the government owns most of the land and lets people exploit public resources at sub-market prices."

The redism, if you you will, wasn't based entirely on exploiting public resources. Historically, many of the earlier residents of the Soutwest states came from the southeastern states and brought their conservatism, racial issues, and govt means northern inteference attitudes with them. Much of the wealth generated by families in Arizona in the first half of the 20th century came from the old Homestead Act. In the 1920s, you could still do the 640 acre deal. These families sold/developed their lands for an enormous windfall as the population increased with the introduction of evaporative coolers and air conditioners.

Arizona must be understood in population distribution terms. For a long time, the Phoenix area had a larger population than the population of the rest of the state combined. The Tucson area and all the Indian Reservations have had a democratic majority for decades. The Tucson area has been a longtime supporter of the Farm Worker's Union (we celebrate Caesar Chavez Day) and the Sanctuary Movement during the worst parts of the Reagan Admin's involvement in Cental America.

Thankfully, Phoenix is ceasing to outnumber all the other areas and we were able to elect a Democratic governor. And, as was noted, our more recent new residents are arriving from the northern, colder, blue states. In closing, let me say that there is still a bit of wild left in the old west. It was at the University of Arizona in Tucson that the pies were thrown at Ann Coulter last week :)

Posted by: AzSlim | Oct 25, 2004 6:13:12 PM

I find it hard to believe that Florida is one of the least Hispanic states in the South... :)

But my point was this: Mississippi doesn't have the mythical "New Democrat" because no one in the north ever moves to Mississippi.

(1) I wrote the post starting with Virginia and North Carolina, then added Florida. Oops :).

(2) The rest of your analysis -- that the states that are turning blue have an influx of non-southerners -- is a reasonable. It doesn't explain Georgia, where the Atlanta suburbs have gotten more Republican, not less, despite an increase in California and New York transplants. And it doesn't explain the success of people like Bill Clinton or David Pryor in Arkansas. I suspect that they were grandfathered into the Democratic party back when Southern Democrats were more likely to vote Dem at the non-presidential level.

Posted by: niq | Oct 25, 2004 6:16:57 PM

Thanks, Constantine... the phrase "creative class" came to me on the drive home. Seems like I'd remember an author named Florida, but I've read too much nonfiction in the last year, apparently.

Posted by: latts | Oct 25, 2004 6:26:21 PM

I find it hard to believe that Florida is one of the least Hispanic states in the South... :)

Hispanic and Cuban aren't necesarily the same thing socially or economically.


Posted by: Jeff | Oct 25, 2004 6:26:45 PM

Jeff L. -- Reg posts here for the same reason that he used to shit on people's front steps and run away. He's communicating, the way dogs do.

When the South wants to improve its educational level, in-migration is the easiest method. Can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Yeah, I'm a Yankee all the way back.

Posted by: Zizka | Oct 25, 2004 6:29:19 PM

"If you think Matt is such a hack, why do you bother? Is it because, though you think he is not intellectually powerful, he is politically powerful? If not, why do you engage here?"

Sometimes I feel playful and like to see if I can get a reaction. I like to feel the intellectual power.

Posted by: Reg | Oct 25, 2004 6:30:13 PM

People with BAs do seem more likely than people with PhDs to vote for Republicans. I think you can slack off pretty much all the time and receive a BA from your average university. I know I did...

Posted by: Jackmormon | Oct 25, 2004 6:30:22 PM

"Minnesota seems to have gotten redder because the Democratic party was really the DFL-- a combinationt of dems, unions, and farmers. The middle classes thus didn't feel like they had a "home" and gravitated towards the Republican party."

This is by far the dumbest thing I have read in my entire life.

Posted by: Reg | Oct 25, 2004 6:31:01 PM

"no one in the north ever moves to Mississippi"

Er, well, business people sometimes do, and there are a surprising number of doctors transplanted to my hometown, because let's face it, they're not educating future doctors there. However, these transplants are often Republicans of the self-servingly affluent variety, like the Williamson County suburbs south of Nashville, so it's not like they're going to be interested in any kind of social reform when they get to be the big fish in little economic ponds. The only thing that has noticeably improved when I go back is that the one nonreligious private school is now racially integrated, although still 95% white.

Posted by: latts | Oct 25, 2004 6:32:30 PM

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