Friday, November 26, 2004

The Red-Blue Trap

This rant is late, but the issue isn’t going away so here goes anyway.

I am really sick of the “blue staters” hostility towards “red staters” thing. It has become the dominant way to frame almost any sociopolitical discussion since the election but it annoys me to no end. I suppose I asked for it, my last post on this site could be construed as a criticism of Texas rather than a criticism of what certain politicians are doing in Texas. And so, I watched as some anti-”morons living in the red state” remarks showed up in the comments. I urge you not to fall into the blue-red trap for the following reasons:

(1) It isn’t true. A county-by-county breakdown of election results reveals there are only 3 red states and 2 blue states (3 if you count DC as a state). The other 45 have some counties that went for Bush and some that went for Kerry. The state-by-state maps are necessary for determining the winner of an election given our screwed-up electoral vote system, but not an accurate reflection of the mood of the country. Even the county-by-county breakdown is misleading. There were Kerry voters in each red county, just as people voted for Bush in the bluest of the blue locales.

(2) It isn’t smart. If liberals want to win in national elections, we should stop gratuitously insulting potential allies simply on the basis of where they live. Put another way, if you thought you felt isolated and alienated from the rest of the country sitting in your blue state on November 3rd, how do you think liberals in Alabama felt? Even in Oklahoma, one of the few “all red” states where Bush won every county, has Alex still fighting the good fight. He should be supported, not insulted. We frankly need more like him. There are liberals all over the country, even in "authentic" places sitting in the middle of the country. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

(3) It’s falling into their trap. The red state-blue state divide "discovered" after the 2004 elections is nothing more than a rebranding of David Brooks’ Bobos in Paradise argument that there are two competing and incompatible cultures in America today. But when a reporter tried to verify the facts underlying Brooks’ thesis they didn’t check out. The post-2004 election version of the "Bobo" theory is on just as flimsy grounds.

The modern conservative movement sells itself as “a revolt of the little people against a high and mighty liberal elite.”. It feeds on a feeling of victimization and resentment that many "red staters" feel right now. And the ability of the right to play into that feeling of victimization rests on the premise of a divided america: us versus them, red versus blue. There is no reason we have to adopt their framework. It only works to the conservatives' advantage anyway.

Besides, as a yeti named Matthew” wisely counseled just after the election:
A lot of progressives are joking about "moving to Canada" -- myself included . But if you're one of those folks who insists that they are really, really considering it, please: do us all a favor and go. The Republicans will be happy to see you leave, and the rest of us don't really need you hanging around and reinforcing the stereotype that liberals (a) are so unpatriotic that they will ditch their nation in a time of need, and (b) feel entitled to the benefits of a government (like, Canada's) without having to work for it. If you're "totally serious" about moving this time, then pack up and head for the border, compadre. Otherwise, dig in your heels, roll up your sleeves, gird your loins and get ready to fight, like the rest of us intend to do.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!