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Map of the Purple States, and the Urban/Rural Divide

Originally published on The Raven's Blog.

purple states in 2004

This map shows that when the states that were close in the 2004 presidential race are changed to purple, which is what you get when you mix red and blue, it's not so uniform as the red and blue maps make it appear. There's also the question of whether the lack of competitive races discourages turnout, especially on the losing side. The presidency is the big motivator, and some voters, I don't know what portion, turn out only in presidential years. Even some Senate races aren't competitive, and competitive House races are scarce. This begs the question, what would turnout be if there were competitive races, especially at the presidential level? Maybe the firmly red and blue states would be a lot closer. How to get more competitive races? Two things: at the House level, redistricting by a nonpartisan body rather than the dominant party which tends to protect incumbents, and as we saw so blatantly in Texas might gerrymander the districts. At the presidential level, replacing the electoral college with a popular vote would give minorities in a state incentive to vote because it would no longer be necessary to win a state in order for the vote to count. We might then find lots of hidden Republicans in Illinois and hidden Democrats in Utah. When even an election as important as 2004 brought out only 60% turnout, and when swing states had record turnout, we know where the problem is.

What this map makes more clear than the basic red/blue map is the urban/rural divide. Heavily urbanized states are blue. Heavily rural states are red. States with both big cities and lots of rural area are purple. It's not a perfect ratio. If it was, Texas and Missouri would be purple. Vermont and New Hampshire would be safely red. The exceptions shows there are other factors, but overwhelmingly there is a rural/urban divide. I've been saying the 3G issues, God gays and guns, have to be taken more seriously, but even they tend to just be a symptom of the divide. There has always been a rural/urban divide not just in this country, but in every society that has urbanized. So why is it so intense right here right now? That's a long term topic. For now, I'll suggest two reasons that have some connection. 911 scared people, even though we survived the Cold War which was much more threatening. There's nonetheless a greater sense of threat, a sense of being in a struggle for survival against a merciless enemy (merciless yes, strong enough to win --- please). There's a sense of being out of control, which is the tie to the other reason. The pace of change in America has sped up. Historically, urban areas produce change, and so change first and adjust better. A more complex environment is just accepted as part of urban life. Complexity is not so common in rural life, and certainly isn't valued. I don't mean this to be read as a simplistic "they don't like change" argument. Urbanites, which includes me at the moment, consider change part of our environment and don't find it threatening to our culture and values. If you're rural, change is generally coming from outside, and seems less in control and more threatening. Let me repeat that I'm not saying rural people are dumb. I'm saying they feel themselves under pressure in a way urbanites don't. They keep referring to some changes, like gay marriage, as being forced on them. I know that's not logical when no one is making them marry someone of the same sex or even attend the wedding, but they keep saying that, so we blues would be fools not to believe they mean it. Our usual attitide, that their issues just aren't the important ones, isn't helping.

When changing states with winning margins of under 7% to purple, blue loses Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. Red loses Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, and Florida. I'm not sure what that says except to show likely swing states next time, unless we can get rid of that ridiculous electoral college.

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