21 February 2020

The two nations and the new migratory politics

There is no "American nation" any more.

The United States is now a single political entity containing two distinct and mutually antagonistic nations struggling for power against each other, rather like Belgium.  There is no meaningful "we" embracing the whole country, and there is really no longer any such thing as a unified "American people".

Lately we and those who habitually vote Republican seem to be divided by a chasm of mutual incomprehension much larger than that which separates the peoples of, for example, Britain and France.  Different attitudes on religion, sexuality, race, the role of women, and many other issues certainly look like two distinct cultures.  The level of mass mutual hostility between the two groups probably exceeds that existing between Flemings and Walloons or between Anglo-Canadians and Québécois.  At least for now, the differences seem irreconcilable.  The fact that Red America voted for a man like Donald Trump was certainly a milestone.  Blue America is the successor and continuation of the progressive development of the US during most of its history, an open-to-the-world society with a great variety of cultural strands; Red America is becoming something dark and cruel and atavistic, hating the different and the new.

Moreover, the distribution of political power between the two groups is inequitable.  We live mostly in a few states with large populations, they live mostly in many states with small populations.  We outnumber them by a substantial margin, but the Electoral College and the set-up of the Senate give them disproportionate power.  2016 was the second election in 16 years in which the Electoral College gave a Republican the Presidency despite losing the popular vote.

But I was wrong to argue, as I did three years ago, that we should consider splitting the US into two separate nation-states.  The country is far too economically integrated; any imaginable border would leave too many people on the "wrong" side (such as blacks in the South); and the general pattern of blue metro areas surrounded by red hinterland doesn't lend itself to drawing workable borders.  There's a better solution, and it's already under way -- colonization.

As density and cost of living increase in the west coast cities, residents -- especially those with families or looking to start them -- seek out places where their dollars will stretch further.  This means migration to urban areas within nearby states with a decent climate.  Most of those states are, or were, red or at least purple, but the flow of migration has already changed some of them:

In Nevada, to which 500,000 Californians moved between 2008 and 2018, Democrats won the governor’s mansion and a second U.S. Senate seat in 2018.  There used to be more Republicans, by registration. But Democrats now have a 70,000-voter advantage, and they prevailed there in the last three presidential races.

Colorado, another favorite landing spot for those who can no longer afford California, is now reliably blue.  Democrats won majorities there by more than 100,000 votes in the last two presidential elections. The state is likely to flip a Senate seat, bouncing the inept Republican Cory Gardner for a popular former governor, John Hickenlooper.

Arizona could be the next to fall to Democrats.  The state known for retirees and tax-averse whites is becoming more diverse and younger and is full of ex-Californians. Between 2001 and 2014, Arizona added about a quarter-million people from its neighboring state to the west.

A total of 7.3 million people have migrated from California to other states since 2007.  A few hundred thousand people in any one typical destination state can be enough to change the balance of its politics, even though such numbers seem tiny in California.  Because in most cases, liberals who move to a red state remain liberals.  They don't change to fit the local politics, they change the local politics to fit themselves.  Similar effects are seen elsewhere in the country, as in Virginia and Florida, which have shifted away from the Red American monoculture to become diverse swing states through migration.

Ironically, as Trump continues to deliberately screw up California's fire defenses, water, etc. to punish the state for disliking him, he'll only encourage the very migration which is pulling other states away from his party.

The most popular destination state for Californian migrants is Texas, and of course Texas is different.  It already has a large population (29 million), and cannot be so easily swamped by migrants -- but that also makes it a bigger political prize, with 38 Electoral College votes, a number which will increase over time since the state's population is growing at a faster rate than the US as a whole.  Texas also already has several very large metro areas with a cosmopolitan culture where people from Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Portland could feel comfortable.  But unlike the west coast cities wedged in between mountains and ocean with no room to expand, the great cities of eastern Texas sit in the midst of a vast, featureless plain with no natural barriers to spreading out indefinitely.  This allows densities and cost of living to remain low by west coast standards -- a powerful draw for migrants.

It was long thought by some that Texas would become purple and then blue due to Hispanic immigration.  That isn't happening, because for a variety of reasons, the Hispanic voter participation rate is generally low.  What is changing Texas is the influx of liberals from elsewhere in the US.  Already several statewide political races in the last few years have yielded surprisingly close result even though the Republicans won.  We shouldn't count on Texas being in play for this year's presidential race, unless the blue wave is of unexpected magnitude.  But by 2024 it's likely it will be.

As migration transforms the underpopulated states of the inland west, Red America's unfair advantage in the Senate erodes.  And when the Republicans can no longer count on Texas's electoral votes, their odds of ever winning the presidency again will become negligible.

Yes, there are two nations, but forget about splitting the country.  It will be back securely in our hands again soon enough.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, that last sentence.
The country is divided, that is sad but absolutely true. And the schism grows bigger with each day IMPOTUS stays in office. The reunification of America may take more than throwing Cheeto and his corrupt family of sycophants in jail, though. The corrupt Rethuglyclowns who have kept him in power need to go too...
Voting. More fundamental than ever.


21 February, 2020 02:31  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...


21 February, 2020 04:37  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: I don't see true reunification happening except insofar as generational turnover weans Red America off of fundamentalism. The split substantially predates Trump and will probably deepen even more when he's voted out. When I say the country will be back in our hands soon, I just mean we'll outnumber the "Reds" in more and more parts of it, due to migration.

Debra: Thanks! I think it's a useful way to view what's happening here.

21 February, 2020 05:28  
Blogger Lady M said...

I hope we send Cory Gardner back to Weld Colorado!

21 February, 2020 06:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, there are two nations, but forget about splitting the country. It will be back securely in our hands again soon enough."

From your lips to god's ears, my friend... One can only hope it's back in our hands before it's too late.

21 February, 2020 07:50  
Blogger Mike said...

Missouri is trying to attract tech companies. (Mainly St. Louis and Kansas City) Hopefully, this will tilt the politics from red to blue.

21 February, 2020 13:57  
Blogger Mary said...

Ever the optimist. I hope you’re correct.
I live in Central Fla. and see the influx of older Americans here keeping trump well entrenched. Maybe not Miami, Tampa, Orlando area, but pretty well everywhere else.

22 February, 2020 06:32  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Not sure how politics will go down here, Republicans are still strong in Austin, Dems are stronger here in towns like Dallas, Houston, San Antone/ San Marcos/ Austin, The Rio Grande Valley or El Paso areas. Yeah, there are quite a few folks from California around town, even my neighbours, many from LA. Many told me it's to hard to make it there, shit just got too expensive, even though I noticed our rents have increased significantly over the last several years, these folks look at it as cheap living compared to what they're used to. I went and voted early yesterday, all Democrats, of course (state- wise). For the Presidency I chose Warren, even though I know progressives been hounding her, because she now said she will take some Pac money (bottom line, she needs money, and running these dayz is super expensive). Bernie they say is really booming with like double digits over others. I don't know what to think or say about Bloomberg, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh {:-) OMG, the ads he's running, many you can't even skip, they're everywhere ... he just like came out of nowhere, has a bunch of money to spend, etc. I just heard on "The Ring of Fire" (YouTube), that Bloomberg is hiring like 500 people in either Nevada or California (?), $2,400 a month paycheck, to promote him on their websites, social media, neighbours etc ... you know, like convince folks he's the man {:-) The republicans plans (set aside Trump, as if he ain't lousy enough) are really bad shit, doesn't matter what area, whether environment, food safety, social safety net cuts in the HUNDREDS of billions, health care (I don't even think they have ANY health care plan, although Trump been saying, starting 2021, of course, if re- elected, we will have the greatest health plan in the world, etc, etc ... pretty insane) ... I could go on and on ... and I'm not getting all this from talk Dems either, this is plans of the GOP, to make the country great or whatever. I just hope folks don't get the redass in the Democratic Party and start fighting each other again over candidates and such ... just vote sraight Democrat ... just to get rid of some of these folks.

22 February, 2020 10:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Lady M: Please do! Every Senate seat counts.

Anon: They can't stop demographics.

Mike: In Missouri's case it would take a fair bit of tilting, but that's a hopeful sign. Of course Trump will claim that Kansas City's votes shouldn't count within Missouri since it's in Kansas.

Mary: I'm hopeful that some of the older Trumpanzees will become less loyal once they realize he's threatening Social Security.

Ranch: I just took a quick online look at Dallas apartment rents and I'm practically ready to move right now -- some pretty decent places at hundreds of dollars a month cheaper than you could find even in the outlying suburbs here. People are going to keep coming.

23 February, 2020 00:32  
Blogger Ed Smith said...

I agree (about generational turn over) expect to the extent that the evangelical fundies already thought of that. This is why they have been pushing for state funded home schooling and privately run (but state funded) charter schools: so that they can brainwash the next generation.

25 February, 2020 11:10  
Blogger E.A. Blair said...

I read a piece some years ago that claimed that the rise of conservatism in the sun belt was partly due to technology - specifically air conditioning. This is what made it possible for a massive exodus of the elderly (i.e., more conservative) “for their health” to these infernally hot places, thus concentrating a red population that had previously been scattered all across the landscape. With their votes no longer diluted, they had a significant effect on the US voting landscape.

26 February, 2020 07:37  
Anonymous Carol said...

A newcomer to your blog, I'm only reading this now, on a day when Georgia may become the next state to fall under blue colonial rule. Fingers crossed. I like your analogy to colonization--clever and credible. One other phenomenon working in Blue's favor is the division across age groups. As the elderly die off, we might also see states like Florida swing our way.

05 January, 2021 10:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Carol: Thanks for reading. Hoping for a good outcome in Georgia as well, though at the moment I'm going through one of my periodic phases of feeling burned out on politics -- it's been a long four years.

I will admit to a certain impish pleasure in twisting people's tails a bit by using a term like "colonization" in a positive sense.

05 January, 2021 15:38  
Anonymous darms said...

One caveat - Western states like NV, AZ, UT & much of TX have or will have problems w/water supplies. I'm all in favour of 'colonizing red states' or at the least voting w/one's feet if one's current surroundings have become intolerable but for me & mine it was as much of climate as it was of politics...

24 June, 2021 17:03  

Post a Comment

<< Home