Blue-state America wants a divorce. Red-state America wants it even more.
A study by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics finds more than 40% of Joe Biden’s supporters, and more than half of Donald Trump’s supporters, embrace the statement: “The situation in America is such that I would favor [Blue/Red] states seceding from the union to form their own separate country.”
The last time we did this, it got complicated. Today it would be even more so, with the modern Mason-Dixon line essentially running through every state in the union, dividing us not so much north from south as urban from rural. St. Louis and other blue urban enclaves in red states would be pretty well surrounded by enemy territory. Vice-versa for rural sections of big blue states like Illinois.
This is where we’re all supposed to agree that, differences aside, red and blue America need each other. But in year-two of a pandemic that didn’t have to be like this — that wouldn’t have been like this, had millions of our conservative fellow citizens not decided this was a good time to elevate willful ignorance over science and to reject the whole concept of national cooperation as some kind of “socialism” — I have to wonder.
Right now, I’m having a little trouble seeing what red-state America has done for us lately, other than fill our national discourse with lies and our hospital beds with coronavirus victims.
As a liberal, I get why those in blue areas might suggest their red-state neighbors take a hike. The last president they saddled us with spent three years tearing down political norms and constitutional guardrails, spent his fourth year in catastrophic denial of a deadly pandemic, and then for good measure incited the violent attempted overthrow of a valid election. And they still support him.
Today, red-state legislatures are busily revamping their laws to make stealing future elections easier. And their rural constituents are still refusing to take the virus seriously — until they end up in our city hospitals, having filled their rural ones to capacity.
So, yeah, the blue-state motivation for a national split is no mystery. When your copilot keeps trying to steer the plane into the nearest mountain, it’s time to get him out of the plane.
But what, exactly, is the red-state beef? Other than not being allowed (yet) to steal an election, I mean.
Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, helpfully explains it in a recent Politico essay aimed at convincing his fellow conservatives why they shouldn’t want to split up the country.
One reason, Lowry argues, is that such a split wouldn’t fix the problems that conservatives think it would fix: “Would the college professors [in a seceded red America] be less woke?” Lowry asks. “Would the newsrooms be more conservative? Would the corporations be less inclined to follow fashionable national trends?”
Hmm. So this drastic notion of splitting up the country is driven, on the left, by imperatives like preserving the rule of law, restoring competent governance and protecting democracy itself. And on the right, it’s driven by imperatives like … getting college professors to be less woke.
It’s good to know that we all have our priorities straight.
The overwhelmingly blue “Democrat-run cities” that Republicans so gleefully savage do have their problems, but those problems don’t exist in a political vacuum. The right’s incessant gloating about urban crime, for example, conveniently ignores the culpability of Republicans who have for decades prevented Congress from addressing America’s gun crisis at the national level, while red-state legislatures like Missouri’s pass laws making it impossible for cities like St. Louis to take even the most basic steps (say, permit requirements) to confront the violence.
At the same time, cities are both the cultural jewels of America and its economic engine.
A 2019 Mizzou study found that the St. Louis metropolitan region was by far Missouri’s biggest economic driver, providing 83% of the state’s GDP. In 2016, the roughly 500 counties that Hillary Clinton carried nationally generated almost two-thirds of America’s economic activity — with only about one-third coming from the 2,600 counties carried by Trump. A 2019 Brookings study found that over the past decade, blue regions have seen productivity climb from about $118,000 per worker to $139,000, as red regions remained stagnant at about $111,000.
Contrary to Republican bluster about how red states “bail out” blue states economically, it’s actually the other way around. Analysis after analysis shows that Democratic-run states as a whole send more tax dollars to Washington, and get fewer back, than Republican-run states as a whole.
The list of the top 10 “takers” is filled with red states like Mississippi and Alabama, which get back more than $2 in federal help for each $1 they send to Washington in federal taxes. Missouri gets a roughly 1-to-1 return — relatively modest for a red state, but far better than the 65-cent return that blue-state Illinois gets for each $1 it sends. New York and California (the top fiscal bogeymen in GOP mythology) also contribute more to the federal budget than they take. Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky, meanwhile, contributes far less.