March 21, 2005


The Real Engine of Blue America (Steven Malanga, Winter 2005, City Journal)

Is it really true that America is politically divided between conservative “Red” states in the southern and middle sections of the country and liberal “Blue” states on both coasts? Not exactly: a close look at the district-by-district voting patterns of the coastal states in the 2004 elections brings into crystal-clear focus the real nature of our political divisions. There’s really no such thing as a Blue state—only Blue metropolitan regions. Indeed, the electoral maps of some states that went for John Kerry in 2004 consist mostly of Red suburban and rural counties surrounding deep Blue cities.

What makes these cities so Blue is a multifaceted liberal coalition that ranges from old-style industrial unionists and culturally liberal intellectuals, journalists, and entertainers to tort lawyers, feminists, and even politically correct financiers. But within this coalition, one group stands out as increasingly powerful and not quite in step with the old politics of the Left: those who benefit from an expanding government, including public-sector employees, workers at organizations that survive off government money, and those who receive government benefits. In cities, especially, this group has seized power from the taxpayers, as the vast expansion of the public sector that has taken place since the beginning of the War on Poverty has finally reached a tipping point.

And cities are dying. How ya' lookin'?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2005 11:01 PM

Um, considering the huge expansion of government under President Bush, those cities dominated by public sector unions are looking pretty good.

Posted by: Brandon at March 21, 2005 11:32 PM

Except that he's simultaneously gutting the unions--that's what the expansion has won:

Posted by: oj at March 21, 2005 11:40 PM

[Democracy] can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority only votes for candidates promising the most benefits.

Alexander Tytler, 1747-1813

Posted by: Gideon at March 22, 2005 3:33 AM

If anything, this article ought to cement the notion that there are no Blue States only small but crowded, underperforming, mismanaged, Blue Clots that live off history and Red Suburbia and Exurbia.

Posted by: Moe from NC at March 22, 2005 7:20 AM

Ah yes, the hardy, independent rural yeoman, producing the largesse that the greedy city parasites devour like so many weevils. Never a government handout for they, by gum! We all know of the fabled stories of these sturdy, independent folk, turning the federal subsidizers away with pitchforks and shotguns, saying "you'll never unload that blood money out here, you redistributionist devils!".

Posted by: Robert Duquette at March 22, 2005 10:21 AM


Those are just corporate subsidies these days.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2005 10:26 AM


I couldn't agree more. There is no more reason to subsidize the 'Family Farm' any more than to throw similar largesse at the 'Family Barbershop' or 'Family Delicatessen.'

The reality is that traditional cities are less and less necessary. In an increasingly wired world, why do we need to congregate in one place in large numbers in order to transact business concerning items we already know about or which do not require detailed personal inspection? Most lawyers or accountants or engineers could easily hang out around the house and do what they need to do in terms of pumping out the work.

The same is true for culture. Who needs to go to a concert hall when a good CD player gives you a better performance, and you can stop it in the middle so you can get a beer or relieve yourself? Most of us are satisfied with a once a month trip to a museum, zoo or aquarium. Broadway is dying, producing only revivals of stuff done better 3 decades ago or works directed at gay or minority audiences. There are a few pieces directed at tourists whose only taste in their mouths. Can Gilligan's Island the Musical be far behind? The ingredients necessary for decent cuisine are available most places and certainly on the Web so increasingly one finds good restaurants where there was once only a McDonalds.

The transportation hub function of cities requires too much space for it to actually occur in cities. Thus, the development of edge cities around airports, like Rosemont, Illinois, which has more office space and hotel rooms than Chicago.

So cities necessarily become the home for the people who can't move because they are too poor, too old, or too weird to live anyplace else. Is it any wonder they gravitate towards the party of subsidies and nihilism?

Posted by: bart at March 22, 2005 10:47 AM

What oj said (let's look at "retail" welfare) but I would clarify that the (economic) "largesse the greedy city parasites devour" increasingly comes from the product of suburbia and exurbia, not rural areas. Also from "cities of aspiration".

Traditional rural and urban America are producers of culture. I cherish living in country whose early culture was shaped by pioneers, homesteaders, ranchers and farmers. I shudder at the thought of my grandchildren living in one shaped by Hollywood, Mapelthorpe, and academia.

Posted by: Moe from NC at March 22, 2005 10:57 AM

once again, john carpenter shows his prescience -- wall off the cities ala Escape From New York. once all the democratic voters are concentrated like they are, it becomes very easy to deny them funds and support.

Posted by: cjm at March 22, 2005 11:04 AM