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THEM “RED STATE” BLUES: Red-staters love to gripe about blue-state elites—and to pocket that free blue-state money: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2004

TOMORROW—THE EXPLANATIONS CONTINUE: Is 51-48 just like 60-40? Emit low chuckles as This Week’s gang struggles with such vexing questions.

THEM “RED STATE” BLUES: We’re so sick of all that “red state” blubbering (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/6/04) that it affects us now when we read the newspapers! Example: In this morning’s Washington Post, David Brown reports an annual study which “ranks the relative health of individual states.” Which states are the healthiest? You can probably guess where this is going:

BROWN (11/8/04): The three healthiest states are Minnesota, New Hampshire and Vermont. Among other things, their high rankings reflect low rates of poverty and premature death, safer-than-average drivers and generous spending on public health. Minnesota has ranked No. 1 for nine of the past 15 years and has never been out of the top two.
All three healthy states are “blue.” And who is bringing up the rear? Those boo-hooing “red states,” as always:
BROWN (11/8/04): At the other end of the list are Tennessee, Mississippi and, as in 14 of the past 15 years, Louisiana in last place.
As a matter of fact, eleven of the top 15 states are “blue”—and all 15 at the bottom are “red!” And the criteria used in this study actually seem to favor “red” states. After all, if “snake bites during religious services” had been one of the study’s criteria, the rankings would probably be less red-friendly than they already are.

Uh-oh! Blubbering “red-staters” will keen and wail about the slur against their religion! But maybe if they spent more time building healthy societies, they’d find themselves with less time on their hands to collect and nurture treasured grievances against those “contemptuous” “blue-state” “elitists.” You know—against the troubling “blue state elites” which help pay red-staters’ way through life? We can’t remember where we saw it, but we recently saw the figures which show the way the federal government transfers money from the industrious “blue states” to the blubbering “red.” Can someone remind us where we saw these data? They appeared in some mainstream publication last week, and we think they deserve some mention when boo-hooing people like Alterman’s e-mailer complain of those harsh, cruel “elites.”

On the other hand, maybe red-staters would have more time to build healthy societies for their children if they weren’t so busy divorcing each other. Despite the impressive “moral values” they love to vote on, red states lead the nation in divorce—and elite Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate! Yes indeed, there they are—drinkin’, divorcin’ and boo-hoo-hooing about their lack of respect from the values-free blue! Not that this keeps these troubled “red-staters” from holding their hands out every year for their annual federal pay-out—money from their more industrious blue state neighbors, the ones whose “elitism” they love to attack.

For ourselves, we don’t believe in all this “red state” and “blue state” hooey, as we’ve discussed in detail before. But we’re tired of all the silly crying about the way “northeastern” “elites” just won’t respect their “red state” cousins. So here’s an idea for the boo-hooing redmen: Why don’t you stop taking all that free money from blue-state elites before you cry about their rude insults? And before you lecture us all about individual initiative, why don’t you get yourselves off your *sses and build healthy societies for your born/unborn children? And oh yeah! Why don’t you quit divorcin’ your spouses before you wail-and-moan about civil unions—the civil unions which President Bush said he supported last week?

THE FAILING FIFTEEN: Here are the fifteen least healthy states. We rank them from 36th most healthy down to number 50. Alas! All fifteen of the states are “red.” But then, so is number 35—Texas:

36. Missouri
37. Nevada
38. New Mexico
39. Kentucky
40. Oklahoma
41. North Carolina
42. Florida
43. Alabama
44. West Virginia
45. Georgia
46. Arkansas
47. South Carolina
48. Tennessee
49. Mississippi
50. Louisiana
By the way, just think how bad the situation would be if these states weren’t getting their annual hand-outs from the “elitists” in the “blue states!” Red-staters can’t seem to give up their smokes—nor do they seem inclined to give up their hand-outs from their “contemptuous” cousins.

FOR THOSE WHO READ: Since everyone is suddenly yakking so hard about the difference between red and blue culture, we recommend an intriguing book on the subject—Made in Texas, by Michael Lind. The book is a history of Southern and Texas political culture; when it was released last year, we thought it provided the most intriguing framework we’d seen for understanding George Bush’s politics. And yes, the book is packed with pleasure for “blue state” readers. Lind, a third-generation Texan, paints a picture of his state’s political culture that such readers may find quite unflattering:

LIND (page 47): Although they may look like members of the old-stock Protestant business class of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, the oligarchs of Texas do not think like them. The mentality of the traditional Texas businessman is that of the premodern “seigneurial” elite which, according to [historian Raimondo] Luraghi, included not only the Southern slaveowners but also the British “Nabobs” of the West Indies, the Mexican hacendados, and the Brazilian plantation owners. It is not an industrialist mind-set at all, but the mentality of the Spanish conquistador, who dreamed of quickly acquiring fabulous wealth by plundering precious metals rather than by patient effort.
The book is dry-as-dust, but short—and for us, it really pays off. For many blue-staters, we think Lind’s bumper-sticker would be this: Texas political culture isn’t like yours, and its heirs don’t think the way you do. Bush-detractors will be rewarded by piquant passages like this:
LIND (page 31-32): As a symbol of Texas, the free-spirited cowboy was far from apt. Individuals willing to stand up to public opinion might be found in New England or on the West Coast, but not in the Southern-settled parts of Texas. The Anglo-Celtic Southerner, in Texas as elsewhere, was not a freedom-loving individualist but a freedom-fearing conformist, who combined physical bravery with intellectual and political cowardice. Outside of the anomalous Hill Country/Central Texas region, where ethnic diversity created a pocket of cultural and intellectual pluralism, toleration of deviance in politics, religion, morals, and even dress were all but non-existent, and non-conformists could expect ostracism if not violent assault.
We’re strongly reminded of a passage from Twain, which we’ll helpfully type up tomorrow. By the way, Lind notes another interesting part of the Southern/Texas political tradition—its love of All Things Martial:
LIND (page 142): White Southerners are not isolationists or pacifists. On the contrary, from the eighteenth century to the present, they have been more eager than white Northerners to support American wars abroad. According to the historian David Hackett Fischer, “From the quasi-war with France [in 1789] to the Vietnam War, the two southern cultures strongly supported every American war no matter what it was about or who it was against. Southern ideas of honor and the warrior ethic combined to create regional war fevers of great intensity in 1798, 1812, 1846, 1861, 1898, 1917, 1941, 1950 and 1965.”
Of course, as we learned in this last election, when blue-state elitists try to stop red-staters from killing themselves in these wars, they earn themselves a lifetime of enmity; they’re repaid through baldly dishonest presentations which the mainstream press corps will happily accommodate. Incomparably, we’ll offer fuller thoughts on this topic in an article for FAIR next week.

For ourselves, we think it’s generally more constructive to emphasize similarities rather than differences. We believe in Alabama and in Vermont; and we think red-staters, like blue-staters, get to cast their votes in presidential elections on whatever basis they please. But here at THE HOWLER, we’re sick of hearing red-state types blubber about imagined slights, even as they hold out their hands to “elitist” brethren for the latest hand-out. Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Lind’s intriguing book might help blue-staters place this wailing in a larger perspective. We do, of course, offer this key caution: Most “red-staters” are in fact just like you. Red, blue and purple? All good.

IF IT FEELS GOOD, VOTE IT: What “explains” the past election? As we’ve noted, it’s hard to “explain” a complex event in which 120 million different people cast votes. But in this morning’s New York Times, Bob Herbert notes an intriguing aspect of last week’s vote. “Last week's election was extremely close and a modest shift in any number of factors might have changed the outcome,” he writes. But then, he gets to one troubling factor—the electorate’s innocence of basic facts:

HERBERT (11/8/04): I think a case could be made that ignorance played at least as big a role in the election’s outcome as values. A recent survey by the Program on International Policy Attitudes [PIPA] at the University of Maryland found that nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with ''clear evidence'' that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda. A third of the president's supporters believe weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the U.S.-led invasion.

This is scary. How do you make a rational political pitch to people who have put that part of their brain on hold? No wonder Bush won.

“The survey, and an accompanying report, showed that there's a fair amount of cluelessness in the ranks of the values crowd,” Herbert says. Then he quotes one of the study’s conclusions: “It is clear that supporters of the president are more likely to have misperceptions than those who oppose him,” PIPA said.

We suggest you approach the PIPA study with caution; almost surely, there are factual questions on which Bush voters would have scored higher than Kerry voters. But tomorrow, we’ll present an anecdote offered by Newsweek’s Melinda Henneberger at a post-election panel last week. What did Bush-voters think about WMD? Henneberger’s tale is intriguing. Maybe we blue-staters should install some sort of “exit poll tax!” Why not? Before we give boo-hooing red-staters their annual hand-out, we should make their voters pass a few simple tests about key events of the day.