Friday, January 21, 2005

A Tour of the Red States

David Von Drehle, of the Washington Post Magazine, wrote on January 16 about a recent tour through some of the Red States. Reading almost like a dispatch from a foreign correspondent, his report includes conversations with many average Americans in those states about politics, religion, and life in general. I have to be honest--my biases led me to expect a typical condescending sneer from an East Coast liberal. But it isn't like that. All in all, it's pretty good and worth reading. A few quotes:

When blue Americans and red Americans talk about each other, a fundamental disagreement has to do with which side is trying to ruin the other side's life. At the risk of oversimplifying, many blue Americans believe that Bush voters are trying to shove conservative morals into liberal bedrooms, to mandate prayer before intercourse, for example, and replace Victoria's Secret with Gladys's Nightshirts.

Conversely, many red Americans believe that liberals seek the spread of promiscuity and license into every village and dell and that they won't be truly happy until vibrators are distributed in grade schools.

The Lion's Den, a chain of more than two dozen [adult-oriented stores], has targeted rural America on account of the cheap leases, lax ordinances and under-titillated population.

"Under-titillated population?" Ya gotta love a guy who turns a phrase like that! Continuing:

The Owens disclosed this story [participating in a campaign against an adult-oriented store] cautiously, because they had no confidence that we would report it honestly. "We watch the news," Bruce said. "It seems like they think they know everything. They look down on us."

After a campaign in which the Democrat made very little effort to seek their votes, the Red Sea folks decided to cast their ballots in large numbers for George W. Bush. Something he said or did struck a chord with some note of their own political music. Maybe it was the feeling that bureaucrats just don't get it. Or the idea that elitists hold the heartland in contempt. Maybe it was the worry that traditions are under attack. Maybe it was the view that coastal culture is an enemy, not a friend, in the effort to raise children. For some, it was the feeling of authenticity and apparent horse sense. The attitude toward land and resources that comes from living amid an abundance of both. The significance of personal faith.

As I see it, most folks in the Red States have been to the big city. They pretty much know what life is like on the other side, and most don't want to live there. Not so for many in the Blue States. They ought to make an effort to get out and meet some of their fellow citizens in places like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. They might find that the chasm that separates average Red and Blue Americans is neither wide nor deep.


Blogger sygamel said...

I haven't read the piece yet, but David von Drehle is excellent. I remember Charles Krauthammer once calling him a raging moderate or saying he was from the militant middle, something to that effect. This is the sort of person in the media you actually want to root for.

3:41 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger John said...

You should check this out, if you haven't already seen it:

4:46 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...


Did you catch the bit about Mao? I thought Von Drehle was trying to slide a few sliders over the base under the nose of the Washington elite. Opening with the arsenic story was definitely a tweak of the CW crowd's nose.

There is a column by James Zogby up at Arab News. He sees the problem with the media as being more that it is a very small group whose members talk mostly to one another than encroached liberalism. I'd love to know what you think.

I have read comments from a number of Democrats to the effect that the Democratic party has to learn to "speak the language" of the red-staters. I think the problem is that they need to listen to them.

5:18 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

John, thanks for the link--it's hilarious!

MOM: Imagine, there's a guy in a Red State who can quote Mao and Lincoln in the same paragraph and make a logical point! And I love his point: "Bush got 54 million votes, and I don't think they were all from blatant idiots."
You're exactly right about people listening to each other. Not enough of that going around these days, especially among Democrats.
I can't find the Zogby column at Arab News. Do you have a link?

6:13 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

It's James Zogby article in Arab News

8:17 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Thanks for the link. Well, it's pretty much old stuff. Any superficial analysis will lead you to the same conclusions. They're easy to get to, obvious, and mostly wrong. Two brief points:

Media/government/corporate/academic circles overlap, like Venn diagrams. Not only is that not profound; it's misleading. Excluded from that analysis are other circles for mutually-reinforcing political ideology, and the mainstream media mostly falls into the area included in the liberal circle. There are many ways to test and illustrate this, such as tracking exactly which individuals move into and out of the circles and their shaded intersections.

Much has been made in the mainstream media, as Zogby notes, about their "failure" to question the rationale for war, "failure" to challenge the Administration's reasons, etc. This is nothing more than a backhanded way of continuing the same refrain, with the addition of a misleading chorus about how the media is, therefore, conservative and not liberal. Poppycock. The mainstream media didn't too seriously challenge the Administration because they, like the Administration, Congress, the UN, and every serious intelligence service in the world, believed that Saddam possessed and was willing to use WMD. To admit that would deprive them of the charge that the President is a liar, so they fall back on a bit of self-criticism to prove that yes, of course, the President is a liar, and we should have exposed him sooner. Like I said, poppycock.

8:45 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger Terry "Tex" Turner said...

Not all that many rural people have actually experienced the big city. I grew up on a cattle farm/ranch and started my career in that same red state. Moving to the DC area, I've found most people who make up our cities are people who left the red states, farms and small towns. They grew up and decided it was better for them to get out of there.

11:02 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger Zelda said...

Good post, Tom. This kind of remind me of Ben Shapiro's column yesterday on He wrote about how liberal elites look down on suburbia.

11:27 AM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger RomanWanderer said...

'Red Sea folks' gotta love that definition.

11:44 AM, January 21, 2005  

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