We all live in purple states; to pretend otherwise is harmful
Hey, you there, Professor living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and shake your heads at all those Trump voters in Oklahoma. The guy who lives next door with a law degree from Yale voted for Donald Trump. He liked the fact that Trump lowered his taxes. One of your favorite colleagues at the university where you teach also voted for Trump because she doesn’t like that the last four hires weren’t born in the United States.
And for you, the owner of an irrigation supply company in Iowa who had a Trump sign in the yard and thinks New Yorkers and Californians are ruining the country, here’s some news: people you do business with are constituents of Joe Biden, including your best client, who operates over 1,000 acres and agrees with Warren Buffett that secretaries shouldn’t pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than billionaires . Your banker, who started as a teller 30 years ago and is now bank president, voted for Biden because he can’t relate to someone who doesn’t pay back loans and throws them to his land golf on weekends.
In the Blue State of Connecticut, 39% of voters last November voted for Trump. In other states labeled in blue, Trump also got a large chunk of the vote: 41% in New Jersey, 40% in Oregon, 37% in New York, 32% in Massachusetts.
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In the so-called dark red state of Mississippi, Biden won 41% of the presidential vote. Here’s how he did in other states colored red on electoral maps: 45% in Iowa, 41% in Kansas, 37% in Tennessee, 36% in Alabama, 35% in South Dakota.
Using the terms “red state” and “blue state” we are looking at the population through a seriously distorted lens. Only in the world of the very imperfect and win-win Electoral College are there red states and blue states. Many of us – journalists, politicians, the average person on the street – speak out against the Electoral College, but then we adopt the same all-or-nothing thinking.
Outside of the Electoral College, the terms Red State and Blue State perpetuate the myth that the vast majority of Biden voters are the so-called coastal elites, living along the Pacific or in the Northeast Corridor, and that the great Majority of Trump’s voters are undereducated rednecks living in the backcountry. This assignment of separate geographies ignores reality and perpetuates our political and social divisions, reinforcing an obstacle to the current administration’s goal of fostering unity.
Days after the election, a New York Times reporter sought a reaction from Trump voters. So she visited a sparsely populated part of Nebraska to talk to Republicans there. More than one in three voters in New York state voted for Trump, so she could have had a “history of Trump voter reaction” without flying. In her article, she called Yutan, Nebraska, with a population of 1,285, “a Republican stronghold, like the overwhelming majority in the state.” Not true. Thirty percent of Nebraska voters are registered Democrats.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live, the day after the election, Trump supporters gathered on the north side of the State Capitol, which faces a busy thoroughfare. At the same time, across the street in a public square, Biden’s supporters were partying. The next day, Black Lives Matter protesters took over the space where Trump supporters were.
Of all the polls taken last fall, here’s one from Hofstra University in September: Forty percent of Americans either support or support the idea that their state should take steps toward secession if their preferred presidential candidate fails. did not win. Of course, there are Facebook pages with tags like Red State Secession and Blue State Secession, where followers talk as if misguided voters don’t live next door.
The deep division in this country is not clearly separated by state. Understanding this will be a necessary step in bridging this divide. Neither Voter Trump nor Voter Biden is the Other in a faraway place, and you don’t live in a blue state or a red state. Like all Americans, you live in a purple state.
Theresa Forsman is a retired journalist living in Lincoln, Nebraska.