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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who
writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident
of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
Nation, Indivisible, But Mostly Red
Bridging the gap?…
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 11/19/04
In this season of Thanksgiving, let us
all give thanks that the presidential election and the negative
attack ads that accompanied it are over at last. We can be further
grateful that the man who will occupy, for another four years,
the world’s most powerful political office was chosen by
America’s voters and not its lawyers and judges.
Winning the popular
vote by a decisive, if not overwhelming, margin made President
Bush’s electoral college victory
all the more convincing. Still, the margin of victory came down
in the end to the electoral votes of a single state, Ohio.
prompt and statesmanlike concession speech was a commendable
effort to replace post-election disappointment,
bitterness and bickering with graciousness and civility. Both
victor and vanquished cited the need for unifying Americans.
It is easier said than done, however.
Much has been spoken and written about the polarization of America.
A glance at the familiar blue-red map showing the voting results
by state reveals something of the geographic nature of that polarization.
Far more instructive, however, is the blue-red map showing popular
vote by county. From a territorial aspect, at least, it reveals
a nation that is mostly red or Republican.
Votes, of course, are cast by people, not counties. Still, the
voting geography warrants some study and may offer clues regarding
the reasons for the polarization. Obviously, Democratic voting
strength was again concentrated in the densely populated northeast
states and the west coast and to a lesser degree in a cluster
of northern Midwest states consisting of Illinois, Michigan,
Minnesota and Wisconsin. Republican strength was in the solid
south and the western states except for the heavily Democratic
Pacific Coast. But the color breakdown by state greatly oversimplifies
The county breakdown showing the territorial voting patterns
within all the states reveals, for instance, that of the states
captured by the Democrats, all but the six New England states
had more counties voting Republican than Democratic. Clearly,
the Democrats controlled the major cities and population centers.
Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Phoenix and San Diego were notable
exceptions. Just as clearly, Republicans dominated the vast stretches
of rural and small town America.
There were, of course
other anomalies. Democrats, for some reason, held sway in the
counties adjacent to most of the Mississippi
and Rio Grande Rivers and also in the counties of northern Minnesota
and Wisconsin near Lake Superior. Perhaps it’s something
in the water.
So what makes most
big city folks and New Englanders vote largely Democratic while
country and small town folks vote mostly Republican?
If, as many pundits argued, this election reflected a broad difference
in values between Democrats and Republicans, then it would seem
to follow that one’s values have a lot do with where one
lives. City dwellers tend to embrace liberal social and political
values. Rural and small town Americans, even in solidly Democratic
states like California and New York, are more apt to have conservative
segment seems likely to change something as basic as values
to any great degree. Conservatives see theirs
as the largely traditional values anchored by respect for life
and the sanctity of marriage. Liberals see some of these values
as outdated and discriminatory. So how, exactly, do we go about
unifying Americans? If I knew the answer to that, I’d have
run for president.CRO
2004 J. F. Kelly, Jr.