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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor

J.F. 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]

One 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.

Senator Kerry’s 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 matters.

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 views.

Neither population 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

copyright 2004 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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