Explaining Red and Blue

Blogger Steve Sailor has an explanation for why some states are “red” and the others are “blue.” He calls it Affordable Family Formation. His thesis is as persuasive as any I’ve seen and I think it can explain the red/blue divide in Virginia, too. Hat tip to Mickey Kaus in Slate ….

PS Since we’ve started a little Poly Sci 301 class, we might as well do a little more reading. Professor Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has guest Professor Alan Abramowitz debunking gerrymandering as an explanation for non-competitive races.

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  1. Terry M. Avatar
    Terry M.

    My question to y’all, as I couldn’t really find anything to argue with on the concept other than this, is what does it say about your Balanced Communities concept?

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Will: Thanks a lot for the info. I read it, but didn’t study it yet. The distinctions embedded in ‘affordable family foundation’ may be the dependent variables, not the independent – causative – variable.

    The divide between Red and Blue is covered well in a book that I am halfway through reading “Culture Wars, The Struggle fo Define America” by UVA Prof James Davison Hunter. It knocks me out because it was published in Spring 1990. Hello…. 1990.

    First, that is when I started work on a long range planning study for the Army (unpublished Army 21) that included social, economic, political aspects as they effect the Army. Our findings – we had good contract help from researchers from the Library of Congress and RAND – were like his. His research proceeded us by just a bit, but had the same findings.

    Second, and more interesting personally, his analysis 15 years ago is what took me 15 years to figure out!

    Third, it supports my slowly growing (comment on my mental processes) thoughts about – here comes a metaphor – about ideas being topography (where, what, etc) and culture being the actual dirt for the foundation and the building being the civilization and the rooms being the countries or tribes, etc.

    Furthermore, culture ‘commands’. Individuals use free will and change history (usually in small measures) – especially by changing ideas. Ideas motivate humans for good and evil.

    Therin is the basis for the red and blue divide – ideas. One, but not the sole, idea is the Bible. Look at the data from barna.org on who reads the Bible and how they vote. So, ideas about God probably are among the ideas that are divided and create further division.

    Look forward to finishing this book and reading his later work – Before the Shooting Starts.

  3. Most interesting point:

    “There is little evidence that redistricting generally makes elections less competitive. In fact, two of the leading scholars in this field, Andrew Gelman of Columbia University and Gary King of Harvard University, have argued that redistricting, even when done for partisan purposes, has beneficial consequences for democracy. That is because party leaders drawing district lines face a fundamental tension between incumbent protection and maximizing their party’s electoral potential. More often than not, the only way to shift marginal districts toward the majority party is to cut the safety margins of incumbents by moving reliable partisans out of their districts. A good example of this can be seen in the recent redistricting in Texas where the Republican-controlled legislature shifted some strongly GOP precincts out of the district of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in order to make neighboring districts more Republican. As a result, DeLay could face a difficult reelection battle in 2006.”

    This would be the potential downside to redistricting reform. Although I’d argue that the Delay situation was more of the exception than the rule…

    The interesting thing about partisan redistricting is that it’s often the CAUSE of a shift in seats. CW says that it prevents seats from changing hands.

    Let’s say Abramowitz is right (And tend to believe he is) that Americans are living with their ideological breathrens. There are fewer swing districts. Perhaps, then, competition will shift from the general election to the party primaries (as it did during the Democrats’ one party rule in the South). I think that would be a healthy change. We need SOME sort of competition…everyone agrees on that.

  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    James, it’s interesting that Mickey Kaus found the lack of the word “God” in Sailor’s piece to be the most telling ….

  5. Kaus is the best blogger out there

  6. The problem with using “God” to distinguish between red and blue areas is that African Americans (voted 92% for Gore and 89% for Kerry) tend to score high on religiosity polls. So do Latinos (60% roughly for Democrats nationally).

    In general/on average, Republicans tend to be more religious than Democrats. But there are huge gaping exceptions.

    I like his theory though.

  7. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Paul: Excellent point about the Black anamoly. I think it is a function of sub-culture – remember I was saying ‘culture commands’ and worldview based on understanding God is part, not all of a culture or sub-culture.

  8. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Thank you for the link!

    The items says a lot for coining new terms to describe the real world. You will see “Affordable Family Formation” in our future columns.

    Sailer makes some very good points. Some BaconsRebellion Bloggers who have not read our work with care will be surprised to learn that Sailers observations and data support much of what we have said about Balanced Communties, Sustainable New Urban Regions, the Private-Vehicle Mobility Myth, Affordable and Accessible Housing and the need for Fundamental Change to create functional human settlement patterns and functional, democratic goverance in a market economy.

    Thank you again.


  9. James: Thanks. As for the rest of the list “God gays and guns”. Well..gay rights issues don’t play well with old people regardless of party (scattered everywhere) and African Americans/Latinos (on average).

    Guns? Yeah that one probably works. But…the Democratic party is slowly giving up on gun control. I know you’re laughing at me (Will) but it’s true. soon this will be a non-issue.

  10. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    “Affordable Family Formation” — that’s a brilliant concept with a lot of explanatory power. Entire swathes of the country are so expensive that they are literally pricing themselves out of the “family formation” market. Some of the coolest, most beautiful cities in the country — Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, etc. — are so expensive that people with children cannot afford to live in them (unless they’re on the dole). Those cities have among the lowest percentages of children in the country.

  11. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Well, there you have it: if you want to promote Republicanism, then according to sailer the best thing you can do is promoste suburban expansion.

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, You’re exactly right. A lot of Republicans are embracing suburban sprawl as a good thing. That’s why, despite my GOP leanings in a number of areas, I can’t call myself a Republican anymore.

  13. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Yeah, but it seems to me that business owners are also more likely to be Republican, and so they will bring their businesses with them, and thereby promote more balanced communities.

    Look at it this way, suppose you had a universal, nationwide balanced community (balanced in the sense that homes, jobs, and education were universally available). Now suppose the population density of that community was only 300 per square mile.

    That would allow you to preserve more than twice the open space we now have.

    Despite my Democratic leanings, I have to dissociate myself from the party on account of their increasingly socialist tendencies.

    Want to start a new party?

  14. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I didn’t say suburban sprawl, I said suburban expansion, which I don’t believe has to be the same thing.

  15. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ray, I know that YOU said suburban “expansion” but not many Republicans differentiate between “sprawl” and “expansion.” Of course, you’re quite right, we will have to have “expansion” to accommodate projected population growth. But unless Republicans wake up, that expansion will be more of the same–sprawl–rather than something that’s more fiscally and environmentally sustainable.

    A new party? Sure. Ross Perot couldn’t pull it off, but maybe we can.

  16. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I’m convinced we can do more in a lot of areas, like building balanced communities that are beautiful, environmentally friendly, and functional. I’m also conviced that such construction won’t be carried out by BANANAS and NIMBYS.

    I talked about the name problem before; you know, “Citizens For the Opposite of Whatever We Are Against”.

    What will we call our new party, and can I get your signature on my ballot application? With all the DINO’s and RINO’s out there, maybe there is a majority in the DINORINO party.

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