Shaun Kenney: UVA Survey On Secession — Red Counties, Blue Cities
The UVA Center for Politics has an alarming new study showing precisely how far we have gone down the rabbit hole. Can we climb out?
Two releases from a major study with the UVA Center for Politics reveals not only that most Americans have had it with the other half of the country, but that support for secession — and an alarming number of Americans believe we are in divorce court — is linked to so-called conspiracy theories.
Just to illustrate how bi-partisan this conviction is among both Democrats and Republicans, we are talking 46% of those surveyed, with 41% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans.
Democrats immediately took to the notion of red states and blue states — the old Jesusland vs. Canada argument that Democrats chest-thumped when accusing the other party of stealing elections was the highest form of patriotism.
Anyone remember this from 2004?
I want to show you a different map — one of red counties and blue cities:
On the left is the geographic reality that is America. Rural and exurban Republicans against urban and suburban Democrats. One almost has to wonder how these Biden boosters who really think that Republicans should go their own way — and it’s 41% of them — intend to forge their own city-states.
On the right is the population density map of each. With this you get a far different idea of how these cities really impact the landscape. Choose your metaphors as you will.
Here’s another map for you from 2017 showing the outcome of the Northam/Gillespie ‘17 race:
Now here is that same map by precinct in 2017, courtesy of The New York Times:
Notice anything interesting here?
For instance, let’s zoom in to the city of Richmond for a moment and note where the sapphire blue areas are contrasted to the ruby red precincts:
If one were to use the metaphor of a rock dropped into a pond? The ripple effect of suburban (purple) and exurban (bright red) voters contrast sharply with the more pinkish (Republican-leaning) voters in the rural parts of Virginia.
Not an isolated phenomenon when you think about it.
Which somewhat begs the question as to whether the radicalization we see in politics is really a both/and phenomenon where this belief in incompatible values is caused by Republicans and Democrats.
Rather — maybe we ought to be asking whether progressive values in the cities are forcing the question of suburban flight into the exurbs as the values of the left not only force out but radicalize the refugees (so to speak).
In short, this is revolution vs. reaction.
UVA Focuses On The Conspiracy Theories Of The Right; Not The Left?
Of course, we really don’t dive terribly deeply into the conspiracy theories that hold the political left in this country in thrall — that we are a deeply racist nation, that every Republican is working to turn America into Gilead, etc.
Rather, the focus was on QAnon, the January 6th riot, Jeffery Epstein talk and the deep state.
Now I don’t know about you — but Jeffery Epstein didn’t kill himself. General Milley openly discussing with the Communist Chinese and breaking the chain of command to talk to Speaker Nancy Pelosi all seems pretty non-conspiratorial to me. As for FBI involvement in certain activities, the fact that 12 of the 15 people involved in the “kidnapping” of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) were actual FBI informants strikes me as rather odd.
As for QAnon, I’m not sure that the left gets the joke. QAnon is a trolling operation; it’s like picking on a sibling in the back of the car. Storm is coming. Ooooooo….
Here is the scary one, folks:
Do we really believe that as Americans? Do we want to believe that? Or are most Americans simply exasperated with this unelected fourth branch of government deciding they want to be more political than professional?
Consider the question from the position of the left over the last 20 years. Rather than going through the legislative process, Democrats have been very clear that they can and will change America through the courts on questions such as marriage, equity, and Obamacare.
Republicans by contrast just watched the Deep State wreck two years of the Trump presidency over charges of Russian collusion then followed it up with two more years of threats and rumors of a coup attempt — to the point where they actually contacted the Communist Chinese. Imagine their glee as a skeleton crew for the US Capitol Police was overwhelmed by a riot.
Sure didn’t happen that way during the Kavanaugh hearings in 2018 when 120 leftists were arrested as they stormed the Capitol during the peaceful transferal of power in a constitutional process.
Burkean Process Over Feeding Our Appetites
Of course, one could point the finger at five decades of sub-par government schooling that failed to teach us how we ought to behave in civil government. Protests and violence seem to be a lot easier than the force of argument nowadays.
Yet as we have nationalized our federalist union and put more of the decision making in Washington and Richmond, we have fewer and fewer people participating in the decision making process than ever before.
Consider that most Americans are more distant from their elected officials than at any other time in history. Thomas Jefferson represented 538,000 Virginians as governor in 1780. Your average congressman represents 711,000 Virginians. The Virginia House of Delegates once held 240 delegates in a state with 1 million souls. Today, each delegate stands to represent 86,000 souls. Just 10 people in Fairfax County make decisions for 1.146 million with a budget of $4.5 billion.
If Fairfax were it’s own country? It would have the population of a Cyprus, the budget of a Honduras and a GDP of $122bn — larger than the Ukraine.
Now imagine a similar polity where only 10 people get to make decisions. We might call that a junta — but not a democracy. Imagine further where a good 80% of what they decide to do in their budget is already dictated from outside — in this case, federal and state governments — and limited to mere increases in budgets in most areas.
You’d be hard pressed to tell citizens that their participation in this process is meaningful, or that discussion and legislation is worthwhile.
And we wonder why people are losing faith in the American system of government?
Perhaps one method would be expanding representation. We have certainly expanded the voting franchise in America; perhaps it is time for more individuals to be allowed to put their hands on the wheel of actual governance? Perspective is a tremendous remedy to all sorts of outrage, and rather than throwing rocks folks might be more inclined to lend a hand to the task of good government?
Another solution? Some good old fashioned localism and federalism. Virginia can be governed by Virginians without the largess of the federal government in Washington dictating how our tax dollars ought to be spent. Similarly, localities can and perhaps ought to be trusted to do what is best for the locality rather than applying a cookie-cutter policy in Richmond across 134 different localities. What works in Fairfax County isn’t going to work in Floyd County after all.
To Dissolve The People And Elect Another…
The problem with much of this analysis from UVA isn’t that we are really grappling with questions of secession or why people simply cannot stand one another anymore. More to the point, one detects a certain blue flavor to it all — namely, how do we make conservatives and traditionalists submit.
Therein lies the problem.
For five decades, I don’t think a reasonable person is going to argue that society has moved towards the values of the right. Families are in decline, violence is on the rise, statues and memorials are gone, gender ideology is redefining traditional moral values, commercialism is eating into our prosperity — neoliberalism has carried both the argument and the day.
Rather, it is the political left that has pushed the agenda.
Terry McAuliffe — for instance — has shown very little hesitation in taking the fight squarely into the teeth of the right on questions such as abortion-by-mail, firearm confiscation, forced unionism and gender ideology in the classroom.
The status quo of respecting life, respecting rights, respecting work and respecting biology — notice a theme? — isn’t the one pushing the secularist creed, but resisting it (or at least trying to).
Nationally, the Democrats did everything in their power to destroy Trump. Didn’t matter what he did — they were quite literally willing to burn it all down if they couldn’t hold power. For five months in the summer of 2020 they did precisely that, costing billions of dollars in property damages and harming and killing dozens of others — including police officers.
Obviously, the UVA Center for Politics is slowly rolling out their findings. But I would surely appreciate some degree of introspection on why the conservative half of America doesn’t feel as if the progressive half is even interested in conversation — just submission.
That strikes one as more of a flashpoint, not a starting point.