IN DEFENSE OF...

IN DEFENSE OF BLUE STATE ELITISM. I'm going to go a step further than my genteel colleague Sam and defend The Prospect's Red State Dossier on substantive grounds as well. Coming mere moments after an election that largely turned on a defense of "traditional marriage" and contempt for blue state values, it actually was the role of magazines like The Prospect, which don't need to worry about political expediency, to mount an assault on the rightwing's explicit claim of moral superiority. That such a dry recounting of data can be termed elitist, or anything save honest, is precisely the point.

That's what confuses me about Rob Anderson's article. If blue states, with their liberal policies, are actually seeing lower rates of social ills than red states, that says something important about the set of policy prescriptions best equipped to actualize so-called "family values." As our piece elegantly explained, the highest proportion of teenage births for a blue state was in Delaware, which nonetheless ranked behind 17 red states on the metric. New England turned out to be the least sexually promiscuous, while the defenders of morality in the crimson Mountain States admitted to having the most partners. Red states, too, had more divorces than blue states, while Massachusetts, under fire for threatening traditional marriage by allowing gays into the fold, had the lowest separation rate in the country.

These are outcomes in direct contradiction to much of the right's political rhetoric, and if progressives plan to mount a case for their viability on such issues, pointing out the reality is a good place to start. Conversely, running from their own record because they fear the "elitist" label would be both pathetic and counterproductive. Which isn't to say the left hasn't been doing exactly that for quite some time. If any Democratic candidate referred to Southern values, or Western states, with the knowing sneer that Republicans use when spitting out the word "Massachusetts," the outcry would be swift and vicious. Instead, Democrats kowtow to the importance and unquestionable virtue of America's amorphous "heartland" while their erstwhile allies write articles slamming any defense of blue state morality. But if the political environment has truly become so toxic to empiricism that a simple recounting of social science statistics is perceived as anything but honest, that strikes me as precisely the sort of trend magazines like The American Prospect, and for that matter, The New Republic, should be fighting against.

--Ezra Klein

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