The Two Americas Will Be the Defining Trend of 2014

This morning, one of my editors suggested that I might comment on what I thought the big issues of the coming year are going to be. When it comes to the things that will dominate political discussion, most of it we can't predict. There could be unforeseen crises, natural disasters, war breaking out somewhere, or the emergence of previously unknown yet charismatic political figures. A baby might fall down a well, or a little boy could pretend to float up in a balloon, or a young singer might stick out her tongue and move her hips in a sexually suggestive manner, precipitating a national freakout.

One trend I do think will shape people's lives this year and in years to come is the increasing divergence between the places where lots of Democrats live and the places where lots of Republicans live. Yes, it sounds trite and overdone to talk about Two Americas, but it is true, and it's becoming more true all the time. And one question I'm curious about is whether we'll see an increase in people picking up and moving to places where public policy either accords better with their values or offers them important benefits they need to live their lives (or both).

The new year always sees a whole raft of state laws taking effect, but the ideological implications of some of them this year are particularly stark. And liberal states are showing some of the aggressiveness we've come to associate with conservative states. The minimum wage is going up in places like Connecticut and California. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 18 states plus D.C. In Colorado you can walk down to a store on the corner and buy cannabis, and you'll be able to do the same in Washington in a few months. There are new restrictions on guns in blue states, and new laws making guns more ubiquitous in red states. There are also new laws in conservative states aimed at making abortions all but impossible for women to get, and making it as hard as possible for certain kinds of people to vote. And in one of the most critical changes, as of yesterday millions of Americans are getting health coverage through Medicaid—if they live in the right place. Approximately 5 million Americans are missing out because of the refusal of Republican states to allow the Medicaid expansion, in what Ed Kilgore has evocatively termed the "wingnut hole."

Obviously, the underlying divisions that drive this policy divergence are as old as the nation itself. But there are more reasons than ever for people to get up and move to the states where the political leadership is working to make it the kind of place where people like them would want to live. The more we talk about it, the more conscious people become of it, and the closer a conservative in Maryland or a liberal in Mississippi gets to saying, "That's it—I'm finally getting the hell out of here."

There are limits to how far this can go. Even though getting up and moving to a new state is a common part of many people's lives at one time or another, and we tend to associate it with something fundamental in the American spirit—taking a risk, striking out for new horizons, the wind in your hair as you hurtle down the highway toward a brighter future—there are a lot of forces that keep people in place, too. Even if your state's public policy makes your life more difficult, if you grew up there chances are you've got family, friends, and the general familiarity with your surroundings that makes leaving it all behind very daunting. But if the number of people moving not just for a new job but for ideological reasons increases, then that will feed a cycle in which more states become even more ideologically homogenized, which leads to public policy even more ideologically one-sided.

Since I'm a liberal, I believe that the liberal states will become models of freedom, justice, and prosperity, while the conservative states will become hellholes of exploitation and cruelty. Conservatives will naturally see things differently. But watch what's on the ballot in states in 2014, and what state laws get passed in the coming months. State-by-state divergence is my guess for the key political/social trend of the coming year.

Comments

No, the actual "Great Divide" is by class, middle class against the poor. The Clinton Democrats have done more than the Republicans could dream of achieving to deepen this great divide. THIS is what we need to address, and media won't do it. H. Clinton has long advocated for NAFTA, probably the greatest cause of working class job loss in the US. B. Clinton wiped out the Great Society branch of the New Deal, and still had time to begin dismantling Social Security, targeting the disabled. Much of the media marketed to libs has been furiously promoting H. Clinton instead of our vice-president -- in spite of her long, solid record of support for the rt. wing agenda. Several Dems in Congress, who slap on a "progressive" sticker for interviews on MSNBC, continue to support the agenda that has been wiping out the middle class. Tragically, we looked at the policies/programs in place from FDR to Reagan, which took the US to its height of wealth AND productivity, and chose to reverse course. We need to reconsider, end the Reagan/Clinton agenda that has deepened our economic crisis, and start rebuilding the middle class. (Note: You can't rebuild the middle class out of thin air. We have to shore up the poor, putting the rungs back on the ladder out of poverty.)

We have 3 parties. The centrist corporate/Wall Street party to which Obama/Clinton belong and many Republicans. The Tea Party rural rubes like Duck Dynasty who are well funded thanks to their friends on the Supreme Court. The Progressives who are sold-out due to their being part of the Democratic cabal represented by Obama. People are not represented anywhere. We need the internet to help us join together to protect ourselves knowing we have no representation in the government and probably not with life-supporting control over our local areas thanks to NAFTA levels of sell-outs of the American people.

...I agree with your analyzes , therefore we "the un represented people 98%" need to gather & be represented by a party, a political party -although I don't like the word political-, but we have no choice. How do we go about this? the Congress needs to be entirely re elected, & replaced by a 2 yrs appointment position. This would be a first step, but how do we get this done? perhaps you can enlighten the rest of us.

Who broight NAFTA to us? George H.W. Bush and the Republican-controlled House and Senate of the 90s. Before one starts spouting Tea Party revisionist history, look at what really happened. No Republican is EVER too brave enough to want to be accountable for his own sins, but is always 1000 percent ready to tell complete falsehoods to make themselves look good. This is why we have such a divide. I am a liberal. I am NOT the enemy. What the enemy is is the repeated falsehoods of the Republican party, and its total willingness to ignore history and rewrite it to suit themselves.

If you look at the most recent polling by YouGov and CNN, you will see that there are indeed two Americas: whites and nonwhites. Whites approve of Obama by 30/70, while nonwhites approve by 70/30. This is true in all regions and age-groups and in both sexes. Whites are leaving the Democratic party, at least temporarily. Politics today is not about red vs. blue, it is about white vs. nonwhite. The veracity of this assertion will be tested in November.

The author notes, "The minimum wage is going up in places like Connecticut and California. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 18 states plus D.C." A shout-out to my hometown and residence for the last 29 years for making progress on BOTH fronts: We have just prevailed upon our legislature--the D.C. Council--to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 by July 2016, with COLA thereafter. But even in this so-called Democratic stronghold, it took a massive effort, and we fell short of our goal of extending the living wage.

You were doing okay until you came to the last paragraph! Conservative states will be the ones with freedom, justice, and prosperity.......liberal states, not so much.

Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat; the better model, one only needs to compare Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wisconsin Gov. Walker, the Tea Party darling with the Fitzgerald Republican controlled legislature compared to Minnesota's Gov. Mark Dayton working with a Democratic controlled legislature. One needs to look no further than these two states to see which model is better.

Sure hope the article is right. What a wonderful idea! Two societies, loosely united by history and a desire to remain defended against external aggression and internal violence. Those who believe in community and equality can enjoy it. As could those who believe in freedom and progress.

It will be a great experiment in mind vs. matter! Or more accurately, of genetic biases in which set of the common values are considered important, and the results of the thoughts and the actions which flow from those two sets of genes. Clearly there will be differences in outcomes.

Will opinions on which are better correlate with reality, or with the original biases? We'll find out - either most of us will migrate to only one of the two Americas, or we will not.

The 10 fastest-growing states in the United States:
1. North Dakota
2. Texas
3. Utah
4.Colorado
5. Florida
6. South Dakota
7. Washington
8. Arizona
9. Alaska
10. Wyoming

7 are "red states", 2 are "purple states", and 1 is a "blue state".

The 10 slowest-growing -and in some cases, declining- states in the United States:

10. Connecticut
9. Pennsylvania
8. New Hampshire
7. Illinois
6. Ohio
5. Vermont
4. Michigan
3. West Virginia
2. Maine
1. Rhode Island

7 are "blue states", 2 are "purple states", and 1 is a "red state".

This begs the question of why people are leaving states that are "models of freedom, justice, and prosperity", for states that are "hellholes of exploitation and cruelty". Perhaps in order for the blue state model to work correctly, we need to stop allowing citizens the freedom to pack up and move.

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