Understanding geography of red, blue | Rich Elfers

Do you know why blue (Democratic) states are clustered in the Northeast and along the West Coast on national election maps? Or why red (Republican) states are concentrated in the Great Plains and the South? Why do Pierce, King, Snohomish, and Spokane counties in Washington state almost always vote Democratic while the rest of the state votes Republican?

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  • Monday, March 9, 2015 5:38pm
  • Opinion

Do you know why blue (Democratic) states are clustered in the Northeast and along the West Coast on national election maps? Or why red (Republican) states are concentrated in the Great Plains and the South? Why do Pierce, King, Snohomish, and Spokane counties in Washington state almost always vote Democratic while the rest of the state votes Republican?

There’s a reason for this based upon geography.

Geography affects the way we think more than we realize. Why are rural areas most often conservative and Republican, while big cities with a population of more than 500,000 are predominantly Democratic? The answers to some of these questions come from my own life experiences.

In the late 1970s my wife, kids and I moved to the rural part of my county and bought 10 acres.  Why did we want so much property? We wanted to raise our children in nature with animals. We also wanted to be self-sufficient. Owning land meant we could grow our own food. It meant a higher sense of security. Only later did I come to realize that owning land also meant that if the government collapsed, someone would take the land from me by force. It was false security.

I think this illusion of self-sufficiency and security is why few conservatives live in big cities. There are also few minorities who are citizens who live in more rural areas. These areas are mostly white. Older whites, especially males, tend to vote predominantly Republican.

When one lives closer to nature, there are fewer changes except the ongoing changes in the seasons. Conservatives favor keeping conditions as they are. Any major changes can mean loss of status and wealth. Conservatives are often business owners and there are more taxes and government regulation in the urban areas as opposed to living in less populated areas.

Democrats often live in big cities for several reasons: minorities like to live among their own, just like whites who favor the suburbs and more rural areas. Cities constantly are changing.  Change is valued more highly by progressives, because it means that improvement of opportunities is more likely.

Since most of the big U.S. population centers along the coast vote predominantly Democratic, people who live in those areas more frequently tend to come in contact with those from other countries and cultures and colors. This greater diversity tends to force people to be more open to allowing for differences in values and attitudes, making them more Democratic when voting.

Being in and around nature is more difficult to see in cities. Buildings go down and are replaced by new structures. The skylines are not mountains, but man-made constructions: buildings and bridges. People come to the cities to find work in the factories and businesses that locate there. Working for someone else encourages the rise of unions.

Because Republican President Abraham Lincoln was credited with freeing the slaves, blacks voted solidly Republican as a block until the Great Depression when Franklin Roosevelt’s administration pushed for laws to help minorities and the poor. Then they switched to voting Democratic.

After the Civil War ended in 1865, whites in southern states voted solidly Democratic until the mid-1960s. Then the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed. After that, southern whites have voted consistently Republican.

The poor in Red States vote conservative because of the issues of abortion and gay rights. These issues go against their more conservative religious views. This group also tends to live where there is less diversity in rural areas. Those who are pro-choice and for gay marriage tend to live in more urbanized areas.

Most of western Washington votes Democratic because most of the counties mentioned above are the most urbanized. Educated professionals also tend to live in and around cities and they now vote predominantly Democratic.

Geography affects one’s political and religious outlook. Geography determines how much or how little change will occur. These differences affect how and why people vote the way they do. It makes the three west coast states vote predominantly Democratic and the Midwest and South vote consistently Republican. Awareness of these tendencies helps explain the differences between western and eastern Washington. We seem to be much more affected by our geography than we are probably aware.


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