The New Frontline; red states with blue cities
That Americans are fundamentally divided along strict political and regional lines is neither news or new.
While tensions between the two parties bubbled beneath the surface for decades in a steady momentum of resentment, we have to wonder what brought it to the fore.
When was that light-bulb moment of realization the country was in the fight of its life with battle lines drawn?
The election of Barrack Obama in 2008 heralded a new optimism that resonated with many Americans disillusioned after two terms of George Bush and his endless war on terror.
The younger, vibrant and silver-tongued Obama inspired a nation with his campaign slogan of ‘’Yes we can” striking a chord with Americans hoping for a change for the better in international and domestic affairs leading people to vote for him across party lines.
Nearing the end of Obama’s first term, many of those same Republicans were disheartened when it dawned on them this was not what they signed up for, they had responded with a ‘yes we can’ without knowing the question, aware too late of what they had agreed to, clearly they changed their minds about ‘hope and change’ and wanted out.
Meanwhile Republicans and others who had not voted for Obama dug in their heels.
The political climate heats up
Democrats remained solidly behind their man in his quest for a second term.
Moreover, the deadlock between the two political parties widened, becoming acrimonious in the run up to the elections, just before Obama won a second term with a reduced majority, mainly because Dems thought Republicans, especially conservatives would stand in the way of his re-election.
The vitriol in the media and online was something to witness besides being a revealing pointer of the drastic hardening in attitudes along political party lines.
This animosity climaxed in the year 2016 with the end of the Obama presidency and the election of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
In March 2017, The Atlantic, a popular Magazine website featured a fascinating article about the changing dynamics in the urban-rural political divide.
Progressive havens in rural surrounds
The article drew the unlikely parallel of the very cosmopolitan Donald Trump and the rural vote that propelled him to power, while noting the gulf between urban and countryside voters was wider than it had been in nearly a century.
Mind you, we can draw the same unlikely parallel of the ivy-league educated Barrack Obama and his rank-and- file African American support-base and other blue-collar workers of other race groups of the democratic persuasion.
Noting that American cities are pulling apart from the rest of the country with Democrats turning to local ordinances as their best hope to see in their progressive policies with big-city mayors laying plans to nudge the new administration leftward, especially on immigration — and, should that fail, to join together in resisting its policies.
Except for one big problem, while power is decentralized in the U.S. system,
power devolves to the state, not the city.
A series of battles over past years involved preemption, the principle that state law trumps local regulation, just as federal law supersedes state law.
“We are about to see a shit storm of state and federal preemption orders, of a magnitude greater than anything in history,” says Mark Pertschuk of Grassroots Change, which tracks such laws through an initiative called Preemption Watch. By the group’s count, at least 36 states introduced laws preempting cities in 2016.
There is a new trend in America called “the Big Sort,” where people who share similar socio-economic profiles and politics flock together.
What this means is that rural areas are becoming more conservative, and cities more liberal with the political divide an ever-increasing chasm.
There are liberal cities in the reddest of states, in fact, half of US metro areas with the biggest recent population gains are in the South, and they are Democratic, with the State of Texas having four such cities.
Many southern cities, in blue states, have become magnets for out-of-state interlopers when targeted for preemption.
Republican officeholders have blasted nondiscrimination ordinances like Charlotte’s as contravening nature and Christian morality.
In addition, they have argued that a patchwork of wage and sick leave laws will drive away businesses, and that fracking bans will stifle the economy.
The changing demographics of southern states and southern cities in blue states seems like a soft invasion of sorts.
The bottom line is people are leaving blue states for red ones because of better job prospects and economic growth.
Meanwhile, these new developments has changed political party outlook somewhat, with Republicans no longer supporting all forms of decentralization and Democrats now the champions of decentralization, at least when the situation calls for it.
Mostly though, cities hold the weaker hand.
While states have in the past granted cities leeway to enact policy this was due to political norms not legal structures, but these norms no longer exist in the current destructive political climate.
Again, once those norms crumble, state legislatures get to assert their authority, cities will have very little recourse.
Even so, increasingly, the most important political and cultural divisions are not between red and blue states but between red states and the blue cities within and vice versa.
In any event, it looks like the United States is coming to resemble two separate countries, one rural and one urban.