The population movement from blue states to red states is well documented. For decades northern states—such as New York, New Jersey, and Illinois—have seen their middle class and affluent residents moving to Florida, Texas, and other states in the Sunbelt. And in recent years California has been supplying refugees to Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Idaho.
The major causes for these migrations include cost of living (especially housing in California), taxes and regulations, and the deteriorating quality of life in blue states. Now add to that the coronavirus and lockdown, which has hit northern states and cities especially hard.
In conservative and libertarian circles this is usually portrayed as unalloyed good news. They lose, we win. But life is rarely that simple and clear-cut, and I have noticed a possible fly in the ointment.
I’ve noticed how these migrants clear out of their blue states for sound reasons, but sometimes seem to bring their blue-state political attitudes with them to their new red-state homes, threatening in the process to turn those red states purple and even blue eventually.
In New England this has been most noticeable in New Hampshire, where migrants from Massachusetts have turned that once most reliable red state into a purple state. I’ve noticed this same trend, in an earlier stage of development, in Idaho, with the influx of refugees from California, Oregon, and Washington into Boise, the state’s only major city.
The impact seems to be more mixed in Texas. Yes, California liberals prefer to relocate to Austin, but Austin was already the liberal outlier in that major red state—that’s part of what makes Austin “weird” as in the local booster slogan, “Keep Austin weird.”
In general, this blue-red-purple clash has gone unreported in the mainstream (liberal) media and even on most conservative or libertarian sites. That’s why I am so pleased to see the publication of a new book: The Liberal Invasion of Red State America, by Kristin B. Tate (Regnery, 2020).
Kristin Tate is a promising Millennial journalist affiliated with Young Americans for Liberty, the youth branch of the Ron Paul movement. I have never met her, but I feel an affinity that spans an age difference of some six decades: We both grew up in solid-red states (she: New Hampshire, me: Texas). We both fell in love with New York City in our twenties (the best time of your life to be introduced to Gotham). I suspect we both enjoy the kinds of cultural and culinary settings more commonly found in blue cities than red rural areas. And that presents a problem since we both abhor the radical Left culture that now permeates every aspect of blue-city life, and we now yearn for a return to the good aspects of red-state culture. (I congratulate Kristin for coming to that last realization at a remarkably young age.)
And Kristin’s new book is a worthy addition to the literature explaining how demography affects politics. As she puts it, “White House terms last just four years. Demography is destiny.” The Liberal Invasion of Red State America describes this process for the Trump Era just as Kevin Phillips’ The Emerging Republican Majority did for the Nixon Era in 1969.
One problem with her book is not a reflection of her failure, but a sign of the times. Major new developments can happen faster today than book-publishing schedules can accommodate them. Here I’m referring to the coronavirus lockdown—you cannot get more major than shutting down the entire country’s economy, yet this obviously happened after Tate’s book went to the printer.
An updated version is needed that will incorporate analysis of this overwhelming development, but it probably should also wait for another epochal development—the election results this coming November. That will give her an opportunity to show how the demographic and political trends she describes in such detail in this original edition played out in the election results.
Also, here is an illuminating insight that I would like to see expanded: “There was a time when newcomers brought some of their heritage along with them but accommodated themselves to the culture of their new states…. [But today] many of the new residents don’t see themselves becoming part of that culture…. And so they act like colonizers who bring a superior culture along with them and feel justified in imposing it on the locals” (emphasis added).
So true, and such a politically apt way to portray these unrepentant liberals—as colonizers!
Is There Any Case for Optimism?
Be forewarned: It is easy to become depressed, if you are a conservative or libertarian, as Tate goes into detail about how Massachusetts has largely ruined New Hampshire, how California has largely ruined Colorado, how federal bureaucrats have ruined Virginia, and so many other examples. The migration patterns have an overall good effect in the Electoral College—for now—but is there any way to mitigate this pattern where some of the migrants turn red states purple, or even blue eventually?
This is Tate’s biggest failure—her case for optimism is pretty feeble. But I put her failure in perspective by noting that I don’t have any ready answers, and very few conservative or libertarian commentators even notice the problem, much less have solutions.
For certain, our belief in the Bill of Rights and individual liberty keeps us from punishing people who try to change states with an exit fee, as Tate shows California doing. Such liberal fascist solutions work for California’s political dictators, but not for us.
For the most part, Tate resorts to the standard conservative-libertarian platitudes when she feels she must present a “solution”: “Our nation has been through this before, and we survived.” “Politics moves in cycles, and liberal overkill will result in a conservative resurgence.” “Young generations become more conservative as they get jobs and start families.” “Look at how Giuliani was able to rescue and restore New York City,” etc. (These are not quotes from Tate, but my summaries of her “solutions.”) I don’t have the space here to explain why these platitudes are not enough ammunition for conservatives and libertarians in 2020 and beyond.
Tate’s dilemma is that you are not allowed to define a “problem” without also providing a “solution”—the happy ending rigorously applied, for example, in Hallmark Channel romantic movies. Tate tries, but The Liberal Invasion of Red State America will never be a Hallmark movie.
The closest she comes to a specific solution is the Free State Project, the libertarian effort to get 20,000 of the faithful to move there and thus restore the old spirit of the “Live Free or Die” state. It’s been 17 years since that was announced and I haven’t seen any measurable results, but at least conceptually it makes some sense in a small-population state. Two other states with small populations where this might be tried are Idaho (“keep Idaho red”) and New Mexico, in an attempt to turn it from blue to purple and then red. But the bottom line is that most people do not move solely for ideological reasons.
Tate does hint at several moves conservatives and libertarians might make with real impact. These need to be examined in greater detail.
One is the need to incorporate more ethnic groups into the conservative-libertarian coalition, and in my opinion the greatest potential is with Latinos and Asians. Particularly in regard to the major-impact state of Texas, the population of Mexican descent is key to Republican survival. Yet Tate devotes less than one sentence to “the fact that about 40 percent of Texans of Mexican descent vote GOP” (that figure can actually approach 50 percent when Republicans make the effort). Why is this so? How is this accomplished? Important lessons beg to be explored here.
I expect more along these lines from this gifted writer in the future. For now, I am pleased to see so much research and so many insights packed into this book. The Liberal Invasion of Red State America deserves the serious attention of every conservative and libertarian who wants to maximize today’s demographic trends to our advantage.