The Colors Between the States: The Great Divide and Why It Will Not Close

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Part One 

By James A. Kidney


It is the season of red, blue and purple. That means presidential campaigning is upon us – in force. It is not really a season at all anymore, with round-the-clock, round-the-year, election news coverage, whether warranted or not.

Nor does that combination of bright colors mean the nation is in good cheer. Rather, it is thoroughly divided, as reflected in our representative governments at all levels. Yes, Americans still have far more in common than they do differences, as the occasional columnist feels the need to remind us. But, increasingly it seems, the United States is two cultures united by a common language and divided by very different views of what constitutes America and how to deal with our problems, many of which are conveniently viewed as “caused by the other side” of the red-blue divide.

Red states want less government of any kind for almost any issue except national defense, abortion and certain cultural issues. Red states are hosts to a frequently voiced suspicion — or even hatred — of government, at least at the federal level. There is an undercurrent of yearning reflected in policy suggestions among the red state political leaders that the way to deal with the 21st century’s problems is to revert to the middle of the previous century. Eisenhower, Goldwater and Reagan are the inspiration for sentimental recollections and vague policy prescriptions, although all three might find it difficult to identify with much of what the red state GOP stands for today.  Plus, the world is different than it was as late as the Reagan era.  The U.S. is not the economic giant standing astride a war-ruined world as it was in 1950.

It is not hard to understand why white men, and some women, yearn for such a past.  The anger that it is not going to happen is expressed in extreme venom and, as the John Boehner resignation shows, vengeance against anyone even willing to discuss compromise.

Blue state leaders and their voters look favorably on government, especially the federal government, as the solution to problems such as dirty water and air, climate change and economic inequality. Franklin Roosevelt and, on domestic policy, Lyndon Johnson are the model presidents for these folks. On national american-flagsecurity, however, there is less certainty about America’s role in the world than in the more militarily aggressive red states. Although blue states face their own economic and racial uncertainties in big cities and suburbs, many struggling families — especially white families — across the country perceive an unmistakable disregard for their problems among liberals.

Blue state liberals campaign more poorly than red state conservatives outside of the presidential races, failing to capture the majority in those few congressional districts and state level offices that have not been gerrymandered by either party into one color. Liberals tend to look askance at the positions of the more conservative party and believe the logic of liberal thinking alone can carry the day. Their candidates also don’t fully adopt liberal positions, afraid that they will offend independents, but the resulting “compromise” pleases no one.  Their base is not motivated to vote in off-year elections, so Democrats lose in close Senate and House races.

Red state politicians are better at getting elected by undiluted appeals to the most conservative in their base, many of whom vote regularly. But their government animus and devotion to positions undaunted by the experience of recent history (e.g., failure of “trickle down” economics for over 30 years) cause them to be very poor at governance.

This situation will not change in the foreseeable future. More optimistic projections to the contrary are seriously flawed.

This series looks at the prospects for continuing divide, why it is not likely to change and, later, how these very different political approaches to our problems are reflected in demographics and policies at the state level.

But this website is not all about the highly wonky nature of the red-blue-purple divide. Such postings will be only occasional. There are more fun things to write about. We have and will. But for this series on the Colors Between the States, be prepared for some wonky assessments. Your comments and responses are invited. We will be happy to publish opposing views if supported by reason and facts.  Just email them to us at  Or post them in the comments section.

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Read more of this post . . .The Colors Between the States: The Great Divide and Why It Will Not Close

Beware of the Mannerly One! Ben Carson is Scarier than Donald Trump


Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks in town hall meeting in Baltimore, Thursday May 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Ben Carson, the up-from-poverty-and-separated-Siamese-Twins surgeon, now second only to The Donald in GOP popularity, is scarier than the bloviating, self-regarding Trump. According to Carson, he is God’s candidate. He is just what we need in this age of fundamentalism, where it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the Koran-thumpers and the Bible-thumpers. Which one is called by God? Does God own a gun. (Yes,)

Carson is gentlemanly and sounds reasonable. He does not usually attack opponents with personal insults. Unlike Trump, he was not born at home plate and thinks he hit a home run. His personal story is admirable – sort of Bill Clinton in a surgical gown and burdened not only by poverty, but also race. Like Trump, but not like Clinton (either one), Carson has zero government experience – which is his appeal to voters.

Plus, he is not Donald Trump. In at least one important way, he is worse.

Read more of this post . . .Beware of the Mannerly One! Ben Carson is Scarier than Donald Trump

Why Modern Politicians Are Like Tomatoes

By James A. Kidney

          Pundits and political consultants are bemoaning the (temporary) rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as a sign that “the center cannot hold.” Post columnist E.J. Dionne even quotes Yeats tomato-with-teethtwice as his political guru for the proposition. But his column and others make me think that today’s politicians are like grocery store tomatoes.

Those of my generation (kinda’ old), can vaguely recall when grocery store tomatoes were tasty, like those grown on the vine in the backyard of our 1950s suburbs. It was not unusual to just eat one like an apple, perhaps with a salt shaker handy. But over the years, as corporate growers and middle-men replaced the farm-to-table small business neighborhood markets, tomatoes were developed for corporate purposes – longer lasting, less easily bruised, brighter reds – and less for consumer approval. Keeping the taste was not a business worry. I think that something of the same has happened to retail politics, with the consequence that our candidates are focused on the things that satisfy their corporate consultants. What is TV-tested? What is poll-tested? How can a candidate seem “genuine” without actually having to BE genuine. Pundits are part of this process. Most rely on campaign consultants for information, ideas, horse-race tallies, and predictions of candidate success.

Read more of this post . . .Why Modern Politicians Are Like Tomatoes

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