The Myth Of Red State Repression (and “Coastal Elites”)


The good news is that Americans are having conversations about the steep ideological divide that threatens to rip the nation asunder. The bad news is that the discussions invariably revolve around the same absurd narrative: that the interests of Red State voters have been long ignored, repressed, marginalized, swept under the rug. The official spin on the surprise outcome of the 2016 presidential election is that folks in the Heartland were “sickandtired” of being snubbed by the “coastal elites” — so they voted for a self-absorbed billionaire from the rolling plains of Manhattan.

Even Blue State progressives have had a hand in spreading such arrant nonsense. TED Talks hosted a discussion titled Political Common Ground in a Polarized United States. And whom did they choose to have this forum with? Right-wing pundit David Brooks and, for balance… right-wing pundit Gretchen Carlson. In a way, this makes sense. The TED audiences tend to be overwhelmingly progressive (that’s “liberal” to those in the Red States), so yes, maybe it would be constructive for them to hear from the other side of the fence. And as right-wing pundits go, Brooks and Carlson are extremely civil, sane, congenial, and even likable. Just think, TED could have invited Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter instead.

But even though their message was delivered politely and with humor, it was still at heart the same message one normally hears steeped in lye: “you guys need to bow down to us more. Just let us have everything our way, and we’ll all get along”. When one person in the audience asked them to explain how Blue Staters could understand Red Staters better and what evidence there is that Red Staters are trying to understand Blue Staters, Brooks replied:

I would say — and this is someone who has been conservative all my adult life — when you grow up conservative, you learn to speak both languages. Because if I’m going to listen to music, I’m not going to listen to Ted Nugent. So a lot of my favorite rock bands are all on the left. If I’m going to go to a school, I’m going probably to school where the culture is liberal. If I’m going to watch a sitcom or a late-night comedy show, it’s going to be liberal. If I’m going to read a good newspaper, it’ll be the New York Times. As a result, you learn to speak both languages… The problem now that’s happened is you have ghettoization on the right, and you can live entirely in rightworld, so as a result, the quality of argument on the right has diminished, because you’re not in the other side all the time. But I do think if you’re living in Minnesota or Iowa or Arizona, the coastal elites make themselves aware to you, so you know the language well, but it’s not the reverse.

Even while acknowledging in an unguarded moment that the real problem is “ghettoization on the right”, he couches that offhand admission in a by-the-numbers commentary that may not have been the most inane of possible responses, but certainly was in the running. The irony appears totally lost on him of having a person who works in, and distributes right-wing commentary from, the New York and East Coast media (one of a swarm of locusts who do so), bemoaning the “coastal elites” and the leftist media oligarchy that stifles the right-wing message.

And does he really believe that white rural Bible Belt neo-Confederates “speak both languages” just because the nation’s leading newspaper (which they never read) is supposedly left-leaning, or because instructors at major universities (which most of them don’t attend) insist on presenting pesky facts that refuse to fit right-wing ideology, or because most of the pop culture they consume is created by individuals who hold progressive values in private life?

Evidently Brooks, while claiming to listen to musicians besides Ted Nugent, has never noticed that most of them don’t go around singing about their librul lifestyles and convictions. They’re far more likely to sing about their struggles to get there, and their roots in the cotton fields, coal mines and lumber yards. They usually sing songs about the triumphs and tragedies of ordinary everyday people, Blue State and Red State and Purple State. Likewise, most of the movies and TV shows don’t present stories about being glamorous movie stars; they present stories about working folks from all walks of life, all regions of the country. Indeed, many of those stories are specifically Red State stories and/or cater to a specifically Red State audience.  So once again, Mr. Brooks, what exactly do the Texas cattle ranchers and West Virginia miners and Alaska fishermen do that is comparable to this in terms of reaching across the divide?

In addition to buying into and promoting the Red State Repression Myth and evidently the Liberal Media Myth, Brooks also apparently subscribes to what we might call the NewYorkandCalifornia Myth. The aforementioned Hannity, recently exhorting his viewers to harass any media outlet who dared to question his beloved president, urged his minions to remind the librulmedia that there is a world beyond DC and New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Punchline: as he sat in his plush studio in the middle of the Big Apple.

According to Red State mythology, the Heartland is peopled by God-fearing, hard-working True Americans (the only True Americans), while NewYorkandCalifornia is populated with terrorists, criminals from Mexico, black hoodlums, communists, “coastal elites” (including, presumably, folks in BuffaloandBarstow), welfare cheats, and above all, Them Librulz. Thus, it’s very important to protect the Real America from NewYorkandCalifornia, which among other things is supposed to justify clinging to the dinosaur of the electoral college. Interestingly, those who fear being dominated by the heavily populated NewYorkandCalifornia and endowing its “coastal elites” with a strong voice in public policy seem to have no concerns at all about the second most populous state: the fast-growing Republic Of Texas, which not only has its own share of wealthy snobs, but even its own coast beside which they can practice their elitism.

In the real universe (with which Fox “News” talking headlesses have barely a passing familiarity) NewYorkandCalifornia consists of two very different states on opposite sides of the continent. What they have in common is a lot of people, an astounding variety of people, including rednecks and racists. They may not be people who work in wheat fields, but they work in an amazing variety of other fields; and many of them have worked in the wheat fields in the past. Coastal cities are filled with people who are refugees not only from other countries, but from Red State America, which they’ve often left to pursue economic opportunity or freedom from persecution. It may not be fair to say that NewYorkandCalifornia, as opposed to KansasandNebraska, is the Real America, but it certainly is a much richer cross-section of the diversity that comprises America. (And I speak in part from personal experience, having spent 15 years in San Francisco and the better part of 3 in L.A., as well as a fair amount of time in both the state and city of New York.)

As for the claim that Red State America has been snubbed and underrepresented in government and public policy, that’s the most laughable notion of all, as a few basic and irrefutable facts will establish.

FACT: In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million votes more than her opponent. But he still was awarded the White House, thanks to an archaic system designed specifically to skew elections in favor of (what would become) Red State voters.

FACT: This electoral system is so lopsided that at present a presidential vote in Wyoming carries nearly 4 times as much weight as a vote in California (which is part of deep blue NewYorkandCalifornia). And the disparity is growing worse — or better if you’re a Republican.

FACT: The previous Republican president also lost the popular vote and, in all likelihood, the electoral vote as well. But he was awarded the White House by a wide-reaching network of family connections.

FACT: Since they seized control of Congress in 2010, the GOP has indulged in ferocious gerrymandering, which methodically carves up districts so that minority voters (who overwhelmingly vote Democratic) will have minimal impact on the election outcome. This might very well guarantee a permanent majority in the House, even if Democrats get substantially more votes.

FACT: Republicans in recent years also have undertaken a massive, systematic campaign to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters on the pretext of preventing (virtually nonexistent) voter fraud. This was a major factor in the 2000 election, before which the state of Florida purged tens of thousands of supposedly suspected former felons (and probable Democratic voters) from the rolls. A study conducted after the 2016 election found that in Wisconsin alone (which went red by a margin of 22,748 votes) about 200,000 perfectly qualified (and likely overwhelmingly Democratic) voters were prevented from casting a ballot.

FACT: During the last year of Obama’s administration, the GOP refused to even consider a Supreme Court Nominee. Then, as soon as they got one of their guys in office, they exercised the “nuclear option” on his nominee, to prevent Democrats from delaying his confirmation.

FACT: After consolidating its grip on the government in the recent election, the GOP has dramatically ramped up its efforts to make cities “less liberal” with preemptive and vindictive measures designed to prevent cities from enacting laws that protect the environment, laborers, the LGBT community, or anything else the GOP views as a “liberal” cause.

FACT: Republicans make up considerably less than half of the voting population (about 29 percent actually registered Republican, and another 10 percent or so who lean Republican).Yet they control the White House, the House Of Representatives by a 47 seat margin, the Senate by a 4 seat margin, the Supreme Court, 34 governorships, 31 state Houses, and 35 state Senates.

In short, Republicans enjoy an advantage in government at all levels that is far out of proportion to their representation in the general population. And they have made it very clear that they will do absolutely anything it takes to not only maintain that power but expand it. There is indeed a huge swath of the country that is being repressed, suppressed, oppressed and marginalized. But if you really believe that swath is tinged crimson, then you are severely colorblind.


  1. The poor “picked on” right sure does complain about the constant abuse they supposedly receive at the hands of those biased and hypocritical Liberals, and it has much to do with the fact that the right wing has successfully demonized the press (especially during Trump’s short time in the White House). But as you so aptly point out, there is really very little persecution being dealt to them—it’s just that they have repeated this narrative over and over in order to assure their base that, without the New York Times, The Washington Post, or the Guardian etc., things would be a lot different. In fact, as you put it—they feel that if Liberals would just bow down before them more, and let them have their way—as a living example that we all need to be fair and open-minded about the other side, but only if those *&%@$!! in it, would just stop being such goddamn wimps and spoiled brats and quit doing all the “evil” things they so often do? And, if only their hopeless, helpless, and hapless subjectivity was honestly attributed to both sides, (not ours but the other guy’s) then both sides could no longer deny their biases. Unfortunately, the deceit, lying and misinformation campaign, is really not the same on both sides—Conservatives try to offer us that false equivalence because it provides them with a cloak composed of first amendment rights to hide behind, while maintaining that (they) are effectively being bullied by people who want AFFORDABLE, not just ACCESSIBLE health care, social safety nets that prevent many families from succumbing to malnutrition, chronic unemployment, or from not having at least some retirement nest egg in the form of Social security waiting, etc.

    One could go deeper into this bog of ideological warfare and mention things like the fact that, many of those collecting Social Security, subsidized medical care, and in need of the ability to feed their children healthy foods (with the help of the Federal food stamp program) have long histories of working and of having portions of their wages withheld to fund them. The money on their food stamp cards must also be spent only on food (although, in my opinion, soda pop should not be included). Many economists point out that this guaranteed circulation of food stamp money actually creates benefits beyond the actual cost of funding our food stamp program, and is a proven way for us to avoid lingering much too long in any severe economic depressions—but be that as it may, the real problem here is that the GOP has been attempting to, and succeeding in, taking control of State’s, Governors, and State legislatures, and now both houses of Congress and the Presidency as well—especially because the election of Barrack Obama rattled them into believing they would have to open their bag of deceitful tricks even wider.

    Brook’s statement does say something a little more substantial about how Blue Staters could try to understand Red Staters, but you are again right to point out that a diverse electorate exists on both our east and west coasts, and that those damn liberal movie stars don’t do films only about elite Americans, but rather, mostly about the struggles hopes and dreams of everyday people—not just those who seek to corner the Market on Wall Street, or the CEOs of mega-oil companies. And, the reason many actors are loved and admired is because they usually possess both inner and outer beauty, as well as an awareness that we are all living on the same big, blue, and fragile marble floating in space. They portray both love and wisdom, passion and resignation, and the ways in which human beings love or hate one another etc. So, if someone on the extreme right is angered by the beauty of their work, then to Hell with them! Let’s not pretend that Oscar winning Actors know nothing about the human condition, or about what kinds of political changes could help us all, or, that they work primarily to enhance their own wealth—rather most of them work, for a chance to portray the deep beauty and dignity that often lives inside ordinary human beings, or to shed light on how certain characters become who they are—unlike the CEOs of big oil, they live to perform their art while being rich or poor, and most are just happy that being paid generously may eventually be included in the package.

    But, as you point out, how can those Bible belt patriots on the extreme right really think that a “self-absorbed billionaire,” who lives among “east coastal elites” in, “The rolling plains of Manhattan”—possibly believe that Trump is one of them? That’s more than just absurd—it’s downright ironic and tragic as well! If any middle class income earning (dyed in the wool conservative), not just someone in the Alt-right or someone who is a Neo—Nazi) can look the other way while they elect someone living in a gold leaf covered Penthouse complete with a golden toilet seat, who has hundreds of business interests around the world, his own private Jet, several lush mansions in various parts in the world, and who has a long and verifiable history of stiffing the contractors who built many of his businesses venues for him, I hope these Trump devotees will realize that, when these poor “Art of The Deal” pawns must spend more and more to challenge him in court (our poor working man’s hero—Trump), easily uses his billions to outlast them—being better able to pay the large costs of continued litigations, and thus needing only to wait until the plaintiffs are forced to drop their cases. So, I find it both heartless and ridiculous that his base refuses to see just how little they really have in common with him? As the man himself, would say— “SAD!”

    Thanks again POP for pointing out all the ill-gotten blessings that extreme right wing conservatives have used to maintain their grips on power—such as the fact that Clinton won the popular vote by over 3 million but was beaten by Republican installed gerrymandering in many States that might otherwise have gone to her, how the GOP succeeded in passing unfair and burdensome voter ID laws in several states (not just the IDs themselves, but all that comes with them), the long shadow that still hangs over GW Bush’s election, and the utter hypocrisy of Republicans who refused to formally interview Obama’s replacement nominee, as the Constitution requires them to—instead, keeping his nomination in limbo for more than a year until Republicans eventually won the power to pack the SCOTUS with what will presumably be several more conservative judge. Consider that, In that case, Republicans didn’t even bother to feign non-partisan ideals—they openly stated that they wanted to appoint a conservative judge who understood and would uphold the constitution the way it is “supposed” to be upheld—even though other conservative SCOTUS Justices approved a demented and ridiculously unfair finance loophole which provides the wealthy, and the CEOs of mega corporations, the ability to spend virtually unlimited amounts on their preferred political candidates? So now our one man, one vote, freedoms have been cast aside in favor of the immense power of TBTF institutions, which can literally donate millions of dollars and win elections, compared to someone like me who can only contribute small and sporadic $20 checks to the candidates of my choice?

    A few years ago, a couple of journalist wrote an article with a title like, “(let’s just admit it, it’s the Republicans)!”— Quite so! When all is said and done, if those labeled as liberal journalists working for companies funded by big “liberal” business interests (although that term “liberal businesses” is vague and may really be next to meaningless) are then described as being biased in favor of the left, it could just be because, more journalists working in the mainstream media are better educated and more talented—more so than say, bizarre commentators like Rush Limbaugh. So, what they read and report about may simply not be as tainted with factual inaccuracy, or lack being properly analyzed via a professional journalist’s critical thinking skills. And although Trump might not truly be a Nazi, I find it interesting that so many Fascist jerks are attracted to his political style and repulsive charisma?

    Today Trump finally admitted that Neo Nazis, White Supremacists, and KKKers are evil groups that do not represent what America stands for. But, even though making this statement was the right thing do, Trump was obviously reading a prepared comment from a teleprompter, so it’s not really clear whether he truly believes his own apology, or merely complied to avoid negative political consequences? —the man is not known for his honesty ya know! Either way, a prepared statement is better than nothing—but then again, by what moral authority does a man who once offered to pay the legal expenses of his supporters if they felt like punching those protesting against him—now presume to have the right to lecture us, or even suggest, that all we need to do is end all the violence and take part in peaceful protests instead? We need less hypocrisy from the right and so must insist that it lay the blame where the blame really is!

    If any of us had been soldiers scrambling onto the Omaha beach during D Day in WW2, and a Nazi solider shot our best friend in support of a cause that was and is, demonstrably 100% evil and incredibly perverse, should we be blamed equally for all the violence on that beach if we were to simply fire back at his murderers?

    In any conflict, everyone present acts out of hatred when they feel physically threatened by the other side. But one should not rely on relativistic arguments and subjective morality in order to avoid placing the blame where it needs to be placed. As the song goes— (although no doubt this is not a completely accurate quote);

    “Heaven help the boy who just turned 21…Heaven help the man who gave that boy a gun…Heaven help the man who kicks a man who has to crawl…Heaven help us all! At the end of each day in this troubled world as I lay down to sleep, I pray that the Lord will to Keep Hatred from the mighty, and the mighty from the small…Heaven help us all!

  2. The amusing thing is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but the vote distortion caused by the Electoral College led to Trump being president, which could lead into a long discussion about how the electoral college does none of the things is it supposed to and how screwed the US electoral system is but you seem to have covered that quite well.

    I just wish the rest of country would join in on that topic rather than the bullshit which is currently monopolising the discussion.

    This election did not have any of the protections guaranteed by the voting rights act.

    And it showed.

  3. And meanwhile no matter what we think of the winner, he has been elected via the rules, no matter how inequitable they may be. And we also know that during an election any single news item can potentially pick a winner or loser. So, no matter why Clinton lost, that bell cannot be re-rung until the American electorate realizes just how inadequate the electoral college may be and backs a change via legislation, or by way of a SCOTUS ruling.

  4. […] And then there’s this literary gem: “The Real America; Messages from the Heart and Heartland”.  Got that? It’s only the “red” states that make up the real Amurrca.  Ask any of Sarah Palin’s admirers (and apparently she does have some) just what she has to offer of value besides being within spittin’ distance of Russia, and the answer you’re likely to get is that she’s a “real American”. You know, as opposed to those plastic Americans who have less reactionary views. Sarah herself is at least savvy enough to cash in on the divisive rhetoric, referring to small towns as “what I call the real America… very patriotic, very pro-America” areas of the country. You know, as opposed to the false America of those elitist metropolitan areas where people think they’re special because of their geographical location, and where major media outlets allow prophets like Palin to get their message out to Real America. […]

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