COLUMN: From Here and Back Again

Jim Coufal

Red States, Blue States: Boo Hoo for Family Values States

There are many maps showing the U.S. by red and blue states. They vary by the criteria used, but there is great consistency in showing most of the south, some heartland and some western states as red states.
Blue states are mostly east and west coastal, with a few inland.
If you looked at a map of how states voted in the recent presidential election, you would see some traditionally blue states voted red, mostly around the Great Lakes. Here’s one depiction:

Angr/Wikimedia Commons
Map of red states and blue states in the U.S. based on presidential elections since 2000. Red: The Republican candidate carried the state in all four most recent presidential elections (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012). Pink: The Republican candidate carried the state in three of the four most recent elections. Purple=The Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate each carried the state in two of the four most recent elections. Light blue: The Democratic candidate carried the state in three of the four most recent elections. Dark blue=The Democratic candidate carried the state in all four.

Red states are conservative/ republican and blue states liberal/democrat. The red states assert they represent family values. That would seem logical since they are the most heavily evangelical Christian states. The top nine such states start with Tennesee at 47%, Oklahoma at 46.3%, Alabama 46.1%, West Virginia at 44.2% followed by Alaska, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Carolina and Missisippi at 35.6%.

In blue states, evangelicals range from California at 15%, through Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Wyoming, to Rhode Island at 6.7%.
Here’s a quick look at some characteristics of the family value red states.
In their recent book, Red Families V. Blue Families,  authors Naomi Can and June Carbone write, “Many of our assumptions about the cultural divide between red and blue states may be wrong. New research shows that more liberal states, like Massachusetts, tend to have the lowest rates of divorce and teen childbirth. In other words, the most stable families, the homes with two parents to nurture their kids, are found in the liberal strongholds along the East and West Coasts. Conversely, the higher rates of teen childbirth and divorce occur in the red states that conservatives so often celebrate as the heartland of family values.”

Is this an anomaly, or consistent with other findings?
A Kaiser study looking at gun deaths per 100,000 population found that “17 of the 20 states with the fewest gun deaths per capita are blue and 18 of the 20 states with the most are red.”
The highest states for violent acts are Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennesee, Nevada, New Mexico and Arkansas. Also, the highest use of the Internet for viewing pornography are West Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Alaska, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Mississippi, Alaska and Utah.
Seeing any pattern here?
As an aside, in light of Trump’s constant lie that violent crimes have increased greatly over the last eight years, here’s what conservative publication National Review said: Today, the national crime rate is about half of what it was at its height in 1991. Violent crime has fallen by 51 percent since 1991, and property crime by 43 percent. In 2013 the violent crime rate was the lowest since 1970. And this holds true for unreported crimes as well. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, since 1993 the rate of violent crime has declined from 79.8 to 23.2 victimizations per 1,000 people. 
Not surprisingly, red states tend to be lower in educational attainment and higher in incarceration rates. Obesity rates are highest (30%-plus) in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.
Another value espoused by red states is that of individualism and smaller government. Yet, looking at federal tax dollars received by states compared to what the state sends to Washington shows that New Jersey receives 0.61 for each dollar paid, followed by Nevada, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware, California and New York. The first red state to appear on the list is Texas at 0.94, then Florida at 0.97, Oregon, Rhode Island and Georgia at 1.01, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and North Carolina at 1.08, and on until Arisona at 1.19, Idaho at 1.21, Tennessee at 1.27, Maryland at 1.30,…South Carolina, Oklahoma, Alaska, Maine, Hawaii, Montana to North Dakot and South Dakota, and finally West Virginia at 1.76.
Once again, the red states are the ones most often to receive more per dollar that they sent to Washington. With the obesity rates in the red states, one wonders what the federal dollars are used for.
Do you see a pattern emerging here?
Why the red state anti-family value behavior in face of the constant emphasis on voting for family values? Returning to the book Red Families vs. Blue Families, the authors see educational levels, abortion and access to contraception as divisive issues, the latter two related to evangelical beliefs.
States with the most stable families, lower rates of marriage age, teen childbirth and divorce are basically the blue states. The red state trap is to get married at a young age, drop out of school or finish no more than 12th grade, get divorced and live in poverty. Many of the reasons for this relates to religious pressures. Tied to this, the red states are less accepting of LBGT marriage and more supportive of abstinence-only birth control. The latter has been scientifically proven to be the least effective birth control method time after time, but distrust of science and “elites” is another mark of red states. The trap produces a vicious cycle.
Columnist Leonard Pitts sees the situation somewhat differently, but does see a cultural divide, saying, “…our acrimony is not political. It’s not about tax rates, government regulation or even abortion rights. No, this is elemental. This is about the city versus the country, higher education versus a mistrust thereof, Christian fundamentalism versus secular humanism. And it is about social change versus status quo.”
These cultural divides likely go back to the Civil War era. If they haven’t been fixed by now, it’s not likely they will soon be fixed, especially in the time of the Trump dictatorship. But it’s worth knowing the states of family values and small government largely do not practice what they preach.

Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at madnews@m3pmedia.com.

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