Donald Trump is and remains president-elect despite earning, to this point in the counting, 1.7 million fewer votes than his opponent nationwide, or roughly every man, woman, and child in the Dakotas.
So despite having a plurality of the electorate, Democrats and the left have 0 percent of the power in federal government, and full control of six state governments compared with 26 for Republicans.
Part of this is by design: voter suppression and gerrymandering are ongoing efforts to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic voters. But it’s a lot easier when people you don’t want to vote move to places where it doesn’t matter whether or not they do.
Despite the talk about liberals living in a bubble, the opposite is true. Any large U.S. city is filled with people who know exactly how people in predominantly white rural America think and feel, which is precisely why they left it behind. But urban areas also allow you to live, work with, and interact with people who have family in Mexico, Muslims, black Americans, openly lesbian and gay, trans or genderqueer people.
It’s a lot harder to keep up hate and fear of some mythical ‘Other’ when you have to sit next to them on the bus and realize how much more in common you have and how banal their lives also are.
The ‘Hollywood liberal’ is a mythical creature, too, but there’s more truth to that and what makes them different. It’s a large part of why this presidential election went as it did. Many young people in Los Angeles came from homes in Idaho, Indiana, and Mississippi, and ‘What made you come here?’ isn’t really a mystery going to L.A. In my hometown of Odessa, we had oil booms, but any time you met someone from Thailand or the United Kingdom or New York City, it was a curiosity how they got to West Texas, especially if they wanted to live there. That’s a bubble.
There’s some evidence that political views are related to personality traits, and the sort of person who leaves their hometown is different from someone who grows up there and never leaves.
Hey, it’s me! Your Facebook friend from high school who never left our hometown and thinks Olive Garden is fancy. Anyway here’s a racist article
This joke regularly makes its rounds on liberal social media, and I’d swap out Red Lobster for Olive Garden accuracy, but that’s still a cheap shot and contains some of the worst of leftist snobbery.
On another level, of course, it’s true of the sort of person that inherited traditional structures of discrimination and injustice and felt comfortable enough inside of them to be satisfied, who is therefore more likely to stay there, perpetuate those structures, and not get outside of a comfort zone where there would be strange and unexpected experiences.
The sort of person who runs off to a Hollywood does so because they’re adventurous in that way. That could be purely personality or it could be the sort of person who doesn’t fit in the society of a small, traditional rural town has the push to go on an adventure somewhere else to find a place where they can be comfortable. And right now, that’s useless-to-actively-harmful for civil society.
Because of the Electoral College, because of how legislative districts can be more creatively drawn the larger geographic area they cover, left of center voters already pack in to districts and states where their opinion is effectively silenced. ‘Money crosses district lines but not votes’; the amount of political pressure stays constant but clever legislators can nudge the fulcrum to get a better result.
Seattle went 87 percent Democratic; I literally know more people from Michigan here than I do who voted for Trump. And that’s exactly the problem. Tens of thousands of people who didn’t feel like they wanted to live in Michigan left it, relatively few new people wanted to go there, and so these people traded a state where their vote could have potential political importance for one where it absolutely wouldn’t. But more importantly, the indirect impact of being a living example of someone with a different set of ideas or having a non-heterodox identity was lost, too.
This happens within the same state as people leave small towns for metro areas, so state legislatures tend also not to represent their populations, and if you’re a queer teen who might be forced into electroshock conversation therapy by your parents or you’re a woman who might have access to affordable birth control or reproductive health care restricted, it makes sense to relocate to a state where those are not concerns.
On one level, federalism like this is good because there are places people can go. But because of the way cities are uniquely disenfranchised (626,000 people in Vermont have much more power over their laws than 648,000 in Seattle), that cedes more and more ground throughout the country, and the stakes are more for one side than the other.
I absolutely understand why a queer person would want to be able to live in a place where they can walk down the street without expecting someone to harass or threaten them for dressing according to someone else’s gender expectations. If you couldn’t go to dinner and hold hands with your lover, why would you want to stay in such a place?
But the result is the margins in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania. The result is the margins in the suburbs everywhere.
It’s exhausting to have to live your day-to-day life fighting constantly, walking into the wind and sometimes getting blown over. But to have a wind break, some trees have to grow to resist the gale.
“Don’t move to Canada. Move to a red state and become a public school teacher and educate children about racism and sexism and evolution.”
That’s the high road, and the peaceful pushback, but it’s asking a lot and still might not be enough.