Steven Hayward at No Left Turns led me to this piece in the Boston Globe, in which Robert Kuttner essentially denies that America is split into red and blue spheres of influence (the column is called “Red vs. Blue? Not True”). The piece is amusing because, Kuttner, a blue-state Democrat if there ever was one, poses as a “purple” kind of guy, finding harmony and common ground that other pundits supposedly have missed. Is Kuttner in denial with respect to the culture and national security gap the Democrats face? I don’t know. Let’s just say that William Stuntz is far more convincing in the purple guy role than Kuttner.
While it’s quite possible that the red state, blue state thing has been overplayed, Kuttner doesn’t prove that it has. He notes that in the 2004 presidential race, 21 states were decided by a margin of less than 10 percent. But 10 percent is a big difference. Bill Clinton handily defeated Republican opponents twice without obtaining that margin. The fact that 29 states, plus some of the remaining 21, were essentially not in play, and that nearly every state voted as it did in 2000, makes it easy to think that Red vs Blue may well be true at the state level.
Kuttner points out that red states have “blue” governors and visa versa. But if the issue is the prospects for the two parties when it comes to setting national policy, Kuttner’s point is largely irrelevant. So too is the fact that many states considered red or blue have mixed congressional delegations. This is a function of the reality that, as much as the red vs. blue divide seems to explain in terms of state political behavior, it explains even more when one considers how localities vote. Red vs. Blue is manifestly true at that level.
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