November 25, 2012

Two Americas

Coming along not too far apart, these two items really piqued my interest as I seen them as reinforcing each other. The first is a short item by Michael Barone, published in the National Review about the "Two Americas" reflected in our recent national election. In the article he briefly describes the two perspectives of the people populating each "America" but also mentions that in our past we got along as a single country because we collectively chose to 'leave each other alone', increasingly not the case today. Mitt Romney implied this same argument in his '47% comment'; as impolitic as it was, it was nevertheless a pretty accurate summarization of Barone's thrust in that Romney was commenting about a portion of the electorate that benefits in some way from government subsidies and is unlikely to vote itself free from such support. 

With this in mind, the following two graphics rather starkly illustrate another aspect of the 'Two Americas,' urban vs. rural. Mark Alexander comments on this divide in a recent issue of The Patriot Post, in the section entitled The Real 2012 Election Map. In the first map, election results are shown by county, with BLUE representing counties won by Romney and RED won by Obama. (Alexander switched the normal blue/red associations for reasons he explains in his post.)

In a following graphic, he adjusts the map to show how each county compares when weighted for population, clearly highlighting just how much of an impact the urban counties have on the outcome of national elections. 
For me, it is a reminder of the importance of our Electoral College system for the reasons I discussed at the link. 

One can only muse about the implications of all this as we think about the future of our country. It does seem to suggest that the populations of urban areas are more reliant, or chose to be more reliant, on government programs and are more keen to support politicians who promise to sustain and expand such programs. Conversely, rural areas are populated by people who prefer smaller government and less government involvement in local and personal affairs. My view: the former is inherently more expensive both in terms of money (cost to taxpayers) and loss of personal liberty while the latter is less bureaucratic and expensive but makes greater demands on the individual, i.e. increased personal responsibility. Over the long-term we're so much better with the latter perspective. The challenge, of course, is the related necessity for people to say 'no' to the government lifeline upon which they've grown dependent. Any bets on how this turns out?

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