Sunday, February 24, 2008

Purpling the Race

The Red State/Blue State divide served its purpose as a way to try to understand American politics in the wake of the divisions of the george W. Bush years. But those terms were always best understood as metaphors, and not as doctrinal models for grasping modern political truths. In reality, most red and blue states are infused with purple, and in American politics loyalties are often in a state of flux. This is why the "Reagan Democrats" and "Soccer Moms" and Independents always play a disproportionate role in each election cycle (and why politicians left and right almost always sell out their ideals at some point ina campaign if those swing voters are seen to be in play).

One of the big questions in the Democratic race seems to hinge on whether or not Barack Obama is capable of "turning red states blue," a discussion that will almost inevitably result in muddled answers. But the reason for the lack of clarity is because it is based on this largely false construct that there is something inherently red or blue about particular states. This strikes me as one of those social science flaws in which people create models and theories and then draw on the assumption that those models and theories are true without regard for qualitative nuances that those who do not feel the need to priviledge "science" are oftentimes better at interpreting. "Red States" and "Blue States" are descriptive and not analytical categories. Understanding that might make it easier to grasp how any candidate might be able to "turn" a state that really was never immutable hued to begin with.

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