People are not red or blue. I wrote about this back in 2016 but it seems even more important now. The FBI was granted a search warrant for a former President’s residence and that legal action is being politically weaponized to further divide the nation.
The creation of a binary map based upon which political party won an election is not only misleading, it contributes to the raw divisions stalking our national psyche. It was created in 2000 by the NYT and USA Today when they published full color electoral maps, but a bisected color-coded map is deeply flawed and deluding.
I am diving into the weeds here but Kansas, always pictured as a “red” state is 46% Republican, 31% Democrat, and 23% Independent. That means there are 670,000 Democrats in Kansas who are not red. Coupled with Independents that means 1.6 million Kansans out of 2.9 million are non-red. That makes red and blue totally misleading indicators of who lives in Kansas.
Or take Mississippi, always thought to be ruby red. I was surprised to learn the split is 44% Republican to 42% Democrat. There are 1.25 million Democrats in Deep South Mississippi who are not red.
Closer to home, New York is one of the bluest of blue states. We are lopsided to be sure — 53% Democrat to 28 % Republican — but still more than 5.5 million people in NY are not blue.
To continue to talk about ourselves as bastions of red and blue is to pour accelerant on the river of bile already flowing amongst us. We are far more complex and nuanced than a binary map displays. The unexpected productivity of Congress hints towards a congruity of values.
By all accounts, though little polling is taken on specific pieces of legislation, the passage of several new laws enjoys wide bi-partisan support. The fierce rhetoric within the Senate chamber leads us to think we really are red and blue, but the legislation and its popularity among both Republicans and Democrats, indicates something different.
Take for example, the PACT Act which expanded VA health benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. It had 93% public support.
The CHIPS Act protects and extends microchip technology and manufacturing in the US, and will keep that supply chain of critical components open. It passed with the support of 17 Republican Senators and 24 House Members.
The Inflation Reduction Act is focused on energy security and climate change, but also extends the Affordable Care Act, reduces the deficit, allows medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, increases IRS enforcement, and raises the corporate minimum tax. Polls show 95% support among Democrats, 73% from Independents, and 52% of Republicans. A vibrant consensus.
Even the Gun Safety Act, normally a fiercely contested topic without consensus, passed with 15 Senate and 14 House Republicans. At the same time, 66% of Americans said we needed tougher gun safety laws.
We are divided on many issues to be sure, but those differences are far more nuanced than depicted in the media, and we share more attitudes than we have been led to believe. Having a binary filter distorts our perception of reality and the lenses we wear determine our decisions. Obviously we need a clearer and more accurate lens than the one we’ve been given.