Red States, Blue States, Divorce and Illegitimacy

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The November Vanity Fair was called to my attention by a friend. I love that magazine, but can't seem to find the time to read it often, so I don't subsribe. I was delighted to find an online link to this article to share. Red State Babylon If the blue states are sinkholes of moral decay, as right-wing pundits insist, how come red states lead the nation in violent crime, divorce, illegitimacy, and incarceration, among other evils? To a bus-riding innocent on Manhattan's stroller-filled Upper West Side, it looks like a case of hypocrisy meets stupidityby James Wolcott, November 2006
"The red states may be more churchgoing than the blue states, but they're no strangers to Peyton Place. The 10 states in the union with the highest divorce rates in 2004 (among the 45 states for which figures are available) were all red! The fireball center of the red states when it comes to getting unhitched is, no surprise, Nevada, whose marriage laws encourage major turnover in the honeymoon suites. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, until the spouse finds out, and then it's say hi to your new friend, Al Imony. (A joke, I'm ashamed to say, I saw printed on a Vegas cocktail napkin.) Illegitimacy rates? Once again, the red states can hang their baseball caps in shame. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, of states with the highest percentages of births in 2003 to unwed mothers, 9 of the top 10 were red. Considering how ardently the hard-core Christian right is campaigning against abortion availability and birth control, this percentage could conceivably (no pun intended) rise, giving the red states an added advantage in the birth race. In an essay adapted for USA Today, Phillip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It, noted that progressives have fewer children, and that if demography is destiny: "[This] augurs a far more conservative future—one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback, if only by default."

..."Fortunately, there is room to maneuver, the differences between red- and blue-state Americans being less fixed and primary, more flexible and subtly hued, than advertorialized. In The Flight of the Creative Class, Richard Florida cites the findings of political scientist Morris P. Fiorina, who, after sifting through a grain silo of polls and data for his Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America (written with Samuel J. Abrams and Jeremy C. Pope), disputed the notion that American citizens are at bayonet points, poised for civil war. Compared with the Vietnam-era turmoil, the American people are feeling quite cousinly. It's the political class that is polarized and is inciting polarization among the apathetic masses. "A polarized political class makes the citizenry appear polarized, but it is only that—an appearance," Fiorina argued. The good news is that some of the most heavily made-up clown faces fronting this charade are melting into a pool of batter: The previously mentioned Ralph Reed. The once omnipotent and fearsome Tom "the Hammer" DeLay, forced to resign in disgrace as majority leader of the House. Virginia senator George Allen, a would-be son of the Confederacy, whose re-election campaign took a turn for the ugly after Allen singled out a Democratic volunteer of Indian descent as "macaca" at a campaign stop and mockingly welcomed him to "America and the real world of Virginia," that is, White People Land. Conrad Burns, Republican senator from Montana, who made himself a prime candidate for anger management and foot-in-mouth removal when he (a) berated exhausted firefighters for doing a "piss-poor job," (b) called his housepainter "a nice little Guatemalan man" and hinted he might be an illegal alien, and (c) said at a fund-raiser with First Lady Laura Bush present and pretending to be awake that America faced a terrorist enemy whose members "drive taxicabs in the daytime and kill at night"—kind of like Travis Bickle, only duskier. And Nip/Tuck's woman of the millennium, Katherine Harris, who earned infamy for her role as secretary of state in the Florida recount follies of 2000, is spiraling earthward and streaming mascara into the atmosphere in her disastrous run for the Senate, in which she has given Jewish voters a nervous scare by declaring, "If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin." So many flameouts in one year must be more karmic than coincidental. These downfalls and others won't stop NASCAR, the comedy stylings of Larry the Cable Guy, and intelligent design from being forced down our throats, but it's a start."

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