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Red State, Blue State

Wed Aug 17, 2005 Flanders 

It’s hardly original to say that there are two Americas. Much of the commentary following last year’s re-election of President Bush talked about “Red” and “Blue” states – red states voting Republican and blue states voting Democrat. To hear some commentators tell it, there is a chasm between the two Americas: citizens from Blue states can’t possibly understand how anyone could have voted for Bush, and citizens in the Red States unable to understand how anyone could not. (There are blogs that perpetuate this idea – I stumbled across Redstate.org recently and chuckled about its paranoia of the “left side of the blogosphere”…) I’ve always felt this dichotomy overstated the case. But on a trip to Chicago this past weekend, I got to see both Red America and Blue America up close. And you know what? They just can’t understand each other.

Why was I in Chicago on the weekend? Well, as a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs (that’s baseball, for Miss Vicky’s overseas followers) what better way to spend my 40th birthday than a trip to Wrigley Field to watch the Chicago Cubs take on their arch rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. And here’s where the Red/Blue dichotomy kept showing up. The Chicago Cubs wear blue. The Cardinals wear red. Chicago is, of course, in Illinois, which is one of the safest Blue states. (Kerry beat bush 55% to 45% in Illinois.) St. Louis is in the very red Missouri. (Went to Bush in 2004 by 53-46%, though many St. Louis precincts voted Democrat).

As I mentioned, the Cardinals and Cubs are bitter rivals. Every time they play in Chicago, huge numbers of Cardinal fans make the 6-hour trip up Interstate 55 to Chicago, and vice-versa. You saw the red-shirted Cardinal fans all over town, and if I may unfairly generalize, I didn’t have a very hard time imagining that they voted for Bush—particularly the ones I saw chatting on their cell phones while waiting for the hotel valet to park their SUVs.

Inside the stadium, and on the subway to ball park, there was lots of good-natured ribbing of the other team’s supporters, not unlike what you’d hear in Ottawa between Sens and Leafs fans. “Cubs suck!” “Oh yeah, Cards suck!” etc. etc. And in the stands, my spouse and I sat behind a family of red-clad Cardinal supporters. Also in front of us were a pair of Blue-clad men – Cub fans like myself – one who looked to be in his late 40s, the other in his late 20s or early 30s, who were clearly quite close. Now as Miss Vicky can confirm, my support for the Cubs borders on the psychotic, and I was paying very close attention to the game. But my darling spouse was watching the interaction of the two groups sitting in front of us. She eavesdropped on the conversation between younger Cub Fan and the mother of the Cardinal Fan family, when the older Cub Fan had gone to get some beer.

“But if he’s not your father, how do you know him?” Cardinal Mom asked.
“Oh, we’re just good friends,” said the Cub Fan, smiling.
“But how did you meet? Do you work together?”
“No, we’re just good friends.”
“He seems a lot older than you,” said the Cardinal Fan, quizzically.
“Yes he is older than I am, but what does age have to do with good friendship?”

After the game, we talked about the conversation. We agreed we just wanted to say, “Lady, they’re gay! How can you not get it?” And then it dawned on me – the Cardinal Fan simply did not understand how the Cub Fans lived their lives. And we couldn’t understand how they couldn’t understand. Red State, Blue State. The dichotomy lives on.

There’s much more to be said here – Blue America, ultimately, is more urban while Red America is more suburban and rural. (For a fascinating view of the two Americas, see this map.) It’s not really Illinois that’s Blue, it’s Chicago, indeed, 90 of the State’s 105 counties went for Bush. And this urban-rural dichotomy has its parallels in Canada. Ask New Democrats trying to get elected in rural Canada, or Conservatives trying to get elected in urban (not suburban) Canada.

But that’s another story. The truly important matter is that the Cubs won the game, 4-1.Even the beer was great.

Some people were moved to reply

accidental altruist Aug 17, 2005 02:58 PM said:

oooooh. i'm interested to read your post - but the colours and underlining make it hard. can you fix?

Flanders Aug 17, 2005 03:07 PM said:

Sorry - getting the hang of this HTML thing...That better?

accidental altruist Aug 17, 2005 10:28 PM said:

muchly-much! :-)

GOSH! that's alot of red!

The Webgeek Aug 18, 2005 01:23 AM said:

What I find interesting is that, initially, democrats and Canadian left parties (like the NDP) got the biggest support from rural areas. Places that felt the pinch from big business "conservative" polotics. Initially, the left was the domain of the" working stiff"; but niow that's no more. Somehow, the right has finnagled it's way into the 'average Joe's poltitcal landscape. It's amazing how these people will vote for the veryt party that will , in the end, co-opt (and I can't believe I just used a 'buzz word') their livelyhood for a (well lobbied) corporate profit -- all in the namer of 'wholesome values'.

pinklitva Aug 18, 2005 06:01 AM said:

Here in England we have to keep fans separated. That is because we will kill each other if we are mixed so the idea of sitting with opposing fans is rather novel to me despite being Canadian (Eurpeans know about baseball).

My footie team is Everton which are 'The Blues' and the other city team are 'the red' or Liverpool. I am not sure if so much can be read into the colour allegiance except that traditionally,Everton was the Catholic team and Liverpool for the Protestants!!!!!

My partner once went to a match at Old Trafford which is home to Manchester United - another red and much hated team. When Liverpool and Manchester play against each other- Evertonians and Liverpudlians are united in their hated of Manchester United-now-owned-by-an-amercia n- the away team usually wears black.
I suppose there isn't much point to my ramblings except to point out how the red/blue things plays out in England and to share the song that the Evertonians sang whilst playing Man U.

(sung to the tune of walking in a winter wonderland - Harold Shipman is Britians worse serial killer who happened to be a GP and is suspected to have killed about 300 patients).

Way to go, Harold Shipman
here to stay, Harold Shipman
The Scouser say 'thanks'
For killing the Manks (aka Mancunians=people from Manchester
Walking in a Shipman Wonderland

As Chomsky says, mass sporting events are there to distract the punters from the real issues affecting the country.

Flanders Aug 18, 2005 01:18 PM said:

There's nothing like the singing in the stands at European football matches (thank goodness...)

The root of the NDP's current troubles in Saskatchewan is the redistribution which resulted in all seats having large rural chunks...where the NDP has done well is when they've been able to tap into the populist vein that connects so well with rural Canada...

Now, back to Illinois...While Bush won all those counties, it's very interesting that Barrack Obama, a black Democrat, took something like 95 of the 105 counties in winning his Senate seat. Now some of that had to do with the Republicans putting up a terrible candidate against him, but the fact remains he was able to connect with urban, suburban, and rural Illinois. How did he do it? If the NDP can bottle that, there's 120 seats for the taking...any ideas?

Miss Vicky Aug 18, 2005 04:02 PM said:

Happy Birthday, Flanders! We will celebrate appropriately upon my return.

I stopped into Barak Obama's campaign office when I was in Chicago last summer. Quite the operation. I think his personal charisma has a lot to do with his appeal - his supporters there seemed to really look up to him. Of course, having Alan Keyes run against him helped a tad as well.

Glad you made it to Wrigley Field to celebrate this milestone!

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