California and Rhode Island Won’t Save Us

It’s a nice idea, Matthew Pratt Guterl, but there’s a real sense in which it would be counterproductive to follow Governor Gina Raimondo’s advice to move to Rhode Island rather than fleeing to Canada. It’s true that Rhode Island, like California, has enough Democratic firepower to act as a counterexample to what is about to sweep our nation. It could be a very attractive place for people to live who feel threatened or marginalized in Trump’s America, or who just want a sanctuary from the onslaught of dumb governance we’ll see in most of our states.

But demographic sorting of this type is what made the Republicans’ post-2008 comeback so strong and so virulent. I’d rather see disaffected liberals move to Georgia and Arizona, states that Clinton nearly won. Maybe a mass exodus to Texas would help, since Clinton did better there than she did in Iowa.

Of course, people don’t make their living decisions this way. People flock to places that appeal to them or that offer job opportunities that they can’t find at home. Colorado’s reputation as a Mecca for potheads probably does more to attract young people than anything else their politicians could come up with, and people will continue to flock to New York and Los Angeles for no better reason than that they look cool on television.

As long as the Democratic Party is the natural home for the well-educated and the ecumenical and pluralistic, it will have little trouble attracting like-minded people to our college towns and culturally-rich cities and suburbs. What the party needs is more reach. It doesn’t actually benefit when every pro-gay rights, anti-racist, liberal-minded person flees their hometown for the comfort in numbers they get in Blue America.

But there’s no solution here, either way. People will move where they want to. The party cannot make a comeback until it claws back the support it has lost in county after county after county since 2008.

We can all debate how best to do that, but it’s not going to be done by making California and Rhode Island so attractive that every liberal wants to move there.

And I don’t really believe that their fine example will somehow make a winning argument that convinces millions of Trump voters that they made a mistake and should come back home to the Democrats.

The party needs to win the argument in these communities, and that won’t be done by pointing to other communities that are culturally dissimilar.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.