Update: New Canafornida

It appears I was neither the first nor the last to propose Canada annexes Kerry states (Voting With Their Feet). The map below shows just such a scheme and was recently posted to the David Suzuki Foundation site. I discovered that Gwynne Dyer published the same suggestion six days before my post in his column titled "The Divided States: A Modest Proposal."
This Red Zone cartography obscures where the true political divide in America lies: not between Middle America and the coasts, but between rural and urban America. You've heard me describe this phenomenon before in Nation's Poor Win Election For Nation's Rich.

It is interesting to note that a similar phenomenon has occurred here, north of the 49th parallel. On November 22, 2004, the Province of Alberta re-elected the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta. The PC Party won 47.1% of the popular vote and took 61 of 83 seats in the legislature. However, the PC Party was awarded only 2 of 18 seats in the provincial capital, Edmonton, while the centrist Liberal Party won 12 and the leftist New Democratic Party won 4. In Alberta's "second city", Calgary, the Liberals made unprecedented inroads winning 3 seats of 23. Premier Ralph Klein was once the hugely popular mayor of Calgary.

In the rural ridings, the PC Party won 33 of 35 seats, with the Liberals and the neoconservative Alberta Alliance each taking one. The PC and AA parties combined for 66.9% of the rural popular vote and just 47.8% of votes in Calgary and Edmonton. In Edmonton, these conservative parties accounted for only 35.8% of the vote. This vote distribution is strikingly similar to that of the US Presidential Election.

The pattern flies in the face of history. For much of the twentieth century, rural jurisdictions were not only sympathetic to the liberal cause, they championed it. In agrarian Saskatchewan, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was founded in 1933 by Tommy Douglas. The CCF later became the New Democratic Party. Douglas was elected premier of Saskatchewan and is regarded as the father of state-subsidized health care in Canada. He was recently selected by Canadians as the nation's Greatest Canadian.

In Alberta, the Social Credit Party also got its start in the depression, evolving from the United Farmers of Alberta Party. In its first federal election, the SoCreds won 15 of Alberta's 17 seats. How is it that only four decades later, in the early 1970's, the PC Party achieved a stranglehold on the Provincial Legislature that it has not relinquished in over thirty years?

To Mr Klein's credit, he has demonstrated good fiscal restraint, enjoying large budget surpluses that have allowed the PCs to wipe out Alberta's provincial debt this past year. Compare this with Bush II who has amassed a national debt of $7,613,772,338,689.34 (as of January 19, 2005), a figure that is $2 trillion higher than when he took office (US Treasury Department Bureau of the Public Debt).

Bush II's freewheeling expenditures bear no resemblance to the previous administration's. After taking over from Bush I, Clinton decreased the budget deficit every year. In 1998, Clinton posted the nation's first budget surplus since 1960. Nineteen-freaking-sixty!

Take a look at the numbers under Clinton (all figures from the White House Office of Management and Budget report entitled "Historical Tables, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2005"):


Bush II engineered a dramatic reversal of this trend:

2004($521b) est

What has happened to the rural populists? Why do they now throw in their lot with the neo-conservatives, even to their financial disadvantage?

Author Thomas Frank addresses precisely this issue in his book What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. WR Mead, book reviewer for Foreign Affairs, puts the question this way:

Why, Frank asks, do working-class Kansans labor to support a right-wing agenda that will strip them of social benefits, lower their wages, and provide enormous tax windfalls to the rich?
I confess I have not yet read the book, but am intrigued by the urgent question it poses, the cause of the apparent inversion of political allegiances in rural vs urban jurisdictions, and the possiblity of redressing the rise of conservatism. In its latest incarnation, conservatism is a doctrine of ignorance, intolerance, belligerence, and greed. How it can derive strength from those who arguably benefit least from its policies is a source of endless vexation.

I am terribly vexed.


Hold Music

I was placed on hold yesterday while the hospital switchboard operator located a pathologist I needed to speak with. For the whole time I was on hold, U2 sang I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. And I got to thinking, Could there be more apt hold music than that?

So I challenge you all to come up with some suggestions for the soundtrack provided by my new company, Hold The Phone, Inc, specializing in the provision of music to remain on hold to.


Nation's Poor Win Election For Nation's Rich

The title from this post comes from an article appearing in the Onion. An excerpt from the article:
"The Republican party—the party of industrial mega-capitalists, corporate financiers, power brokers, and the moneyed elite—would like to thank the undereducated rural poor, the struggling blue-collar workers in Middle America, and the God-fearing underpriviledged minorities who voted George W. Bush back into office," Karl Rove, senior advisor to Bush, told reporters at a press conference Monday. "You have selflessly sacrificed your well-being and voted against your own economic interest. For this, we humbly thank you."

I love the Onion and the Daily Show not simply for their wit but for what else they bring to the table: an insight sharper and more telling than conventional news outlets. Most everyone has seen the electoral map of the United States showing the Red Zone. The interpretation of this map has frequently suggested a rift between middle America and the East and Left Coasts. But this state-by-state map obscures where the true schism lies: between rural and urban America.

Check out this map from USA Today showing how the voting went county-by-county to get a truer picture of the two Americas:

Compare this map with a US Census Bureau map of population density by county. The vote by county map is a sobering reminder that the Republicans, with a Cabinet full of petro and defense company directors, with a track record in the current term of tax cuts to the richest Americans, and of allegiance to corporate interests, has persuaded rural Americans of their fitness to lead primarily by running on a platform of moral superiority--the moral superiority of an Executive lying to fight an unjust and illegal war, showing contempt for the lives of Iraqis and indifference to the lives of its soldiers.

As the inauguration draws near, I still have trouble reconciling myself to the election result. The young Mr Bush elects not to go overseas to join his compatriots in Vietnam. Perhaps that's sensible. So he pulls a few strings and is stationed with the National Guard, but he doesn't even show. His opponent chooses to enlist, fights bravely overseas, is decorated for his conduct, then returns home to testify on the immorality of the war. The Bush camp has the audacity to criticize the manner in whch Kerry was awarded his three purple hearts. And it sticks!

As Stephen Colbert 'reported' on the Daily Show regarding Rathergate, CBS committed two critical errors in breaking the story on Bush's questionable National Guard service record: one, they presented dubious evidence of that spotty record, and two, they bothered to present any evidence at all. The new paradigm for news reportage is presentation of mere opinion and innuendo rather than evidence and cogent arguments.

For a credulous populace that seeks guidance from religion, arriving at the truth requires only a leap of faith, not an act of reason.