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The Best Red-State Value

Democrats and others on the American left now loudly bemoan the “split” in America between “red state” and “blue state” values, issues, and perspectives. See, for example, this op-ed by Thomas Friedman. While I believe that these value differences are smaller than feared, they are real and they are relevant.

A typical Bush supporter in Kansas is indeed much more likely than is a typical Kerry supporter in Connecticut to frown at homosexuality, oppose abortion, want schools to teach creationism, and complain bitterly if officials at the local courthouse remove the Christmas crèche.

This same typical Bush supporter, though, is also more likely to be suspicious of centralized power. That is a value I respect. But I wonder for how long this value will last?

One reason (I reckon) for the long-standing suspicion among red-staters of Washington and its “liberal” values is that Washington has wielded a heavy hand in imposing these values nationwide, whether people share these values or no.

It was heady, I imagine, to be on the left in, say, 1965 – race relations, environmental regulations, government’s stance toward pornography and sexual relations. With respect to such things Uncle Sam was largely agreeable to imposing One Way on the entire country. That One Way was the modern “liberal” notion of the good society.

Who cared if the bumpkins in Arkansas and the cowboys in Wyoming didn’t like Washington’s way?! Washington’s way is the right way, the enlightened way, the best path. And it’s Washington’s role and duty to make all Americans do right, be enlightened, and follow the best path.

But now that Uncle Sam is more and more influenced by red-state values – now that both houses of Congress have been in GOP hands for ten years, and now that the GOP is ascending throughout the nation save in the northeast, upper Midwest, and west coast – centralization of power surely must seem less appealing to modern “liberals.”

They are right to be worried. Red-state values differ in many important ways from blue-state values. And just as the blue-staters were oh-so-certain of the righteousness of their cause that they didn’t hesitate to use central government to impose their values when they could, so, too, are the red-staters certain of the righteousness of their cause. They’ll likely not hesitate to do their own imposing.

The lesson, I believe, is that decentralization of power – dare I say it: “state rights,” and a respect for individual differences and freedom of every peaceful person – is the best path over the long haul.

Personally, I’m much more of a blue-state-value guy than a red-state-value guy. I love Manhattan and Cape Cod and dislike sleepy southern towns and cow pastures. I couldn’t care less who anyone (save my wife) sleeps with; I’m an atheist; I don’t think that stem-cell research is a moral issue; I read the Atlantic Monthly and not Field & Stream; I listen to Beethoven and Dvorak and not to Merle Haggard or Alan Jackson; I refuse to Pledge Allegiance to any flag; I believe the war in Iraq to be a grotesque crime. And I would rather stand on my head for a day and stack b-bs than sit for even five minutes at a NASCAR race.

But I do share one traditional red-state value, namely, deep suspicion of central power. I hope against hope that red-staters don’t lose this value — and I hope that so-called “liberals” discover, embrace, and celebrate it.