Red State, Blue State Issues

November 14, 2005

Last blog I suggested that pouring $1 billion into relief efforts in Pakistan would go a lot further toward winning the war on terror than spending an extra billion within a $430 billion defense budget. Yet most Republicans and conservatives have typically wanted to spend less on foreign aid, not more. I argued that this is short-sighted, because the battle is for the hearts and minds of the world’s one billion Muslims is as important as wiping out the murderous extremists.
This is one of the issues that separate Democrats from Republicans, and separates a blue state of mind from a red state of mind. Republicans and conservatives often demagogue about national defense issues – claiming that they are the only party that can be trusted to protect the country (just as Democrats and liberals often demagogue about social security).

But when you look behind the argument, Republicans and conservatives are essentially claiming that the answer to most of our foreign policy challenges is to have more military options. NO – wrong answer! In 2004 Bush and Cheney mocked John Kerry about fighting a more “sensitive” war. But what Kerry said was: “I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side.” That rings true to people in a blue state of mind. In part, it’s because people in a blue state of mind are not as fearful of the unknown as people in a red state of mind. People in a blue state of mind have been exposed to a variety of different cultures (through living in diverse neighborhoods or traveling abroad) and they have been exposed to a variety of different ideas (by embracing, rather than resisting, a liberal arts education). So when confronted with things they do not understand, they have a more rational reaction than people who have less experience with the unknown. Unfortunately, people who want to whip up fear to gain a particular goal – for example, going into Iraq – have a large audience of people in a red state of mind who can be easily scared.

Did you ever see the polls taken a year or so after 9/11? People in rural areas were more worried about another terrorist attack than people in large cities – including New York. Think about that. Why would that be? I say it was a higher level of fear – primarily fear of the unknown – among people in a red state of mind. If you live near a large city you have Hispanics and Koreans and Vietnamese as your barbers and cleaners and neighbors. If you live near a large city you have people from Europe, India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Korea, Africa, and the Middle East shopping in the same grocery, attending the same church, and riding beside you on mass transit.

So if you live near a big city, chances are you understand the value of diversity rather than fear it. And you understand the inevitability of globalization and don’t fear that either. And you understand the need for the U.S. to lead in the world through consensus and compromise. That’s what it means to be in a blue state of mind.