Blue States Got Too Comfortable

The left has long believed that Democratic states are the future, whereas Republican states are the past. But migration data tell a different story.

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The left has long believed that Democratic states are the future, whereas Republican states are the past. But migration data show that red and blue might be starting to switch places.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.

State of Disunion

“Democratic-leaning states represent the future and Republican ones the last gasps of a dying empire.” That’s been the theory long espoused by many on the left, my colleague Jerusalem Demsas wrote this week. But geographic trends suggest a possible reversal of this state of the union: Florida and Texas were last year’s top states for inbound domestic migration, with New York and California in the rear. And some red states may be better hubs for employment right now too: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggest that there are now more nonfarming jobs in Florida than in New York.

Jerusalem took a close look at Florida and New York, which together are a paradigm of a broader national trend of migration from blue states to red states. She found that the cost of housing is likely the single greatest factor behind the shift. “The top 10 metro areas for unaffordability are a sort of who’s who of Democratic cities: Los Angeles–Long Beach–Anaheim tops the list, with New York–Newark–Jersey City rolling into the sixth spot as the first non-California metro,” she writes. The rise of remote work in the pandemic has also meant that one of New York’s main superpowers—“its gravitational pull on workers,” as Jerusalem puts it—has been weakened.

So what does this mean for blue states and their superstar cities? They’re far from dying, of course: “New York City isn’t some dystopian wasteland where no one can see their future,” Jerusalem reminds us. But evidence of a growing exodus does mean cities that have long been sitting comfortably need to put in some work to retain their residents—by, for example, improving basic amenities such as public transit.

And there are some selling points that more affordable red states might never be able to offer. “A healthy city attracts wealthy, middle-, and working-class people; it pulls newcomers into its orbit while leaving room for natives,” Jerusalem writes. “I don’t have a lot of faith that the Republican regimes now attracting Americans will be invested in this type of inclusive growth.” As Jerusalem notes, “We’ve seen these states become hostile to LGBTQ rights, educational freedom, voting rights, racial equality, and more.” This is true in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis’s anti-critical-race-theory legislation is forcing professors to change how they teach.

In short, the lack of affordable housing in blue-state cities means that some Americans have to “choose between liberal values and financial security,” Jerusalem argues. And that choice is made more stark by the fact that red and blue America can feel, to some, like two entirely different countries.

My colleague Ronald Brownstein has written about what he calls “the great divergence” between red and blue states. This widening divide is a defining characteristic of 21st-century America, he argues, with the GOP in particular hoping to impose its politics on the entire country. He wrote last year:

What’s becoming clearer over time is that the Trump-era GOP is hoping to use its electoral dominance of the red states, the small-state bias in the Electoral College and the Senate, and the GOP-appointed majority on the Supreme Court to impose its economic and social model on the entire nation—with or without majority public support.

These new migration trends won’t do much to end the ongoing duel between red and blue America. “Although some predict that liberals moving to red states could moderate our nation’s politics, that seems unlikely given states’ tendency to preempt local policy,” Jerusalem told me. And that happens in both red states (on issues such as gun laws) and blue states (where state governments may hold localities accountable for housing failures), she explained.

For now, it looks like the divide between red and blue states will persist. But as long as cheaper housing and good jobs coexist in red states, blue-staters will keep on coming.


Today’s News

  1. The Pentagon downed an unidentified high-flying aircraft over Alaska at the order of President Joe Biden, a White House spokesperson confirmed.
  2. Russia launched multiple drones and several dozen cruise missiles in a “massive attack” across Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian air force.
  3. The FBI reportedly found a classified document at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence, according to a Pence adviser; a Justice Department official confirmed that a search took place.


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Jerusalem does great work dispelling the many housing and homelessness myths that persist among Americans. To dive deeper, start with her piece on why housing breaks people’s brains. “Anyone who’s been in a dumb recurring fight knows that the entire problem could be cleared up if everyone could just agree on exactly what was said or done,” she writes. “But you can’t, so you end up stuck in a cycle of relitigation. Housing-policy discussions are like that.”

— Isabel

Kelli María Korducki contributed to this newsletter.