‘Red’ America is an illusion. Postindustrial towns go for Democrats.

Media professionals and intellectuals in the large coastal cities have long struggled to understand the white, non-metropolitan counties in the middle of the country. Just as Christians often fail to understand the diversity of the faraway Islamic world, American coastal elites have come to see the non-metro sections of the heartland as an undifferentiated mass of white, evangelical Republicans. This is far from the reality.

Simplistic county-level maps of election results have helped reinforce a mistaken sense of homogeneity. Inevitably, the non-metro counties of states such as Ohio are the same shade of red, while the counties containing Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo look like small islands of blue.

Before the presidential election, I wrote an article pointing out that the homogeneity of “red” America is an illusion: Small and medium-size postindustrial U.S. towns routinely vote for Democrats — sometimes by very large margins. Few had noticed, because the largely rural counties in which these towns are located were often colored red on election-night maps. In fact, these counties are typically internally polarized, with a solidly Democratic downtown core around Main Street that is surrounded by Republican suburbs and rural areas. The Republican periphery has more voters who go to the polls at higher rates, and so the county is “red” overall.

– The Washington Post

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