Assessing the Vote and the Roots of American Political Divide

By image - November 6, 2004


The election of 2004 is an event that will be analyzed and discussed for a long time to come. What exactly does this election mean, and why did the nation vote the way that it did?

Making sense of the 2004 election requires an understanding of the history of American party politics and an understanding the socioeconomic fundamentals and historical events that have shaped American society.

Historical Overview of Party Politics in America

Many people in America, especially young people, greatly misunderstand America's political history. 

The Republican Party, over the past 30 years, has adopted the "conservative" label and has presented their political agenda as representative of historical values in American society, referring to the past as the "good ole days" which engenders the idea that whatever today's Republican positions are, are representative of the way things used to be. This is why many Americans are surprised to learn that the wealthy have a  lower tax burden today than they have at any time in American history since the 1920s.

Unfortunately, the American Left has contributed to this misunderstanding of the past as well because of a type of liberalism that labels the past as "the bad old days", resulting in a disregard for the progressive ideology of America's past. Yes, America's political past is indeed complex, making it difficult to chop into small sound bites or to explain in schools, but our past is critical in understanding how America has developed. By demonizing the social injustices of the past, liberals have also forsaken many of the other elements of America's liberal past that have helped to make the country what it is today, such as labor movements, Teddy Roosevelt's trust busting, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, as well as the truly critical public discourse and civil study that took place in America throughout our past.

When looking at our history, what becomes apparent about America is that social issues have typically driven the American electorate throughout most of the 20th century. What is interesting and important to understand, however, is that the social issues have shifted between the parties, and with that, the socially conservative electorate has changed economic platforms.

From the Civil War through to today, "social conservatism" has shaped American politics. The Democratic Party was originally the most socially conservative party between the Republicans and Democrats. Abraham Lincoln was the first presidential candidate to run for the newly formed Republican Party, and he ran on the most socially liberal platform of the campaign.

While Lincoln did win the election, it is actually due to the fact that the opposition was split among three other candidates. Four major candidates ran in the 1860 Presidential Election, two of them Democrats. All three of the other candidates were more conservative than Lincoln, but the vote was split among them, resulting in Lincoln, the Northern liberal, winning the election by winning the free states.


From the time of the Civil War until the 1960s the Republican Party was seen as a  party of the North and the Democratic Party was seen as a party of the South.

The Democratic Party has historically been a working-class, or common man's, party. In terms of economic issues the Democratic Party has historically favored working-class voters, and the Republican Party has historically favored capitalists and the wealthy.

From the time of the Civil War through the presidency of FDR, the South was a solidly Democratic region, once referred to by the Democrats as "The Solid South".

The shift in the South from Democrat to Republican has had major economic implications for the United States, and understanding why this shift has taken place is very important.

Blacks got the right to vote in America in 1870, although it remained difficult for them because of various voting restrictions. At that time Blacks voted exclusively for the Republican Party because the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and it was the liberal party that was overseeing Reconstruction in the South.

Women did not have the right to vote at this time.

Virtually all white males in the South voted Democrat because the Democratic Party was the party that represented opposition to many of the Reconstruction efforts and was fighting to protect white male interests and traditional Southern culture.

This meant that the Democratic Party, at that time, was both the culturally conservative party and the party that represented farmers and working-class interests. However, it was only fighting for white working-class interests. 

The Republican Party was the liberal party that stood for both social and economic change, i.e. industrialization, liberalism and capitalism.

America is traditionally a farming country. When America was founded 85% of Americans were farmers. After the Civil War, well over half of the workers in the South were still farmers. The Democratic Party was the party that represented the interests of rural farming America, while the Republican Party represented the interests of wealthy industrialists and urban liberals. Though the Democratic Party was far more popular in the South, the Democratic Party was considered a worker's party in the North as well. The Democratic Party championed states' rights and it was the Republican Party that strengthened the Federal government and promoted federalism and centralization.

The Democratic Party worked to use federal tax money to redistribute wealth from the wealthy industrialized North down to the poor states of the South. Farmers and workers in the South saw the Democratic Party as a major means to help their weaker economy after the Civil War.

After the Civil War the Democratic Party remained strong in the South. Between the Civil War and the Great Depression the only Democratic presidential candidate to get significant support outside of the South was Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and 1916.

Wilson was emblematic of pre-FDR Democratic politics. Wilson supported segregation, supported the Ku Klux Klan, and was opposed to woman's suffrage, but he also supported progressive labor reforms, tariff revisions and regulations on large corporations. Wilson's politics are very out of place today, he would be considered a social conservative and an economic "liberal" (liberal according to today's redefinition of the word).

In 1920 it was largely the Republican Party, along with the Socialist Party, that supported women's right to vote. Again, the Republicans represented the more modern urban areas of the North, where the woman's suffrage movement was being waged.

The Republican Party dominated the "Roaring 20s". Republicans presided over the economic boom that saw the Stock Market soar to new heights and saw the disparity of wealth in America reach its highest point in history up to that time.

During the 1928 election the South alone voted for Democratic candidate Al Smith. The Southern vote for Smith was almost entirely based on tradition. Al Smith was an Irish Catholic from New York and did not represent Southern interests all that well, however, the South had never voted anything but Democrat since the Civil War and they stuck with the party for the election.


After the Great Depression, the Democratic Party gained more support than ever before in American history. 


When FDR came into the presidency during the Great Depression major change in the Democratic Party began.

In 1936 FDR won re-election by the largest margin of any president in American history with 60.8% of the popular vote and an electoral vote count of 523-8.

FDR was from New York. He was a modern liberal urbanite. He was a somewhat different type of Democrat than the traditional Southern Democrat, although he supported many of the same economic programs that were popular in the South. Southern Democrats were instrumental in the development of FDR's New Deal programs.

Although FDR was a social progressive, he knew that he could not alienate his Democratic base in the South, and thus FDR remained neutral on the major social issues of his day, women's rights and minority rights. However, because the Great Depression was so bad, it forced most people to vote by their wallet instead of by social issues, and thus many Blacks joined the Democratic Party for the first time, despite historically being strongly pro-Republican.

While FDR did not directly do much to specifically aid Blacks, he did not take any actions against Blacks either and he extended the New Deal benefits to them the same as to whites. In addition, Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady, was the most socially progressive First Lady in American history up to that time.

This resulted in the beginning of a "social values" shift in the Democratic Party on a national level.

The Republican Party lost major support during the Great Depression because there was a backlash against the wealthy and against big business and corporations.

Throughout FDR's 12 year presidency, however, support for the Democrat weakened among whites in the South. As this happened the Republican Party began courting socially conservative voters in the South in efforts to reconstruct a party base.

Citizens who were Democrats began to feel increasingly betrayed by their party because FDR was allowing Blacks to advance and was granting Blacks equal access to his New Deal programs. His Democratic constituents wrote to him to express their views:

"Any white man who worked for the betterment of negroe races, the President included, was a traitor."

"Let [the Negro] stay in his place."

"Mr. President, we southern people don't believe in no such stuff as social equality with the negroes as you are doing."

After World War II was over, Democrat Harry Truman took FDR's socially liberal legacy a step further.

In 1947 he proclaimed:

"It is my deep conviction that we have reached a turning point in the long history of our efforts to guarantee a freedom and equality to all our citizens… And when I say all Americans--I mean all Americans."

President Truman went on to develop and present a ten-point program for civil rights. The program included provisions for an anti-lynching law, an anti-poll tax law, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, a Commission on Civil Rights, home rule for the District of Columbia and desegregation of the armed services.

When Truman took these steps, many members of the Democratic Party felt betrayed and downright sickened. The Democrats of the South felt as though their party had been taken over by Northern Liberals and was undermining "Southern values".

At the 1948 Democratic National Convention Herbert Humphrey argued that the Democratic Party had to abandon the traditional party line of States Rights on the matter of civil rights, by stating:

"To those who say that this civil rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this, that the time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadows of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights." 

After the 1948 DNC the Dixicrats, as they are known, were formed. The Democratic Party was being divided, and a battle for the heart of the party was under way.

Because of Truman's support for Civil Rights, Democrat Strom Thurmond ran against Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential campaign on a segregationist platform that opposed Truman's civil rights agenda. As shown below, Thurmond garnered support in the Deep South.


During this whole time, both Liberal Democrats and Dixicrats remained the representatives of the economic interests of working-class people and farmers. The fact of the matter is, however, that the majority of working-class people in the South were, and are, socially conservative.

As a fractured party the Democrats continued on into the 1950s and 1960s.

The Party was able to continue representing working-class interests because it was really two parties combined. While some social conservatives defected to the Republicans, many conservative Democrats continued to support socially conservative Democrats at the local level, leading to a large number of local and state officials, such as governors, mayors, congressmen, etc, retaining broad Democratic support in the South.

During Eisenhower's presidency, working-class support was very much behind government initiatives and Keynesian economic policy of government involvement in directing the economy. During the 1940s and 1950s American government programs predominately helped whites. A large part of government aid programs developed by the Democrats went to helping farmers and rural areas. Eisenhower himself, despite being a Republican president, was pro-working class and was in favor of using federal programs to help support a middle-class.

Eisenhower was in fact a registered Democrat prior to World War II, and was not an ideological Republican by any means. Eisenhower was not politically driven. Eisenhower did not intend to run for president after World War II, but both parties were urging him to run on their ticket. Eisenhower said that he finally chose to run as a Republican mostly because the Democratic Party had been in power for so long (19 years). Throughout his presidency his major focus was foreign affairs, not domestic policy. In addition, Democrats controlled Congress during most of his presidency as well. Southern states continued their traditional voting patterns during both of the elections that Eisenhower ran in, voting overwhelmingly against the Republican.


When John F. Kennedy, a Northern Liberal, ran for President in 1960, he did so with a Southern running mate, Lyndon Johnson. Even with this Kennedy faced a hard time getting votes in the South as by that time social conservatives were increasingly wary of Northern Democrats. Kennedy ran on  a platform of international anti-Communism while protecting American freedoms domestically, and he also appealed strongly to farmers. He campaigned on "effective government, not big government". 

For example, during his famous televised debates with Richard Nixon he stated:

The argument has been used against every piece of social legislation in the last 25 years. The people of the United States individually could not have developed the Tennessee Valley; collectively they could have.

A cotton farmer in Georgia, or a peanut farmer or a dairy farmer in Wisconsin and Minnesota-- he cannot protect himself against the forces of supply and demand in the marketplace, but working together in effective governmental programs he can do so....

I don't believe in big government, but I believe in effective governmental action, and I think that's the only way that the United States is going to maintain its freedom; it's the only way that we're going to move ahead.

Despite being from the North, Kennedy was still able to carry most of the South, relying heavily on traditional Democratic support. 


During Kennedy's presidency the civil rights movement was in full swing and Kennedy gave tacit support to the movement, however he did move slow on civil rights support out of fear of losing  support from Democrats in the South during his first term in office.

Kennedy, of course, never saw a second term in office, but after his death Lyndon Johnson did push the Civil Rights Act through congress. Johnson used Kennedy's death as a moral calling to gain support for the Act, claiming that the civil rights legislation was part of Kennedy's legacy and "what he would have wanted". Even with this, the Civil Rights Act was hard to get passed. Ironically, in an attempt to make the bill "too extreme", it was expanded by its opponents to include protection against sexual discrimination as well. It was thought that by adding in protections for women that the bill would become so liberal that it would not pass, and at the same time, its opponents could maintain the moral high ground. Nevertheless, the bill passed and Lyndon Johnson signed the Act into law.

After doing so he privately stated: "I think we have just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come."

Indeed, after signing the Civil Rights Act Johnson lost in the Deep South by a large margin, though he carried the rest of the country.


This certainly did open a larger split in the Democratic Party, but it didn't completely immobilize it just yet. However, as Blacks became extremely strong supporters of the Democratic Party because of this legislation, the conservative base for the party continued to deteriorate and social progressives began to dominate the party.

At the same time, Barry Goldwater, Johnson's 1964 opponent, had run on an extremely "conservative" platform, arguably the most "far right" platform that the Republican Party had ever adopted for a presidential race up to that time. Goldwater also adopted the States Rights agenda of the old Democrats, bringing that platform over to the Republican Party, which had traditionally been a federalist party. 

The split in the Democratic Party became even more evident in the 1968 election, what was to be the last stand of the Old South Dixicrats. This highlighted the Northern Liberal vs. Southern Conservative factions of the party. George Wallace of Alabama ran on a segregationist platform against fellow Democrat Herbert Humphrey from South Dakota. The splitting of the vote led to the election of Richard Nixon. After this, most of the remaining conservative Democrats defected to the Republican Party. 


Richard Nixon won one of the most complete victories in American presidential history in 1972, getting every state except Massachusetts. He was running for reelection against George McGovern, the most "far left" Democratic Party presidential candidate in American history.

In 1976, after Nixon had resigned in disgrace because of the Watergate scandal, Jimmy Carter was able to win both Southern and Northern states. Carter was from Georgia and was also a vocal evangelical Christian. In addition to that, much of the reason why Carter was elected was because of opposition to his opponent Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon's Vice President, who had pardoned Nixon when he assumed the presidency.

In 1980 Republican Ronald Reagan, formerly a conservative Democrat, won 44 of the 50 states. The only Southern state to vote for Jimmy Carter was his home state of Georgia.

In 1984 Walter Mondale ran on a liberal Democratic Platform, along with the first female Vice Presidential running mate in American history. He lost every state except his home state of Minnesota, and Reagan won by the largest margins in the South and Midwest.


At this point the Democratic Party had firmly adopted a socially liberal party platform and the remnants of its old conservative Southern character were almost completely gone. A few conservative Democratic party members remained, these being mostly older Democrats with Congressional seats.

By 1988 present day voting trends were beginning to emerge. Michael Dukakis won only a few Northern states and lost by the largest margins in the South and Midwest.


In 1992 and 1996 Bill Clinton was able to win a few states in the South by adopting a very moderate platform. Clinton abandoned the more Leftist positions that had been taken by most Democratic Presidential Candidates from the 1960s through the 1980s. Clinton reduced the size of the federal government and balanced the budget. He also continued support for corporate America and presided over the largest increase in disparity of wealth in America since the 1920s.


By the time of Bob Dole's 1996 presidential bid, Barry Goldwater, the Republican that helped to reshape the Republican Party into a conservative party in 1964, said that the Republican Party had been taken over by a "bunch of kooks", referring to the Christian Right. He also told Bob Dole that, "We're the new liberals of the Republican Party. Can you imagine that?"

During the 2000 election virtually all of Democratic candidate Al Gore's support came exclusively from the industrialized and urban areas of the country, with the exception of a few counties that had high minority populations.


At this point, we need to do a slight review of what has happened.

The Democratic Party, from prior to the Civil War through to present day, has been the party that has represented, or at least claimed to represent, the interests of the middle class, farmers and workers.

Southern working-class white males in America have historically been conservative. This means that when the Democratic Party was socially conservative it had significant support from working-class white males. It was working-class white males who supported the New Deal and greatly influenced the economic direction of America during the 1930-1960s.

During the 1930s through the 1960s American domestic policy was more heavily controlled by working-class interests than any other time in American history. This is because white male social conservative support was behind pro-working-class economic reforms. This was also the time of highest union membership in American history as well, although unions were brought under the control of the federal government in 1935 with the Labor Relations Act. Prior to that time unions were independent organizations of working men that operated without government controls or government support.


The socially conservative movement was always driven by elements of the working-class. Once women and minorities joined the ranks of enfranchised working-class voters, working-class politics in America adopted a progressive social position.

As that happened, the Republican Party began embracing social conservatism to pick up votes. When that happened broad conservative white male working-class support then went to the Republican Party.

The working-class vote has driven American politics since the Great Depression. The reality is that Southern working-class America is socially conservative and votes on social issues over economic issues and always has with the exception of the 1930s during the Great Depression.

From the time that Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and initiated his Great Society programs, the South moved away from the Democratic Party. Despite the fact that the Democratic Party had traditionally been the party of the South, there was never any significant Southern support for a Democratic presidential candidate again after 1964. The only exception to this was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter swept the Deep South. However, this was due to the fact that he was from Georgia, he was an evangelical Christian, and Richard Nixon had just seriously damaged the reputation of the Republican Party.

Because of these factors Carter's support represented an anomaly in an otherwise steady trend away from Democratic support in the South because of social conservatism.

What is interesting, is how this has impacted America economically.

The economic positions of the Democratic and Republican parties have stayed relatively the same over time.

The Republican Party, from an economic perspective, has traditionally supported economic policy that favors investors, big business and the wealthy. The Democratic Party has always supported economic policy that favors farmers and the working-class, at least from the popular perspective.

Now, within the past 20 years, because the Republican Party has adopted the social agenda of the old Democratic Party, farmers and laborers shifted alliances to the Republican Party, especially in the South. Interestingly, this puts the Republican Party at odds with the traditional economic positions of its new base. Rural America has been the recipient of redistributed wealth in America throughout history, especially since the Civil War. The American Midwest and the South have traditionally been the largest opponents to free market practices throughout American history. A significant element of the Democratic platform throughout history has been getting federal aid to farmers and using federal funding to subsidize development in rural America. 

This means that the working-class is now divided in America, with a major segment of the working-class actually voting against their own economic interests and supporting the investor class, i.e. wealthy capitalists. Interestingly, while Republican voters are now toeing the "free market" party line, and have now adopted a mentality that is opposed to so-called "redistribution of wealth" through taxation, Middle America remains the largest recipient of redistributed wealth, as has traditionally been the case in America. This continues to lead to even more political and economic confusion as "conservative" Republican voters are led to believe that their wealth is being taxed away to pay for "liberal programs", when in fact it is the other way around.

The fact is that the "liberal" states are the economic engines of our country, who subsidize the development of the rest of the country through federal reallocation of funding from "blue states" to "red states". Georgia, Indiana and Texas are the only strongly Republican states (by 2004 election standards) that send more money to the federal government than they get back in funding. Most of the other red states receive more money from the government than they contribute. If "redistribution of wealth" through the federal government were to actually stop  in America, the economies of "red states" would be severely hurt. This puts Republicans in an awkward position, with rhetoric that completely goes against the economic needs of their constituency.

States' Balance of Payments with Washington, 2001 (dollars in millions)

Republican vs. Democratic States During 2004 Presidential Election

  Taxes Paid Spending Received Surplus/Deficit
California $264,344 $206,245 -$58,099
New York $166,554 $126,990 -$39,564
Illinois $96,686 $71,520 -$25,166
New Jersey $75,115 $51,657 -$23,458
Texas $134,809 $121,571 -$13,238
Michigan $67,886 $56,185 -$11,701
Massachusetts $59,779 $48,188 -$11,591
Connecticut $36,416 $25,351 -$11,065
Washington $49,651 $40,233 -$9,418
Minnesota $36,519 $27,384 -$9,135
Colorado* $33,898 $26,618 -$7,280
Wisconsin $34,609 $28,966 -$5,643
Nevada* $15,014 $10,631 -$4,383
New Hampshire $10,315 $7,006 -$3,309
Florida* $110,294 $107,395 -$2,899
Ohio* $69,127 $66,341 -$2,786
Indiana $36,733 $34,630 -$2,103
Oregon $21,241 $19,826 -$1,415
Georgia $52,225 $50,822 -$1,403
Delaware $5,750 $4,632 -$1,118
North Carolina $47,579 $47,748 $169
Wyoming $3,583 $3,824 $241
Vermont $3,731 $3,984 $253
Rhode Island $6,990 $7,458 $468
Utah $11,358 $12,139 $781
Nebraska $10,415 $11,469 $1,054
Idaho $6,683 $7,977 $1,294
Kansas $16,503 $17,806 $1,303
Maine $6,904 $8,643 $1,739
Iowa $16,725 $18,523 $1,798
South Dakota $4,293 $6,095 $1,802
Pennsylvania $83,052 $84,880 $1,828
Arizona $30,057 $32,392 $2,335
Alaska $4,200 $6,685 $2,485
Montana $4,359 $6,910 $2,551
North Dakota $3,288 $6,169 $2,881
Hawaii $6,903 $10,185 $3,282
Arkansas $12,476 $17,469 $4,993
South Carolina $20,799 $26,070 $5,271
West Virginia $7,793 $13,064 $5,271
Tennessee $33,225 $38,986 $5,761
Kentucky $20,509 $27,210 $6,701
Oklahoma $16,667 $23,790 $7,123
Missouri $33,718 $41,452 $7,734
Louisiana $21,371 $29,249 $7,878
New Mexico* $8,487 $17,156 $8,669
Mississippi $12,094 $21,023 $8,929
Maryland $41,779 $50,966 $9,187
Alabama $22,437 $33,205 $10,768
Virginia $52,858 $74,802 $21,944
Total Account Balance for Red States $85,644,000,000
Total Account Balance for Blue States -$193,925,000,000
* Red States won by only 5% of the vote or less

Source: New York's Balance of Payments with Washington

The real impact of the Civil War


Yes, there is a divide in America today that generally follows the boundaries of the Confederacy and the Union, however it would be too simple to assume that this divide is still based purely on the bigotry and racism of the old South.

Not only was the South a specifically agricultural region, but because of the two historically different cultures and the Civil War it made division of America's working-class all the more easy, and it led to the isolation of the Southern working-class from the historical development of working-class movements. Not only were Southern workers isolated from the working-class movements of their time, but there was no industry in the South worth discussion. Virtually all Southern economic activity was related to agriculture or merchant activity.

The American South is actually one of the few places in the entire world that never embraced the working-class ideology of the 19th and 20th centuries. At a critical time in world history, the Southern region was isolated from international events and was consumed with its own regional social conflict. In the American South the "enemy" of the white male working-class was not wealthy capitalists or corrupt royalty, but it was instead poor blacks and liberal women.

When one contrasts the events in the social development of regions around the world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one sees that all across Europe, Russia, Asia and South America the dominant social struggle of the time was of the working-class against oppression and wage labor. 

The American South did not take part in this struggle. It was instead fighting a backward struggle apart from the rest of the world. In the American South the working-class was bitterly divided by race with working-class whites fighting, not for the improvement of workers' rights, but instead fighting for the continued oppression of the class that was below them, the newly freed propertyless slaves.

At the time of the Civil War, the American South was the single largest slavery system in the world. The other major region of the world with a large slave system was South America, however, South American slavery was vastly different than North American slavery. South American slaves were not recognized as property like slaves in the United States of America were. Furthermore, in South America there was much less distinction between slaves and free men, so as slavery ended in South America slaves became a part of society much more rapidly. The descendants of slaves more quickly integrated into the working-class and united in struggle against not only domestic exploitation, but foreign imperialism as well.

And so, despite the fact that slavery also existed in South America, it did not result in the same type of fragmentation of the working-class.

By the end of the 19th century the American South stood alone in the world as the most backward and divided working-class in the world. Whereas workers in the rest of the developing world were directing their attention "up" against exploitation by the wealthy, be they capitalists, the remnants of royalty, or foreign imperialists, the workers and farmers in the American South were directing their efforts "down", seeking to retain their class position above the ex-slaves. Instead of fighting for their own rights as workers, white males in the South were fighting to continue to deprive the lower class of their rights.

Farmers and rural workers around the world tended to join industrial workers in support of advancing workers' rights as a whole. In this way, even regions where wage labor had not yet come to dominate society, agricultural workers and craftsmen joined forces with their fellow urban laborers to work in their common interest. This is because throughout the Old World, both peasants and laborers were typically non-propertied, and thus had a common cause.  

However, because of the rifts between the industrial North and agricultural South in the United States, this cooperation never took place, and in fact these two interests opposed each other and have continued to oppose each other ever since. 

Water doesn't turn states blue, capitalism does

While many have commented that it must be the water on the coasts that is "turning the states blue", the reality of why these states are "Democratic states" today is much more sophisticated than that. One of the major reasons why these states, the so-called blue states, lean left, and thus vote Democratic, is because these are the states that feel the greatest impact of capitalist culture.

Economic leftism is a reaction to capitalism, and liberalism is a product of capitalist society.

"Blue regions" in the United States are overwhelmingly the most economically developed regions. These are the regions where capitalism is the most developed and capitalist society has the most direct impact on people's lives.

While "capitalism" is the almost religiously worshiped economic system of the entire nation, the Midwest and Southern regions of the country really have not experienced capitalist society until recently. The "red" regions of the country have lived a much more "communal" lifestyle, where the natural socially fragmenting effects of capitalism have not historically impacted life the way that they have impacted the lives of people in industrialized and urban areas.

An excerpt from a local south Florida newspaper article demonstrates this point:

He said life in a Florida fishing town as recently as 30 years ago was a close-knit affair, families often gathering for oyster roasts and clambakes at fishhouses.

"I have to laugh - I look at your Community Happenings calendar and there must be hundreds of support groups,"  Sembler said. "We didn't have that then. When people got sick, somebody from down the street would help them."

Out on the water, he said, younger fishermen helped old men haul nets fouled by sea weed and kept an eye on them.

Old Florida wasn't pretty to some people - wooden houses often needed painting, lobster traps were piled next to old pickup trucks.

"There were no Key West pastel colors," Sembler said. "It was white or it was gray - and that was it."

During the 1990s, his hometown adopted an "Old Florida Fishing Village" architectural theme for its riverfront district in a bid to make it attractive to tourists and newcomers.

This doesn't ring true with Sembler.

"I can't remember anywhere in our old Florida fishing village where you could go down and buy a colorful drink with a little umbrella in it," he said.

What we are seeing in America is two very separate stages of development of political economy in an environment where the development of political and social consciousness has been greatly altered from its natural course by historical events, these events being the Civil War and the Cold War.

The South and the Midwest have been relatively strongly shielded from the negative social effects of industrialization and the development of capitalist society. Up until very recently, perhaps the past 10 to 15 years, the economy of the red states was largely based on farming and small business. These people were not experiencing capitalism. Large populations of wage laborers are not a common part of the makeup of red state demographics, and in the cities and urbanized areas of "red states" you do see much stronger "blue" support.

What the "red states" today are experiencing is the spread of capitalist society into their regions. Many people misunderstand what capitalism is in America, and this is largely because of the Cold War and the propagandistic approach to economic understanding that took place in America between the 1940s and the 1990s.

During the Cold War "anti-Communism" became a major sociopolitical force across the Midwest and the South. It was easy to demonize the Left and to glorify capitalism in these regions because the people living in these regions had no real contact with capitalism.

It was easy to use anti-Communism to demonize all elements of the Left in the South and Midwest because these people had very little first hand contact with either Marxist ideas or with capitalism itself, and thus those who framed the discussion were able to shape perceptions about things that people had no first hand knowledge of.

It was easy to demonize unions in the South and Midwest because so few people in these places had contact with either unions or with the working conditions that spawned union activity. All of these reasons made the South and Midwest attractive areas for the Republican Party to look for support.

In the South and Midwest people were farmers, people owned their own land, they owned their own businesses, they had an established community of friends and neighbors. They did not face the harsh reality of urban and mechanized life. They did not face living in places where home ownership was next to impossible, where the majority of people worked on assembly lines for wages that were dictated by millionaires, deprived of their self respect and sense of individual purpose.

This is industrial capitalism. This is what the people in the "blue states" have faced for 100 years in America, and this is the environment that "blue state" society has developed in.

To a man on his farm, getting up at 4:30 a.m. to say his prayers and go out into his barn to prepare his tractor and seed for the day, coming back inside at 6:00 to eat the fresh cooked breakfast that his loving wife has made for him, and then going out to work the fields with his son until 6:00 p.m., its very hard to understand the sentiment of a thousand angry workers, striking out in front of a Ford auto plant, demanding more pay and shorter hours.

The farmer sees his trusty Ford truck, a truck that he depends on for his livelihood, and he gets angry at those union men for refusing to work and demanding more pay. He gets up before dawn and works hard all day long, loves his wife, prays to God to thank him for everything that he has, and loves his country, and now these men are "going to make the cost of a new Ford truck go up" because "they" want more pay?

It was easy for the Right to turn that anger and misunderstanding against fellow Americans and against their economic opponents: wage laborers.

The difference, though, is that rural citizens had control over their own lives. They owned a lot of property, and that property was important to them. They owned land, they owned tools, they owned supplies, they owned and operated their own stores and businesses.

And so, this is what has happened, politicians have turned Americans from vastly different cultural experiences against each other. Those that represent the interests of the wealthy capitalist class have used rural and suburban America to undermine the interests of working-class wage laborers.

Large corporations have used small businessmen, farmers and the self-employed to protect their own interests. They appeal to these groups and tell them that that are "among the capitalist class", when in fact they are not. But they have connected with Middle America and convinced them that the interests of industrialized corporate America are the same as the interests of small town America. Since Middle America does not experience life in the urban industrial centers they don't see the difference between industrial capitalism and independent rural America.

Corporate America and the Right feed Middle America's fear of the urban working-class, using this fear as a political bulwark against the interests of wage labor.

Middle America has traditionally reaped the fruits of capitalist production without having to endure the reality of capitalist society. Industrialized areas have produced goods that are made available in rural and suburban America, which has allowed these regions to benefit from mass production and wage labor capitalism without living in the environment created by mechanized wage labor society. Middle Americas have had a very distorted perception of capitalism because they have only been on the receiving end of the capitalist system, and have not themselves lived in capitalist society.

The irony here is that what Middle America is now experiencing is the encroachment of capitalist culture into their traditionally rural and independent region.

Over the past 20 years wage labor society has spread into Middle America and the South. What is the vehicle of this encroachment? It is the increase and aggressiveness of marketing, the increase of liberal entertainment, and, most importantly, the growth of wage labor in rural America.

The first of these items is self-explanatory, however understanding the increase of liberal entertainment is slightly more complex. Liberal post-modern society is a product of urban capitalist socioeconomic relations.

Urban and rural society have always been different, even prior to the development of capitalism. However, they are more different today than ever. Additionally, in the past these two cultures did not mix and impose themselves upon each other the way that cultures mix today via the mass media. Because most media in America is a product of urban post-modern culture, it does not represent the values and interests of Middle America. "Red state" values have traditionally been based on community, a relatively humble existence, and a culture of opposition to worldly desires. Capitalist culture, however, promotes a culture of selfishness, neediness, and putting individual desire above community interests. Capitalism intentionally promotes desire. The basis of post-modern capitalism is the creation, manipulation, and deepening of human desire. Capitalism, not just through marketing, but all aspects of capitalist society, encourages self-indulgence and lasciviousness. Desire creates demand, and demand "moves product".

The intrusion of liberal capitalist society into rural America's community based social structure it not the only problem that Middle America is facing however.

With the explosion of large chain retail stores, chain restaurants, and factory farming, wage labor is now becoming increasingly prominent in "red" America. White rural America has historically been a relatively classless society where individuals have independently owned and controlled their own economic means. With the advance of wage labor into Middle American society, rural Americans are now experiencing the beginnings of the capitalization of their culture.

The problem is, though, that Middle America is now completely out of step with the historical development of the labor movement.

Middle America has been used to bludgeon the American labor movement to death, and now that rural Americans are in the process of being taken over by the capitalism that they have been supporting from afar for so long, they don't have the class-consciousness or critical questioning of the system that is needed to combat its harmful effects.

Middle America has experienced nothing but the blessings of capitalism for the past 50 years, while remaining able to preserve their pre-capitalist, independent society. Now, however, traditional society is finally being imposed upon by wage labor, large corporations, international business, post-modernist media, apartments and housing projects, and these people are feeling the stress and despair of capitalist social disruption. But, because of 50 years of Cold War propaganda, because of the American glorification of capitalism, because, it is claimed, capitalism has "saved God" by defeating the Soviets, the real cause of the despair and turmoil within Middle American society goes unrecognized by the Southern and Midwestern working-class.

"Red state" America is facing a real social crisis. That crisis is the struggle against the social changes that come with the loss of economic independence caused by the takeover of capitalist wage labor society.

Because, however, "red state" America has no ties to historical labor movements, and in fact has a history of opposition to the great labor movements of Western Civilization, the way that Middle America is dealing with the uncertainty and social change that is brought on by capitalism is by seeking comfort in religion and conservatism.


The American South is the single largest region in the world that stood outside the important labor movements of the 19th and 20th century. Not only was the American South not involved in what was the most important social development in Western civilization over the past 150 years, but the Southern working-class actually became a political force used against larger working-class interests, not just within the United States, but globally.

What we see today as "red" America are the unindustrialized regions that have not experienced true capitalist society and have much less experience with wage labor.

Because of the Cold War, objective analysis of political economy in the United States has been effectively stifled since World War II. Now, as capitalism and wage labor advance across Middle America for the first time, Middle American society is not in a position to understand and deal with the real causes of social change and fragmentation.

Furthermore, because the Republican Party has portrayed itself as the party of "conservative" values over the past 40 years, which are the values of the Middle American working-class, the Republican Party has consolidated a large portion of American working-class support.

The Republican Party, however, ultimately acts in the interests of the wealthy elite and corporations. Conservatism has enabled the Republican Party to not only get much broader support than it would otherwise be able to do based on its economic platform alone, but it has in fact enabled the Republican Party to reshape class consciousness in America and define working-class interests for the working class.

This has enabled the most exploitive institutions of American society to dictate to the working-class and to mold the economic views of extremely large portions of working-class America. This is why large portions of the American population have continued to vote against their own economic interests over the past 20 years, and why American politics is taking such a dramatic turn to the Right. Not only are these people voting against their economic interests, however, they are also voting against their own social interests because it is the economic change that is really bringing about the social changes in their community.

The United States of America now stands as the largest opponent to working-class interests in the world, with a large base of support from its own working-class population. 

By polarizing the electorate, what George Bush and the Republican party have done is highlight the substantial differences between post-modern wage labor society and rural and suburban society that is currently in the process of struggling to deal with the spread of capitalist socioeconomic relations into their once pre-capitalist society. It is not the American Left that represents a threat to the property and livelihoods of "red state" America, but rather it is corporate capitalism.

Ironically, the Republican Party is the party that is facilitating the transformation of once rural and independent Middle America into a wage labor society where citizens will lose control over their lives and will experience the breakup of traditional social relations by capitalist culture. 

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