This is a video about marriage equality in Mississippi, but one line in particular (starting at 1:17) was particularly striking:
I don’t know about you, but I get this all the time: “Why don’t you just move to New York, or Iowa, or Washington State?” ‘Cause it’s cold! I don’t want to live there!
That right there is an excellent example of basically my entire political philosophy. I can understand the impulse a person has to live where people agree with them politically, but that can’t be the solution to our political differences as a country. And nobody should be told (much less told repeatedly) that if they don’t like things the way they are, they should just leave.
People are more than their political beliefs. People choose to live in places for a variety of complex reasons, and telling someone who doesn’t agree with you politically (or someone who does, but lives in an area that doesn’t) that they should just pack their bags and get the heck out of Dodge entirely because of their political beliefs belittles and dismisses all the myriad reasons why they might choose to live there. To be frank, it’s a simplistic and rather childish way of looking at the world.
I know it seems easy for me to say that, since I am a liberal who moved from a red state to a blue one. But the name of my blog doesn’t just refer to the fact that I am geographically located outside of Texas. It also refers to the fact that I, as a result of living there during my most formative years, am a product of Texas. Even though I didn’t and don’t agree with many of the political actions in Texas, they shaped my beliefs. Even six years after moving away, I still identify first as a Texan.
Plus, I was following the news and forming opinions long before I was able to vote. I was there when Tom DeLay, the representative from Sugarland who eventually left D.C. in disgrace, engineered a redistricting map that pitted my incumbent Democratic representative against an incumbent Republican representative in a brand new, bright red district on purpose (the Democrat lost, as he was intended to). I was there when Rick Perry was elected with less than 40% of the vote because his opposition couldn’t agree on one of the three other candidates. I voted in elections where a whole slate of Republican judges ran unopposed (because Texas both elects its judges, and does so without even attempting non-partisanship).
So I get how frustrating it is to live in an area where most people disagree with your politics. But the answer is not for people to self-segregate into red states and blue states, ignoring all the other reasons why they might choose to live somewhere and polarizing the country even more in the process. What incentive does any politician have to listen to his or her constituents if the only real fight they ever face is in a primary?
Rather, I think the best answer is also the most uncomfortable and the least intuitive. People should live wherever they want to, politics be damned. There are a lot of fantastic reasons to live in any of the 50 states, and in any of the thousands of localities in them. Sometimes, disagreeing with the majority where you live is a lost cause, and you have to decide to either live with it or move. But sometimes, it’s worth staying and trying to change people’s minds. Sometimes that’s just the right thing to do, for the sake of the country as a whole.
Aside from all that, I’m sure lots of people could say this exact same thing, but no state is homogeneous. Texas has liberal pockets just like Oregon has conservative ones. Dismissing a whole state as unlivable because the party you don’t like wins statewide elections is also dismissing the people who live there and do agree with you. It certainly doesn’t make them want to work with you, should you ever need their help.