Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Red State/Blue State Distinctions

We’ve been hearing so much lately about the red state/blue state thing, how the blue states are full of immoral, gay-loving, baby-killing liberal pagans (and all vote Democratic) and the red states contain mostly morally upstanding, family values loving, God-ordained conservative Christians (who naturally vote Republican). But a quick look at some statistics on a wide variety of things shows that these labels have much more to do with rhetoric than reality.

Conservative Christians are forever telling us that their religion is the key to a cohesive and peaceful society, and that all hell began to break loose in American culture when we “took God out of the schools” (itself a myth). So at the very least one would think that the “thou shalt not kill” commandment would be more likely to be followed in those God-worshipping red states, right? Wrong. In fact, FBI statistics show that southern states have the highest murder rates, despite the fact that our largest cities are in blue states (New York, LA, Chicago). The top 5 highest murder rates per 100,000 in America? Louisiana (17.5), Mississippi (11.1), Alabama (10.4), Tennessee (9.5) and South Carolina (9.0). So much for that notion that small town, rural American is the Real America, not those big city hedonists who flaunt decency.

Certainly we should find that the red states, with their fervent belief in the importance of “family values”, would have families that stay together far more than those God-hating pagans in the big city blue states, right? Well, let’s check the state-by-state divorce statistics. And once again, the opposite of what we expect. The lowest rate of divorce in the nation? That would be none other than that haven of liberal political correctness, and beacon of gay marriage to the world, Massachusetts. Must just be an anomoly, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, 9 of the 10 lowest divorce rates are in blue states, especially in the Northeast, allegedly the hotbed of pagan immorality. And the 10 highest divorce rates in the nation, with averages nearly 3 times higher than the 10 lowest? 8 of them are red states. And let’s not forget that these are led primarily by what is referred to as the Bible Belt. As a recent National Center for Policy Analysis noted, “Nearly half of all marriages break up, but the divorce rates in these southern states are roughly 50 percent above the national average.” Boy, I’m sure glad we’ve got these people to lecture us on family values, but one wonders how they get the time in between breaking up their own families!

Okay, so far this is looking bad for those red states, but it can’t be all bad. Surely those Real Americans in the red states are more self-reliant and hardy than us effete blue staters. With all the talk from red staters about smaller government and keeping those liberal pork project spenders in the Democratic party out of their pocketbook, it’s those effete blue staters who feed at the public trough and take our well-earned tax dollars from the big spenders in Washington, right? Er…well, no. According to a study by the Tax Foundation, of all the states that receive more federal money than they pay in Federal taxes, 76% of them (25 of 32) are those self-reliant, small government red states. And of the 10 states that pay the most in Federal taxes and get the least in return, 7 are blue states.

Okay, this isn’t looking good, is it? How about rates of teen pregnancy. I’m sure those family values folks who don’t believe in all that fancy sex education stuff do much better than us immoral blue state liberals who let our child run wild. Well, not quite. 6 of the 10 states with the lowest rates of teen pregnancy are blue states; 7 of the 10 states with the highest rates were red states. Texas, by the way, is one of only 5 states with a rate above 100 per 100,000 in population (3 of which are red states), and their school board just approved a set of sex education textbooks that do not even mention contraception. Yeah, that oughta help. Teen pregnancy, by the way, went down every single year after 1991, while those immoral liberals were in charge in Washington, with a national average of a 26% decline. But of the 10 states that showed the smallest decline? You guessed it, they were red states, with Texas leading the way.

The point of all this, I think, is that it’s easy to talk about “family values” and being moral, upstanding people; it’s quite another to actually live it. And as a group, the people yelling the loudest and pointing their fingers at others, are the ones who live it the least. And at the same time, ironically, they also want to claim victim status for how unfairly others look down on them. Sorry, red staters, but you have zero credibility on this one. You’re the ones who are unfairly impugning the moral values of people who, in reality, tend to behave a lot better than you do. You’re the ones who continually point out the splinter in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in your own. You’re the ones who love spouting holier-than-thou rhetoric while living less holier-than-thou lives. So neither your pretensions of moral righteousness, nor your cries of unfair victimization, ring true.

Update: And while I’m at it, perhaps I should make clear that of course I recognize that this is based on broad generalizations that don’t hold true in every case, or anywhere close to it. But so is the broad generalization on the other side and I’m pointing out that their generalizations not only don’t hold true for those they’re criticizing, they do tend to hold true for themselves. I’m just really tired of hearing how those arrogant blue staters look down on those good simple folk from the red states. Of course it’s true that people from the blue states tend to look down on the red states as full of country bumpkins. But it’s also true that people from the red states tend to look at blue states as immoral heathens who kill their babies when they’re not attending gay orgies and pride parades. Both sides think mostly in caricature about the other side. But only one of them is trying to push through a moral agenda with police power behind it based upon their caricatures, and I think it’s entirely fair game to point out that their caricature is false (just as it is entirely fair game for them to point out that there are plenty of brilliant and well educated people on the other side of the cultural divide, as there are).


  1. #1 Perry Willis
    November 13, 2004

    Thanks for the summary demolition of the moral half of the American landscape Ed.

    I’m led to wonder how the red-state crowd would refute your facts. Maybe it’s the non-church goers in the red states who are responsible for all that depravity, and they skew the statistics. But why haven’t these heathens been more positively influenced by the examples of their virtuous neighbors? Satan must be at work in God’s country, trying to undermine the godly community. Perhaps this also explains the phenomenon of the PK, or Preacher’s Kid, who quite often excell at trashing god’s law. Any speculation will do for an answer, I suppose, when evidence doesn’t matter, and supernatural pull-a-rabbit-out-of-the-hat explanations are considered scientific.

    Thinks for the work you obviously put into this. I’d love to see this stuff in TV and radio ads, along with choice quotes from the Bible about killing people. Might elevate the discussion a bit, or if not, lead to a few belly laughs.

  2. #2 Matthew Phillips
    November 13, 2004

    Some of those can be understandably refuted. Red states have to rely on federal funds more because their populations are smaller, and thus less self-sufficient. I think it’s also been argued that red states have more marriages, so naturally have more divorce as well.

    But overall, this shows how society based on reason is better than society based on bronze age dogma. Until red staters accept that they can’t control when puberty happens, that less poverty means less crime, and that rushing people in to marriages isn’t good, those things aren’t going to change. You can be pragmatic about things without abandoning your principles.

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    November 13, 2004

    Red states have to rely on federal funds more because their populations are smaller, and thus less self-sufficient

    But that doesn’t explain why smaller states with less population, like New Hampshire, Vermont or Delaware, are not in the same boat.

    I think it’s also been argued that red states have more marriages, so naturally have more divorce as well.

    The figures I gave were per capita.

  4. #4 Ruidh
    November 13, 2004

    Red states have more marriages per capita, so naturally have more divorces per capita. It must be all those polygamists.

  5. #5 raj
    November 14, 2004

    Red states probably have more marriages per capita because they have more divorces per capita.

    I believe that one would find that, for a variety of reasons, couples initially marry much younger in red states than they do in blue states. Younger marriages are often fairly unstable, which increases the likelihood of divorce. One of the reasons that I have seen for people marrying younger in red states is their view of sex outside of marriage, and will only be exacerbated by their “abstinence until marriage” push.

  6. #6 Tanner
    February 28, 2007

    Just thought I could help sort out the reason for Texas, a red state, leading the way in teen pregnancy. It’s the illegal immigrants. They come across the border for one reason… to have their children. If their children are born in the US then they are US citizens.

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