Friday, October 23, 2020

Blue Metros, Red States: The Shifting Urban-Rural Divide in America's Swing States

This is a great new book just out from Brookings. I strongly recommend it. Here's their description:
"Democratic-leaning urban areas in states that otherwise lean Republican is an increasingly important phenomenon in American politics, one that will help shape elections and policy for decades to come. Blue Metros, Red States explores this phenomenon by analyzing demographic trends, voting patterns, economic data, and social characteristics of twenty-seven major metropolitan areas in thirteen swing states that will ultimately decide who is elected president and the party that controls each chamber of Congress.
The book’s key finding is a sharp split between different types of suburbs in swing states. Close-in suburbs that support denser mixed use projects and transit such as light rail mostly vote for Democrats. More distant suburbs that feature mainly large-lot, single-family detached houses and lack mass transit often vote for Republicans. The book locates the red/blue dividing line and assesses the electoral state of play in every swing state. This red/blue political line is rapidly shifting, however, as suburbs urbanize and grow more demographically diverse. Blue Metros, Red States is especially timely as the 2020 elections draw near."
In fact, I liked it so much I wrote the foreword to the book! Here it is but I do recommend you buy the book. It's invaluable.
"The 2020 election is shaping up to be hugely consequential, with a wide range of states in play between the two parties. I will be keeping a copy of Blue Metros, Red States: The Shifting Urban-Rural Divide in America’s Swing States close at hand as I follow all the action and try to make sense of it—both in terms of gaming out the election itself and thinking about what the results might tell us about America’s political future.
This is because David F. Damore, Robert E. Lang and Karen A. Donelson, the principal authors of the volume, with additional contributions from William E. Brown, Jr., John J. Hudak and Molly E. Reynolds, provide a depth and quality of information about the 13 swing states they cover that you literally cannot find anywhere else.
Let me enumerate some of the unique qualities of this volume. First, the theme of the volume—that swing states’ overall political trends cannot be understood without considering the interplay between large (million plus) blue and blue-trending metros and the less dense, redder parts of these states—is spot on. You can’t understand Arizona without understanding the Tucson and, particularly, the Phoenix metros; Colorado without Denver; North Carolina without Charlotte and Raleigh, Georgia without Atlanta and so on. The push and pull between these metros and the outlying parts of their states is the big political story in election after election.
But the analysis of individual states in this volume further embeds the story of the million plus metros into a regional analysis of every state (with regions clearly delineated on maps). Each region has a distinct political identity and those identities help unpack political trends in a given state. Speaking as someone who has conducted some regional analyses of swing states, I find the authors’ regional designations uniformly plausible and helpful.
The coverage of individual states also benefits from a uniform set of tables for every state. One table compares the demographics of the state as a whole with the demographics of the million plus metros within the state. This allows you to see not only how nonwhites might be concentrated in the large metros but also how much diversity within diversity—a key theme of the volume—there is among the nonwhite population, which turns out to have significant political implications. Another table shows the results of statewide elections 2012-2018, again comparing the state as a whole to the million plus metros, and another presents the party affiliation of the state’s governor and the partisan composition of the state’s legislative bodies and Senate and House representation. These at-a-glance tables are enormously helpful and by themselves are worth the price of admission as reference material.
Governance structures are not neglected either. Both the relative fragmentation and local autonomy of decision-making within million plus metros is examined, as well as the extent to which large metros are typically disadvantaged in state politics and policy-making. The latter dynamic explains a great deal of currently salient political conflict within these states.
Finally, the writeup for each state includes a deep dive into the state’s culture and demographic evolution via interviews with an expert or experts on that state. This provides another lens on a state’s recent political trends, situating them in a rich historical contest.
The chapter authors also synthesize all the information about a given state and provide what they term the “state of play” for the state and suggest some possible outcomes going forward. I find these assessments judicious and insightful, based both on the data the authors provide and previous analyses I have conducted of these states’ politics. It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the coming election and how they may have been foreshadowed by the analyses in this book. I will not be surprised if many of them are quite prescient.
As this sketch makes clear, the coverage of each state in this volume constitutes a mini-handbook about the state and its politics. I cannot think of a better, more accessible way to anchor one’s understanding of the political situation within a swing state of interest than to consult the appropriate chapter in this book. It’s that good."
Image may contain: text that says 'BLUE METROS RED The Shifting STATES Urban Rural Divide 0 America's Swing States DAVID F. DAMORE ROBERTE LANG KAREN L CANIELSEN'

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