Will the President be punished at the ballot box?
Logic may suggest that the parts of America performing well economically would be the first to back the President in office. But in this increasingly bizarre republic, it turns out that the strongest support for Joe Biden lies with the regions — notably the West Coast and the Northeast — that are doing most poorly both economically and demographically.
In contrast, the most pro-Trump and anti-Biden states are flourishing. Take West Virginia, the signature Appalachian state, which ranks as the third most pro-Trump state in the country. As a new report by Aaron Renn notes, over 70% of counties in the south of Appalachia are growing in population, with more than half of the counties now boasting more jobs than pre-pandemic levels.
The rise of Appalachia is reflective of a broader change taking place between red and blue states. Indeed, Republican states are comfortably outperforming their blue counterparts economically, even though the latter represent the base for Biden and the Democrats. The biggest destination for movers from the largest places losing people — San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York — are sunbelt cities like Atlanta, Houston, and Miami.
Ironically, Appalachia’s slow and largely unacknowledged rise reflects the cluelessness in the media about the preferences of the American people. CNBC, for example, named the best states to live and work in, using health, “inclusion” and “quality of life” as metrics. Virtually all the states listed — Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Minnesota — are lagging economically; the ones at the bottom of the list include Texas and Florida, states that are booming and gaining people from the supposed “best” places to live.
Even millennials, an apparently critical base for the Democrats, are headed to these same places. Four of the top 10 cities for millennials, in the recent survey, are in the Lone Star and Sunshine States — Austin and Dallas in Texas and Jacksonville and Tampa in Florida. The foreign-born — another critical Democratic constituency — are also headed to the south, southwest and the Mountain states.
At the same time, the big winners in job growth — a trend that has accelerated since the pandemic — have been solidly red metros like Salt Lake City, Nashville, Austin, Jacksonville, Dallas and Raleigh, while free-spending blue states like New York, California and Illinois face worsening fiscal declines and shortages. By contrast, Texas, Florida and even West Virginia all enjoy large surpluses.
So why are blue states not turning red? Some of it has to do with cultural issues like abortion which, unlike transgender issues, remains widely unpopular, particularly in blue states. These are also areas dominated by progressive media, which tend to have low church attendance and declining industry threatened by climate policies.
But how this odd disjunction plays out in 2024 remains unclear. It does not seem likely that the booming red states will credit Biden for their success given that they were in the ascendancy before his election. Unless the Democrats make new inroads in these booming states, they may find themselves oddly like the old Confederacy: outnumbered and lacking the resources to improve their condition.