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Republicans are posing a growing threat in blue states

Trump's growing popularity in the Bronx epitomises shifting political allegiances. Credit: Getty

June 2, 2024 - 1:00pm

Calm down, Democrats, Donald Trump will not, as some zealous Maga types fantasise, take New York this election. Nor will he win over New Jersey, although the race may be closer there. California, as we New York natives would say: fuggedaboutit.

But the Trump surge in deep blue places, epitomised by successful rallies in the Bronx and the Jersey shore, reveals a great deal about shifting political allegiances. In New York, which Trump lost by 23 points in 2020, the former president is now within nine points. In New Jersey, where he lost by 16, the margin is down to five. If Trump forces Biden and the Democrats to deploy forces to these places, he is very likely to win a second term.

Democrats have ample reason to “freak out” about their incoherent and doddering leader. But they would also be well-served to realise that voters do not like to live in a failed state. After all, the deep blue bastions now lag behind the red states in nearly every conceivable category. Over the past year, for example, job growth in New York and New Jersey has lagged far behind that seen in red Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. Income growth is roughly 40% higher in these states than in New York and New Jersey, as well as other blue state laggards California, Illinois, and Oregon.

Most revealing is that many residents of these blue states are already voting with their feet. In the past decade, five southern states — Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina, along with Arizona in the West — exceeded the growth of all of the other (44) states and DC, according to the census. This pattern has accelerated since 2020, with southern states gaining 1.7 million people, while the other three census regions (Northeast, Midwest, and West) all had net domestic migration losses. In 2023, southern states accounted for 87% of all US population growth.

New York, New Jersey, and California are all losing residents, often to these same states. Last year, New York, California and Illinois lost more people to out-migration than any other states. Demographer Wendell Cox notes that the largest percentage loss of residents occurred in big core cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

In contrast, populations grew in sprawling areas such as Phoenix, Dallas, and Orlando. But although New York City had the biggest losses, an outstanding eight out of every 10 New York towns have also witnessed population declines since 2020. Overall, 90% of US growth last year was outside of big cities, the electoral base of the Democrats.

This red state surge is likely to continue given that red states have significantly higher birth rates. Over time, notes demographer Lyman Stone, this may constitute a “conservative fertility advantage”.

Indeed, many from the groups who add most to the baby supply — minorities, millennials and immigrants — are also moving to red states. In the past, both African Americans and immigrants headed to the West Coast, the Northeast and Chicago, where they felt welcome and saw opportunity. Now they are migrating instead to Dallas, Miami and even small towns in the Midwest. Los Angeles’s foreign-born population even declined over the past decade. Similarly, before the pandemic, affluent young professionals were heading to less expensive and congested cities in search of homes in places they could afford.

In the economic war, the red states are clearly winning. Last year, the biggest upsurge in new business formation took place in Texas, the Deep South and the Southwest, while New York and the West Coast economies lagged. Texas and Florida are now the country’s high growth hotspots, and are also attracting the most tech workers.

If their leaders are in denial, regular New Yorkers and other blue state residents see these trends. Gothamites, once reliably chauvinistic, are now particularly down on their state; barely 30% think conditions are “excellent or good”, down from 50% just six years ago. Almost half of New Jersey residents would like to live elsewhere.

Given that Biden will likely win these states, does this matter? A closer presidential poll could result in Republicans winning congressional seats in both New York and California. But what matters most about these shifts, particularly among working class and minority voters, is precisely what the Bronx rally has come to symbolise: the slow breaking up of the Democrats’ traditional coalition. If this pressure can be seen in the bluest of states, perhaps our future may be redder than many suspect.


Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)

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William Woods
William Woods
16 days ago

This doesn’t surprise me whatsoever. Incompetent machine politics has riddled democrat controlled american cities for a hundred years and it looks like it won’t stop soon either. This generates two things. Firstly the growth of anti democrat opposition and secondly the continual misery of those trapped by economic circumstances in the cities where the democrats dominate. Hopefully though the republicans can start to change that. As an added bonus it looks like the Hispanics are shifting right which should be a good indicator for how much trouble the democrats are actually in.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
16 days ago

You Americans don’t realise how lucky you are to be able to up-sticks and move to a state that suits your political sensibilities.
In the UK we’re stuck with the government of the day (or I suppose people could move to Wales or Scotland if they were particularly masochistic).

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
15 days ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

Even within states, just moving to a better run city can improve one’s whole life. If Houston or St Pete’s are terrible, Dallas or Miami could be a huge improvement.

J Hop
J Hop
15 days ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

This. Born and raised in Chicago, now live in a small lake community South Carolina, right over the southern border from Charlotte. Love it. The only problem is the Dems are going after states now trying to ban them from deviaing from federal mandates. This will be the next big battle, especially if the Dems manage to rig 2024 and “win” another 4 years.

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
15 days ago
Reply to  J Hop

This is why we must make Trump’s margin of victory too big to rig!

General Store
General Store
15 days ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

In Canada I would move to a different Province, but with the possible exception of Alberta, it’s the same as the UK

AC Harper
AC Harper
15 days ago

Just to bring it home to the UK situation we were discussing with friends on Friday about neighbours moving out of our local city. Not just to the suburbs, which has been common for decades, not just out to the outer suburbs which has been common for a decade, but to smaller towns further out still.
The reasons are probably complex. The City is Labour controlled. The centre has been made unwelcoming by the proliferation of nail bars and student bars and the departure of department stores. Pedestrianisation and cycle lanes have disrupted traffic patterns. CCTV and computer controlled traffic lights are everywhere. Perhaps I am too sensitive(!) but there is a creepy feeling that in the City Big Brother is alive and looking over your shoulder.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
15 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I experience the same in Amsterdam. It used to be a great city, now it’s starting to feel like an open-air prison.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
15 days ago

Another thing Americans do particularly well is choosing state and local capitals. Typically, it’s a dinky little one-horse town that nobody ever heard, nobody ever goes to (if they can help it), and people leave as soon as they can. Politicians don’t like living there. The economy there is drab. No thriving local culture or history.

Capital of New York? New York? No, Albany? Capital of Pennsylvania? Harrisburg, not Philadelphia. Capital of Illonois? No Chicago, but Springfield. Capital of the USA? Washington, D.C., built on a swamp and with no right to vote, a crime-ridden town filled with no-good ‘uns.

It strikes me that if your leaders are happy and comfortable leading you, they’d want to do more of it, by fair or foul means. By sitting them in a swamp or dump to do their leading, you ensure that they are unhappy and uncomfortable. They don’t live in these tiny, one-horse towns and don’t want to stay.

England and France, by choosing the largest and most presitgious cities for their government, have bloated Paris and London past all bearing. No other area of the country is prosperous to the same degree. The politicians love their jobs and their place of residence. They go to work each day feeling important and leave work feeling more important than the previous day.
ï»ż

I suggest that England’s capital be switched to a tiny, one-horse town that no one ever heard of, with a limp, dragging economy and crime-ridden streets. That is the proper place for our leaders to be, to live and work. Then they’d understand a small piece of the what us ordinary citizens encounter every day and perhaps change their behavior for the better. 🙂

philip kern
philip kern
14 days ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Very insightful. Most US state capitals aimed to be central rather than large. One problem with Washington DC, despite it being on what was once useless land, is that it has acquired status. The US capital should be relocated to the centre–somewhere like Omaha, Nebraska. That is, to a place that is less inviting to power brokers who might then actually spend time in their constituency. But none of it really matters because of the fixed number in the House of Representatives. Where each member used to serve 10s of thousands, they now serve millions and are beholden not to the electorate, which they can never know, but to the party machine.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
15 days ago

I live in North Carolina. What’s interesting is that the last four of its governors, except Pat McCrory (2013-2016–legal problems caused him to step down), have been Democrats. Our current Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, has served two terms. Yet the state government is almost all Republicans. The reason? Gerrymandering. North Carolina’s manipulation of districts is so blatant that the Supreme Court told it to stop and to draw a new nonpartisan map. North Carolina ignored the Court. In fact, they took the blue city of Charlottes and divided it into two red districts. They did the same thing to blue Asheville . Now North Carolina has only two blue districts—Raleigh/Durham and Greensboro. So North Carolinian voters actually prefer Democrats for their governor. Also, many young people, who have relocated here have jobs with Apple and other tech companies, tend to vote for Democrats. (Raleigh has a lot of tech companies. It’s called the Research Triangle) Finally, the state is now home to Half Backs. These are snow birds from New York and New Jersey, who settled in sunny Florida, hated it, and relocated half way back to North Carolina. Arizona is having its own problems, as snow birds relocate to the state for warmth. They are surprised when they move to the suburbs and there is no water. They have to pay to have trucks to deliver water. Also, Arizona has a lot of transplants from blue states, hence Arizona’s surprise tilt to the left. Montana is also dealing with Democrats relocating to Big Sky Country. All of these changes are more complicated than what the author is describing.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
15 days ago

Also, switching parliamentary representation in England to a federal system would do much to ensure local control of government. Say you split England into 50 local Districts or some such, each electing 10 or so MPs, with further subdivisions according to population. Doubtless this would do much to make the average MP more accountable to the SPECIFIC people who elected him.

Ian_S
Ian_S
15 days ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

This would aid the rise and entrenchment of mini-caliphates.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
15 days ago

Kotkin seems to rewrite & republish this exact same article every two months or so

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
14 days ago

And he’s going to keep it up until you believe it.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
14 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Wagner

Maybe it bears repeating. & he adds in some new stuff every so often

Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
15 days ago

Yet another political analysis that completely ignores RFK, Jr. and his growing constituency. What a shock. Perhaps if he makes the presidential debate stage later this month — a real possibility — pundits will be forced to acknowledge him as a candidate who appeals to the many disaffected no-longer-red, no-longer blue voters they obstinately continue to see as one or the other.

0 01
0 01
15 days ago

RFK, Jr is not going to be president, deal with it.

Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
12 days ago
Reply to  0 01

Thanks for taking the care and time to respond to the actual content of my remark. I look forward to more insightful commentary from you.

Lisa Darling
Lisa Darling
14 days ago

There are many things I admire about RFK Jr. Although I would not vote for him, I agree with him about many issues (and disagree with several) and think he would be the best to take down the NIH, the CDC, and other captured agencies in the medical cartel. (I hope Trump appoints him to such a role.) But when I learned that he approached professional football player Aaron Rodgers to be his VP, I was deeply disappointed. When Rodgers turned him down, his ultimate choice was Nicole Shanahan, which also seems a disturbing selection from a serious, thoughtful man who loves America.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
14 days ago
Reply to  Lisa Darling

His choice of VP’s certainly further tarnishes his reputation as a loose cannon who seems to prioritize fringe issues vs. what Americans are truly concerned about.

Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
12 days ago
Reply to  Lisa Darling

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your response, lacking in many who oppose Kennedy based on nothing more than mainstream media smears. My agreements with his policy positions — which I’ve actually reviewed — are much stronger than with Biden’s or Trump’s. VP selection concerns do not, for me, outweigh that. Harris is widely disliked — for good reason, I think — and could well be the next president if Biden is elected. And God knows what manner of toady Trump will pick as his running mate. So, my decision is based on my assessment of the candidate himself.

Last edited 12 days ago by Colorado UnHerd