TUCSON – As the nation has divided into red and blue (Republican and Democrat), purple people like myself no longer have a political party.
Most of us are classical liberals or distant cousins to today’s libertarians.
Purple had become our color because we had preferred a blend of red and blue policies at the national level. But we no longer prefer the blend because of what the two parties have become.
A long time ago, the Democrat Party was attractive to purple people because it stood for civil liberties, working stiffs, the poor and balanced budgets. And the Republican Party was attractive because it stood for prosperity, low taxes and balanced budgets.
Both parties then proceeded to tarnish themselves with foolish wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Drugs), huge deficits, a big government isolated in the out-of-touch Imperial City of Washington, the financialization of the economy, the screwing of working stiffs, and a failure to address the root problems among the black underclass, choosing instead to pander to middle- and upper-class blacks, who were doing well without the paternalism and tokenism of half-baked diversity programs.
Democrats went on to embrace globalism, racial and identity politics and socialism while taking money from Wall Street and Silicon Valley and snookering poor minorities. Republicans went on to embrace globalism and corporatism while forgetting Main Street.
Trump saw a political opening and stepped in with his nationalism and his populist appeals to working stiffs. In some ways he was like Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party. Unlike the old Bull Moose Party, however, Trump succeeded in winning the presidency; but like the Bull Moose Party, his movement could end in the dustbin of history, due to demographic trends and corresponding changes in American values, especially among miseducated millennials and their offspring.
Democrats and Republicans have become eaters of purple people, in the political sense. They should adopt the hit song of 1958, “The Purple People Eater,” as their theme song.
Although Democrats and Republicans have forsaken purple people at the national level, many reddish cities and states are better for them at the local level, including those run by Democrats who govern with a reddish tint. Reddish locales are also better for people of all political colors, skin colors and socioeconomic classes.
To that point, two respected demographic researchers have developed an Upward Mobility Index for the nation’s 107 largest metropolitan areas—those with populations of 500,000 or more in 2018. The index weighs the factors that lead to upward mobility and entry into the middle class for the three largest ethnic and racial minorities: African-Americans, Latinos and Asians.
The Upward Mobility Index shows that cities with bluish policies—affirmative action, programs for racial redress, strict labor and environmental laws—help nonwhites far less than reddish cities with low housing costs, friendly business conditions and reasonable tax rates.
That finding matches my own research and my own experience in living in red and blue locales.
I began life in the working-class neighborhood of my hometown of blue St. Louis, then later moved to the blue barrio of San Antonio, then served in the blue/red Army, then moved to blue Chicago to start my business career, then moved to the red metropolis of Phoenix, then moved to blue New Jersey, then moved back to the red metropolis of Phoenix, and finally, for family reasons, then moved in retirement to the deep blue of the Tucson metropolis, where Democrats have had a political monopoly for decades in the City of Tucson and the surrounding Pima County.
Now I find myself living in a blue state, due to Arizona turning from red to blue in the 2020 election and voting in favor of a class-resentment proposition that will increase taxes on the so-called wealthy and cause the state to lose its primary competitive advantage. As a result, fewer Californians escaping the Golden State will move to Arizona. They will keep driving until they reach Texas, where they will try to turn that state blue.
To see what life is like among the blue and red, below is a synopsis of life in each of the places I’ve lived.
City of St. Louis
The Democrat machine of the City of St. Louis brought corruption, bloated government, decline and crime to what had been one of the nation’s largest and most prosperous cities in the early twentieth century. During its heyday, the city wanted nothing to do with the surrounding reddish county, even to the extent of establishing its own county-level courts and services. Now it’s dependent on the county for life support.
Personal anecdote: When the city was well into its decline, one of my college jobs was working for a former city mayor whose shady company specialized in helping taverns in renewing their liquor license. The job required getting the signatures of a majority of property owners within a 200-foot radius of a drinking establishment, which was often in a slum. I quit after seeing the sordidness of the process and learning that most slumlords lived in leafy liberal enclaves.
This city was an impoverished, crime-ridden economic backwater when I lived there. It later became wealthier by means of reddish economic policies and the annexation of much of the surrounding reddish Bexar County. It also had the benefit of being located in reddish, low-tax Texas.
Personal anecdote: I would be awakened in the barrio to the sound of gunfire, got caught in the middle of a gunfight one night and had my car stolen once and my wheels stolen twice.
It’s difficult to top Chicago and Cook County in corruption, high taxes, crime, and bloated government. This is such common knowledge that nothing else needs to be said.
Personal anecdote: Chicago was so corrupt that when I was buying a house there, my real estate attorney asked for $200 to bribe a county clerk to expedite the title recording.
On second thought, the Garden State may top Chicago in corruption, taxes and bloated government.
Life in the Garden State came with potholed county and state roads, piles of trash and litter along roadsides, and sleazy Italian mobsters who gave Italians a bad name by controlling the garbage industry, other industries and politicians. The state was so disgusting and misgoverned that an overpass on the major east-west artery of Interstate 78 burned down and was closed for months when a 40-foot-tall pile of illegally-dumped trash started on fire.
Personal anecdote: Taxes in New Jersey were so high that my wife and I paid annual property taxes of $14,000 (in today’s dollars) on our 2,200 sq. ft. house in the suburb of Basking Ridge. By contrast, we paid $3,500 in property taxes on our former 3,700 sq. ft. house in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.
When my wife and I first moved decades ago to a blue-collar neighborhood in bluish Phoenix, the city was still somewhat of a cowboy town, with a smattering of resorts and retirement communities. It was not unusual to see guys in cowboy hats and boots with six-shooters and holsters on their hips. But the metropolis was clean, well-managed, had visionary leadership and bipartisan elections and oozed optimism and promise.
When we moved to Scottsdale years later, that suburb had grown from a sleepy bedroom community to a thriving, hip place to live, work and play, thanks to the visionary leadership of former mayor Herb Drinkwater, whose party affiliation was unknown to residents and didn’t matter to them.
Anecdote: Scottsdale government was so forward-looking and efficient that the city invented and implemented a new way of picking up trash, a way that reduced the number of employees per truck to one: the driver. Under the system, homeowners rolled a trash bin to the curb on pickup days, where the bin was picked up and emptied by a lift operated by the driver of the trash truck. The system is now widespread, but at the time it was the opposite of the prevailing union featherbedding in Chicago and New Jersey.
The dark-blue City of Tucson and surrounding blue Pima County are examples of what decades of one-party government and partisan elections can do to a city and county.
The city has a poverty rate twice the national average, a rate of property crimes near the top nationally, below-average test scores, poorly maintained roads and parks and widespread shabbiness.
The surrounding unincorporated county is wealthier, but streets are in such disrepair that if I were to describe them accurately, you’d think I was lying. Parks are in similar condition and too many commercial and public properties are poorly maintained. Roads are so littered that my wife and I come home from our daily walks with bags that we’ve filled with the detritus from residents who have become accepting of bad government and desensitized to the consequences.
In spite of being the home of the University of Arizona, which is a major research university, the metropolis as a whole is an economic backwater shunned by large corporations as a headquarters location. As such, ambitious college graduates tend to move elsewhere for opportunities, especially to such cities as Phoenix, Denver and Dallas. And even though big companies are now letting their headquarters’ employees work from anywhere due to the coronavirus, Tucson doesn’t seem to be on their radar, in spite of its favorable climate, pretty natural setting and nearby outdoor attractions.
Meanwhile, local politicians engage in hollow virtue-signaling about the poor, climate change, and other progressive pieties. For instance, the mayor of Tucson wants to plant thousands of trees to counteract global warming – this in a city without abundant water that already does a lousy job of maintaining existing vegetation.
Personal anecdote: When my wife and I moved from well-run Scottsdale to badly-run metro Tucson, we ended up paying 50% more for the combined total of property taxes, water, sewer, trash pick-up, and fire service – although our house here has the same assessed value as our former house.
In conclusion, regardless of what color they are, people generally do better in reddish cities, including purple people.