So when an ambitious politician like Scott Walker becomes governor, he moves with all deliberate speed to drag the state’s policies as far to the right as possible, knowing that any gains he makes could be lost if Democrats take control. We saw something similar in North Carolina: When Republicans took total control of the government after the 2010 elections, they went on an bender of conservative legislating that hasn’t ended to this day. Their anti-gay law was triggered by the liberal city of Charlotte passing an anti-discrimination ordinance, which Republicans found intolerable.
The divisions are not absolute, of course. For instance, in Georgia — a red state getting bluer — Republican Gov. Nathan Deal recently vetoed an anti-gay bill much like the one in Mississippi, after coming under heavy pressure from the state’s business community. And there are certainly issues where large majorities of Americans agree. But increasingly, people are not just trying to make their communities and states reflect their politics, but deciding where to live based on where they can find a politically amenable community.
While we often lament this geographic sorting that divides us, the farther Red America and Blue America move apart, the more logical it is for any given individual to make that a factor in where they choose to live. Yes, every state has liberal and conservative pockets, whatever its overall character. But if you’re a conservative, do you really want to live in a place where abortion and pot are accessible, labor unions are strong, and you can’t get a plastic bag at the supermarket? Conversely, what liberal wants to live where the state is allowing corporations to pollute, giving business license to discriminate, and telling people which bathrooms to use?