A great phrase. Without looking at the definition Chauncy deVega uses to lament the devolution of the American body-politic into what he sees as Red State retardation, I have a very opposite (I think) view. Consider his assertion follows the setup:
Liberalism, which is stronger in richer, better-educated, more-diverse, and, especially, more prosperous places, is shrinking across the board and has fallen behind conservatism even in its biggest strongholds. This obviously poses big challenges for liberals, the Obama administration, and the Democratic Party moving forward.
But the much bigger, long-term danger is economic rather than political. This ideological state of affairs advantages the policy preferences of poorer, less innovative states over wealthier, more innovative, and productive ones. American politics is increasingly disconnected from its economic engine. And this deepening political divide has become perhaps the biggest bottleneck on the road to long-run prosperity.
This is the formula for a reactionary politics that does not serve the collective good. Here, the tail wags the dog and the most frightened, least resourced, and most backward voices rise out of the polity. Elites who have long been disconnected from the masses manipulate this anxiety into a politics that serves to gut the social safety net and chase down the chosen bugaboos of the Right--the "evil" unions, "liberals," "intellectuals," teachers, Muslims, immigrants, racial minorities, gays and lesbians, "overpaid" public employees, and/or anyone who is not a "real American."
I have come to regard the red state of mind according to its strengths which is precisely counter to totalitarianism. But I need you to start thinking about cheap trash properties out in the middle of nowhere and the habits people would need. Start with my John Boyd quote, that in order to be free you must either be rich or reduce your needs to zero. It never occurs to people dedicated to the collective good as deVega that one can be prosperous by reducing their needs to zero.
In the red state of mind, you *should* be disconnected from the masses. That's the only way you guarantee that you are not a party in their exploitation. You get out into the woods and you don't turn on the radio, so you don't miss public radio. Instead, you're growing your own vegetables, hunting your own meat, fishing for your own fish, tending your own herbs and spices. Mending your own wool sock rather than buying them from China inverts totalitarianism, global dependency, national dependency, community dependency. It makes one independent. It makes one king of his own castle, lord of his own land, master of all he surveys.
Poorer, less educated, less diverse all seem to be horrible deviations from a proper norm, but only in America. Because in the small towns just inside the Indiana border where the well-maintained Ohio roads suddenly get all gravelly, they still make more money than in 5/6ths of the world. They still have 12 years of free education, polio vaccines, orange juice in the winter, and electricity that hasn't failed in 75 years.
Of course liberalism is shrinking, because the promises it thinks it can make to Americans who cling to Bibles and guns are too expensive and its benefits are so marginal that it finally realizes(?) it will never change all of those minds. There is no more low hanging fruit. There are no more economic rabbits (except in IT industrialization and bioengineering) to pull out of hats. There are already so many chickens in so many pots that the Left has to attack the chicken industry for operating so cheaply.
Somebody wrote of the culture of Japan in the post-tsunami aftermath that of course there was no looting and that everyone cooperated. Japan pulls together into a uniquely cohesive society, but same thing makes it fragile because there are not hundreds of acceptable ways to do the same thing. Japanese make smaller cars and live in smaller houses because they prefer the urban lifestyle that brings millions of them together in the ways they prefer to organize. They like to follow the same rules for everyone, the exact opposite of the American cowboy spirit. 75 years ago there, they all serve an emperor.
America resists totalitarianism because we have the opportunity to get out of Dodge. There's someplace to go. We can migrate from the South to the North. We can move from East to West. And there are times when we want to be left alone, off the grid, answerable to nobody, off the plantation. It means we have to buy a truck that resists the dents and can go offroad, not a hybrid made for the carpool lane. It means we need to shop at the one Costco in the county once a month, not stroll through the galleria of shops in the CBD. It means we leave our email unanswered, not follow every tweet. It means we try not to follow the fashion of the top 40 as it changes every week, but maybe memorize something our great grandparents would have recognized. It means going downscale, spreading out and being robust and not being affected by the global supply chain that cascades its failures to every Tom, Dick and Harry because your name is Eustace.
There's a story about the MBA candidate who decided to accept at the Ivy League. Just after he graduated, he took a fishing vacation in a small village in Mexico and fell in love with the place. He moved to NY and worked on Wall Street to pay off his expensive loans. He hated his job after a time but kept it so that he could pay for a house in Connecticut near where he could fish. Still every summer he would fly with his friends down to Mexico and catch marlin but he never got the big one. He worked overtime and took Spanish classes at night so that he could retire early and buy that little house in the fishing village. He neglected his family to climb the ladder and become a partner in the firm. Finally when he was 45 he paid off his house, quit his job, divorced his trophy wife, lost the equity in the house, suffered a heart attack and moved to Mexico. His vacation finally became his life. He realized finally that he could have done the same thing 20 years ago. It was the price he was willing to pay ruining the lives of all the people he hated in NYC. He bought freedom very expensively only to reduce his needs to zero. It wasn't until he became the captain of his charter boat a few years later that he could see in the eyes of his old fishing buddies who still lived in NY how they were slowly dying. None of them made partner the way he did and every summer when they came to fish, they lamented that they would never be rich enough live in a Mexican fishing village.
We will never know if red state of mind, independent America is as happy with their disconnected lives as those in the urban liberal cosmopolitan feng shui. But we will always know that riches are limited and that everybody cannot be better educated, richer, and more sophisticated than average. We will always know that the road towards totalitarianism is straight, well-paved and is designed for mass transit.
What is conservatism? It's a lot of things. But it's important to understand the limits of centrally standarized, synchronized, culture of singular progress of upward mobility. It always needs the attention and support of the masses, and it fails spectacularly.