The results of this fall's election have raised the alarm that the profile of the American electorate has slid unalterably to the left. The most cited reasons are: shifting demographics, an imbalance in the technical capabilities of the two parties that advantages the Democrats, and the inevitable effects of a century-long march by the Left through the country's cultural institutions. To elaborate on the latter, the assertion is that now that the Left virtually controls all the opinion-molding organs of American society – but especially the media and the educational system, the people increasingly succumb to the progressive brainwashing to which they are subjected.
The corroborating evidence for these theories is strong: the groups who instinctively support the Left (blacks, Hispanics, single women) form an increasing proportion of the population; there is no question that the Democratic ground game, fund-raising and techno operations significantly outperformed those of the Republicans; and even a cursory acquaintance with the thoughts of the nation's youth confirms the leftist brainwashing that permeates our schools – from kindergarten through graduate school.
And yet! The House of Representatives remains under Republican (if not conservative) control, thirty states have Republican governors and if one counts counties, the Republican majority is even more striking. However, much of this strength originates in those counties that are outside the nation's major metropolitan areas. Therefore, the question that I would like to address here is whether those areas – where devotion to the conservative ideals of traditional America remains strong – are also being subjected to the same progressive forces that have turned America's cities and (many of their) suburbs into leftist bastions.
I will base my analysis on personal observation. I live and work (even though I am retired) in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. The county in which I reside (Montgomery) is as left leaning as virtually any county in America. Moreover, Maryland politics are as blue as they come. We have two ultra-left Senators, an ultra-left Governor and a State legislature that has gerrymandered the State's congressional districts so as to convert the delegation from its long-established, roughly evenly split configuration into a nearly uniform Democratic majority. One of the recently gerrymandered districts includes the two mountain counties of Western Maryland, which are rural, traditional in their culture and staunchly conservative in their politics. I own a second home in one of those counties and spend much of my time there. The local joke is that when the fiscal collapse in Annapolis and Washington – toward which the profligate spending in those two capitals is inexorably propelling us – finally occurs, we are going to dynamite the interstate in order to insulate ourselves from the chaos emanating from liberal America. Would that a solution were that simple!
However, in the last decade and a half, during my frequent sojourns in Western Maryland, I have noticed the following ominous developments. These impressions are based on my own observations and from extensive conversations with the locals who reside there more permanently:
- The county's school teachers and administrators, largely imported from the nation's virulently liberal colleges of education, are increasingly left wing and have begun to inculcate the local school children with the same leftist propaganda that envelops students from all over the country.
- Locals routinely sample the national media (movies, TV, and of course the internet) and the messages transmitted therein are very different from those emitted by increasingly scarce local radio stations.
- The foundation of religious worship, while still strong, is not as strong as it used to be.
- There was always some outmigration of youth as they came to adulthood, but it is more prevalent now – and even if the prodigals return, say after college, they infect the area with the more "cosmopolitan" beliefs that they absorbed in their absence.
- The homogeneity of the county – WASP, of course – while still strong, is again not as strong as it used to be. The arrival of several big box chain stores has brought in some workers who don't fit the profile so well. This migration is not as extensive as in some rural areas – in the Midwest and Southeast, where a huge influx of ethnic minorities fleeing high unemployment in places like California has radically altered local demographics. Of course, there is no a priori reason why a change in ethnic population composition needs to entail a loss of the ideals and principles that have defined traditional America – devotion to individual liberty, confidence in free markets, belief in American exceptionalism, and reliance on a morality grounded in religion. But it is undeniable that since America changed its immigration laws fifty years ago to shift the bulk of legal immigration from Europe to third world countries, the folks who come here do not have the background in British tradition and Western Civilization that underlies those fundamental principles. They are much more susceptible to the siren call of collectivist state security rather than rugged individualism – natural fodder for the overwhelmingly leftist Democratic Party.
- Finally, I see some signs of fatigue, demoralization and loss of confidence. There seems to be a sense that the country has moved away from the founding principles that have animated the peoples of Western Maryland. Moreover, they see themselves as somewhat out of touch with "mainstream" America and they worry that the trends indicate a growing divergence.
The last bullet is, for me, the most troubling. If you feel that you are beaten, then you are beaten. Sadly, there is too much of that feeling out there in conservative, traditional America. But it is far from ubiquitous. Both in Western Maryland and across our beloved land, there are many conservatives who have not given up, who believe that America will come to its senses and cast off the quasi-socialist, America-denigrating, statist secularists who are currently running Annapolis and Washington. Is there reason for such optimism? In Western Maryland or anywhere in the US? Will the conservative cause eventually triumph and return America to its traditional moorings? Do I believe that or have I given up? Well, it depends on which side of the bed I get up on in any given day. Whichever side it is, the view is a lot better in the mountains of Western Maryland than it is in the DC suburbs.
This article also appeared in The Intellectual Conservative at: