I’m proud to be Texan. No, I’m not happy that once again, a majority of my state chose a racist bigot for president. But I won’t apologize for it, either.
Simply put, as a red-state liberal, I’m tired of getting discounted.
We really tried so, so hard. While I’ll be the first to raise a glass for Stacey Abrams (who deserves every ounce of credit she’s getting), my heart can’t help but break for people like Beto O’Rourke, whose organizing efforts brought 10,000 volunteers to register 200,000 likely Democrats and make 18.3 million calls to Texan voters. Or Democratic candidates, like Theresa Greenfield and Jaime Harrison, who worked so incredibly hard to build momentum in ruby-red states only to have their hopes dashed on Election Day. After two years of organizing, postcard-writing and phonebanking, we’ve lost the tossup election for Texas State House District 112, my home district, by less than 300 votes, or 0.3%. Like you, I’m incredibly disappointed that my state and district couldn’t muster up enough energy to cross the finish line — but that doesn’t mean we didn’t try our darndest to get where we are.
So when someone from New York, Boston or the Bay Area tweets about selling middle America back to the French, it hurts a little bit inside — and my state wasn’t even included in the Louisiana Purchase. For someone to scrunch their nose or curl their lips at the mention of a person’s home in North Dakota, Kentucky or Alabama because they failed to single-handedly flip their state is a wound to red-state liberals everywhere. TikToks saying “Florida can pay for its own hurricane relief” don’t just demean the Republicans there; it’s the ultimate insult to Floridian liberal leaders and constituents. Trashing on red states, however jokingly, not only ignores the hard work liberals do put in but also erases the history of gerrymandering and systematic voter suppression that continues to choke our efforts.
And I get it; trashing our states from your high horse makes you feel proud of your state for being so blue and so moral. But the reality is that many families in Texas are being denied affordable health insurance, coughed on by maskless goons at grocery stores and being told to go back to where we came from. We’re living with the consequences of our elections — no need to rub them in.
The thing is, some of our states aren’t that red in the first place. A +23 margin for Trump in Tennessee, daunting as that may be, still equals more than a million blue voters. Now, we’re watching historically safe states like South Carolina (+8 Trump) and Missouri (+15 Trump) enter new territory. Meanwhile, some of your uncalled House races in California and New York aren’t looking so hot for incumbent Democrats.
Some may think of Arkansas and Mississippi as unredeemable, hopelessly red states full of racists and bigots (crude but not entirely unfounded claims). I was shocked, however, to learn that each of these states sent majority-Democratic congressional delegations to Washington as recently as 2008. Heck, both Dakotas voted for Democratic representatives that year. That these sparsely populated, mostly rural states ever voted liberal simply isn’t in the political vocabulary of someone who grew up under the maps of coastal-heartland divides we see today. But let’s not pretend that the heartland isn’t capable of producing (albeit moderate) Democrats like Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill.
Of course, I’m citing elections of a different political era, before Democrats openly (for the most part) embraced groups like the LGBTQ+ community and the Black Lives Matter movement, and before terms like Medicare for All and Green New Deal became common vernacular. I acknowledge it is natural for party platforms and voting patterns to shift over time, and that addressing issues in one area may lead to political fallout elsewhere. But even if our party is to make these shifts, an attitude of disdain towards entire states or regions deepens existing divides and makes hard-to-reach voters even harder to reach.
If you want to continue belittling the constituencies in these states for voting red this cycle, that’s your prerogative. After all, we didn’t even need states like Texas or Florida to retake the White House this year. But don’t be surprised if Republicans, elected by voters disillusioned with the “party of coastal elites,” continue to block important progressive policies during the next four years.
You can interpret this as the overreaction of a sore loser. I’m certainly feeling sore right now, and looking at Georgia, now the center of the political universe, my jealousy burns bright. But remember that Georgia was like these states not too long ago. How can we expect Democrats in red states to pull off an Abrams-style victory when we keep dampening their voices, thereby denying funding and attention to states we deem unworthy?
It’s high time that blue-voting Yale students re-examine our identities as Democrats and what it means to be liberal. By making condescending comments about America’s (yes, Trump-majority) heartland, Yale students at best demonstrate their ignorance and at worst propagate a narrative of coastal elitism.
I implore you to check — are your words being lobbed from the safety of blue coastal bubbles? Do they account for uphill battles your fellow liberals are fighting? Do they entrench a deeper sense of regional division?
There will always be racists and bigots in America, and yes, most of them will reside in states like mine for many generations to come. But for America’s sake, stop undermining Democrats’ efforts in red states and start being the supportive allies we need so desperately.
ISAAC YU is a first year in Berkeley College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.