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The Outer Capillaries of Darkness

This alleged stranger-in-a-strange-land foray into the hearts of Red and Blue America has been making the rounds lately, noted below, somewhat impugned here, and very rightly mocked over yonder.

Well, count me in on Bryan’s mockery, which is first worth just quoting:

Actually going into the heart of Red Country would have meant going to certain regions of Texas, or plenty of other states, where I’m certain he’d have risked being pulled over on a back road and been made to feel a lot less comfortable than he did after being halfheartedly called an asshole by some vegan in a coffee shop. Trust me on this one. Or rent Easy Rider.

Exactly. The hack at the helm of this piece clearly couldn’t be bothered to venture outside his Southern California cocoon, and the two places he bothered to poke his lil nose into strike me as downright moderate:

My journey to Red America carries me to the antipodes of today’s Republicanism.

Antipodes? In California? You gotta be kidding me. Let’s see what they are.

I first visit Newport Beach, Orange County’s last bastion of wealthy white country-club Republicans (population, 70,032; 94 percent white; 61.6 percent registered Republican; median household income $111,166).

Pull over. Yes, this may be the last bastion of wealthy Republicans in Orange County. Yes, 61.6% affiliation with the G.O.P. is something like double the national average.

But let’s see how Newport Beach stacks up against some real Red Country. And party registration is cheap. Money talks. So let’s talk money. Among the four-odd Newport Beach zip codes, individual donations to George Bush’s campaign this year have totaled $511,575 (73%). (Source: Color of Money; look up 92657, -660, -661, and -662.) That is a fair drubbing of the Dem’s fundraising there — $190,300 (27%). {Note: in all zip codes I looked at, 3rd party candidate contributions were too small to factor in.}

But this disparity looks downright modest in comparison to the sort of numbers you see in actual Red Country. Take, e.g., the breakdown of political donations in a single zip code in central Houston, Texas: Individual donations to Bush total $816,556 (86%), to the Dems’ measly $133,636 (14%). The numbers get even more red when you hit hoity-toit suburbs like the Woodlands (zips 77382 & -384), where Bush beat the Dems $47,235 (91%) to $4,900 (9%). That, my little Angeleno, is a bastion of wealthy Republicans. But onward; our intrepid reporter has another nearby “antipode” to explore.

I then travel to Bakersfield, the heart of California’s agricultural Central Valley two hours northeast of Los Angeles (population 247,057; 69 percent white and 29.4 percent Hispanic; 49.2 percent registered Republican; median household income $39,468). To give you a sense of the lion’s den I was entering: In 2000, Bakersfield voted 60.8 percent Republican versus 41 percent statewide.

My, that’s some lion’s den. I hope you’re packing heat and have the ACLU on speed dial, you miserable little creep — they may well throw you in the hoosegow while they rustle up a lynchin’ mob! For the love of God, at least get out of Southern California. Ever heard of the State of Jefferson? It’s not perfect Red Country, but in a pinch it’s at least better than Bakersfield.

But if you really want to impress me, keep heading north east until you find yourself in the Oregon outback. Does a 60% showing for Bush really blow your little Venice Beach mind? Check out Malheur County, which went 73% for Bush in 2000, 22% for Gore. Try Harney: 75% to 21%. Wander over to Lake: 76% to 19%.

And finish up your tour, if you make it that far, in charming little Grant County, where 3,078 of the 3,846 hardbitten ranchin’ folk cast their vote for Bush, a mere 589 for Gore. 80% to 15%. That, you lazy, craven doofus, is Red Country.

{Too much name-calling in this post? Meh, the douche deserved it. Douche.}

  1. Danimal says:

    Well, I suppose I am indirectly blaming the editor. Slate is often more readable and useful. And I read a lot of hackery, believe me. Hard to know what set me off on that guy in particular, other than some miracle coalescence of boredom, bile, and a ready target.

  2. Blog says:

    Yeah, I’m contradicting myself. $3.50, paid well, whatever.

  3. Blog says:

    He did what all journalists of his ilk do: peddle uninspired, half-hearted slop. If you think this article is nauseating, when was the last time you stopped by Salon? Or read Nicholas’ column in the Oregonian’s Living section? At least the Slate guy got out of his office and wrote something original instead of regurgitating press releases.

    Am I jealous of this guy? Sure. I want to be a hack journalist so bad I can taste it. Nevertheless, this boils down to the whole “don’t hate the player, hate the game” thing. Don’t blame the author, blame the editor that probably paid him well to wander around in those t-shirts.

  4. Danimal says:

    Why should I give him a break? Why should you of all people suggest that? That scrumdoucherous hack gets his half-hearted toss off published in Slate while you’re getting paid nothing for far more creative and adventurous travelogues, and you think he deserves a break? To fuck with that.

  5. Blog says:

    If Dan gets to post this twice, I get to post this comment twice.

    Give the guy a break. This wasn’t a Black Like Me-style epic or an investigative report for the New York Times. It was a quickly written piece for an online magazine. He probably didn’t have the time or budget to travel into those blood-red areas and was probably paid $3.50 for it. Ya’ gotta consider the context. It was the journalistic equivalent of a lark. Hackery? Sure. Scrum-douchery? No.

  6. Sho says:

    When I read this piece I found the most interesting parts to be when the writer ventured into the liberal areas of LA. I went through the “Red Country” pretty quick and thought that it wasn’t a very strong effort on his part. Now that I think about it, he didn’t even really venture into true Blue territory. He should have gone to the Castro in SF for that.

  7. Timothy says:

    What’s odd is that nary a decade and a half ago upon my initial departure from Texas at the age of six, this state was nearly all blue. Anne Richards really pissed everyone off, and KA-BLAMO, Red country. Not surprising that The Woodlands &c. break that way at this point. River Oaks (reportedly the most expensive residential property in the country) probably goes that way too. And you’ve got to see that country club, goddamn.

  8. Anonymous says:

    And another thing: go to a rodeo! Go to a football game! Don’t just walk around Bakersfield as though you think Republicans lurk around every corner, eager to strike.

    The whole thing reeks of a guy who has never met a Republican in his life, struck dumb at his editor’s request that he cover that, too. He clearly knows more about the liberal haunts he heads to.

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