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September 28, 2004

Land of God and Guns

Over in the Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru wonders, while considering the truism that "blue states subsidize red ones," whether part of the reason is that "a significant military presence reddens an area," thus bringing both federal funds and Republican voters to it.

While Rhode Island is hardly representative for military states, we do have a rather significant Naval presence, particularly on the island on which I've spent most of my time as a citizen. (For example, National Review writer Mackubin Thomas Owens teaches at the Naval War College, which is attached to a large base.) Yet, ours is among the most liberal states in the nation, and even those employed by the military, with a material interest in the military bent of the country's leadership, often vote with their region rather than their occupation.

I'd say that military presence and redness represent one of those intricate relationships involving a web of causes and effects. Rugged, open land breeds a rugged individualism, and rural areas lend themselves to community activities, often involving religious organizations; in this day and age, both of these tendencies translate into Republican voters. More generally, the country attracts and forms a certain sort of worldview, part of which is the devotion to one's own group. Hubs for international communication, interaction, and travel seem about as far away as the other countries, themselves.

Simultaneously, rugged, open land is particularly attractive to several branches of the military. This is true, first, in a geographic sense: the landscape assists in military operations, for both training and strategy. It is true, second, demographically: likely recruits are nearby and will feel at home in rural settings.

Ramesh concentrates on political explanations, which certainly play a role, but I'm not sure the political, cultural, or anyotheral considerations can be teased out of the reality, here. Somehow — but not surprisingly — I find myself recalling something from his journal that Peter Robinson posted in the Corner back in June:

Journal entry, May 2001: Ever since my talk with Judge Clark, I've found, a picture keeps coming to mind. Ronald Reagan is on horseback, riding along the exposed ridge at the southwestern corner of his ranch. When he reaches the high point where the helicopter pad once stood, he reins in his mount. He gazes up at the enormous vault of the sky. He feels the rushing wind against his face. He looks east, following the shape of the land as it tumbles down and away, spreading to form the green bowl of the Santa Ynez Valley. Then he shifts in his saddle to look west, taking in the endless, dazzling ocean, the Channel Islands misty in the distance. And then he whispers, "Glory to God."

That's a pretty apt (if oblique) summary of the dynamic in question.

Posted by Justin Katz at September 28, 2004 4:49 PM
Culture