Red States, Blue States, and Stupid American Tribalism

Red States, Blue States, and Stupid American Tribalism

A man walks to his friend’s home in a neighborhood without electricity in Pflugerville, Texas, February 15, 2021. (Austin American-Statesman/USA Today Network via Reuters)

Tribalism, January 6, Kevin McCarthy, Jair Bolsonaro, Tom Brady, a poem, and more

The United States is “polarized” or “tribalized” — pick your word — and every day we hear of “red” states and “blue” states. According to us on the right, “red” states are good — well governed by Republicans — and “blue” states are bad — misgoverned by Democrats.

Those on the left have their own version, of course.

“Red”/“blue” talk has dominated the COVID debate, as you know. Some people will tell you that “red” states have it just right, while “blue” states have botched it. Other people will tell you the opposite.

The truth is, all the states have been socked by the plague, at one time or another. The plague is an equal-opportunity killer. The various states have their “surges” — of cases and deaths — at different times.

As a rule, we on the right like to pick on New York and California, because they are big, hoity-toity states filled with Democrats and governed by Democrats. We like to highlight their problems. “See? See? If only they lived in a good state like Alabama!”

You could make a living writing about the problems of New York and California. I have spent a fair amount of time on those states myself (in part because I live in one of them). But how are “our” states doing? How are Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Dakotas, Idaho, Alaska, etc., etc.? How are they doing in health, longevity, prosperity, education, family intactness, and sundry other measures?

A-OK? Hunky-dory?

Which brings me to this news report, on the failure of the Texas power grid: “‘A complete bungle’: Texas’ energy pride goes out with cold.” I was particularly struck by one passage:

The breakdown sparked growing outrage and demands for answers over how Texas — whose Republican leaders as recently as last year taunted California over the Democratic-led state’s rolling blackouts — failed such a massive test of a major point of state pride: energy independence.

I have a suggestion: How about we cool the taunting and the dunking and the rivalry and all that and acknowledge that all of us have problems, in need of solutions (whether those solutions are governmental or not)? No state is a nirvana. We should root for one another — even as we argue about politics and policy — instead of having this endless cycle of one-upmanship, chest-thumping, and stupidity.

• At the conclusion of the Senate impeachment trial, the Senate Republicans — @SenateGOP — put out a tweet:

Well that was a waste of time.

Let’s get back to work.

I don’t think the trial was a waste of time at all. Yes, it resulted in an acquittal, as 57 senators voted to convict, and you need two-thirds of 100. But the trial informed many, many people about what happened on January 6, and why it happened. I can understand that the trial made Republicans uncomfortable. Too bad.

• There are a great many videos of the attack on the Capitol, and they capture a great deal. I’m glad the videos exist. They make it harder to deny the reality of the attack.

But already there is an attempt to spin January 6 as no big deal — something like a MAGA frat party that got a little rowdy. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has written an article on the subject: “Ron Johnson and the emerging hoax-ification of the Capitol riot.”

• Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republicans in the House, was straightforward last August: “Let me be very clear: There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it.” Earlier this month, however, he seemed to be unclear on the movement’s very name. “Q-on — I don’t know if I say it right. I don’t even know what it is.”

I see. QAnon is a movement with countless adherents, and it has made serious inroads into the Republican Party. Several QAnon-ers were nominated by the GOP last year, and at least two made it to Congress. If McCarthy is that incurious about QAnon, he has no place in political leadership. And if he is lying — that’s not so hot either.

In any event, McCarthy has not behaved like a leader, as I perceive leadership.

(If this offends you, by the way, go to and knock yourself out. Right now, you’re reading National Review, Bill Buckley’s magazine.)

• Here is an interesting article: “Adam Kinzinger’s Lonely Mission.” The subheading: “Censured by his party and shunned by family members, Mr. Kinzinger, a six-term Illinois congressman, is pressing Republicans to leave Donald Trump behind — and risking his career doing so.”

Kinzinger obviously has brass ones.

I was interested in a quote from Bruce Rauner, who was governor of Illinois from 2015 to 2019. (He is a Republican.) Rauner said, “For some voters, character matters. For most, it doesn’t.”

I feel sure that is true.

• It was written in stone that, once Democrats retook the White House, Republicans would rediscover fiscal responsibility. Right on time, Florida senator Rick Scott tweeted the following:

This is unacceptable. For too long, Congress has maxed out America’s credit card with no plan to pay off our debts. The disastrous impacts of this reckless spending and growing debt, like high inflation, will hurt low and fixed income families the most. We must do better.

My favorite response was penned by Mig Greengard: “The GOP had these tweets sitting in Drafts for four years.”

Wouldn’t it be something if a president and his administration took our financial problems seriously? And encouraged Congress to do the same? It seems almost unimaginable, frankly.

• I’ve been collecting examples of populist talk, and Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, is always good for prime specimens. Scorning vaccines for COVID-19, he said, “If you turn into a crocodile, that’s your problem.”

Perfect. He also talked about women who suddenly grow beards and men who start to speak “with an effeminate voice.”

That’s Bolso.

• I’d like to talk about Tom Brady, the quarterback. But first, a little speech (much shorter than my usual version of it).

The older I get, the more averse I get to ranking. Michael Jordan or LeBron James? You gotta pick one. Jack or Tiger?

I often quote Jeffrey Hart, the late professor of English, and longtime writer and editor with National Review: “All you can do is dominate your era. You can’t compete against those who came before, and you can’t compete against those who will come later. All you can do is dominate your era.”

So true.

Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven? I say yes. Do we have to choose one? Can’t we celebrate, and be grateful for, them all?

Washington or Lincoln? People like to argue: “Washington is the greater because he had to start it all.” “Yeah, but Lincoln had to save it all.”

Etc., etc.

I have played these games a lot in my life — and still do, on occasion — but I think people spend too much time ranking.

And yet: Tom Brady. Holy cow. I mean, goodness gracious. David French circulated a video of a talk — a presentation — given by Nick Wright, an ESPN analyst. Brady has played 21 years in the NFL. Wright breaks down his career in thirds: the first seven years; the second seven years; and the third.

As Wright demonstrates, each of those seven-year periods — by itself — is a Hall of Fame career. And Brady has three of them. And he ain’t done yet.

Holy smokes (to repeat).

• I’m pretty sure I saw a commercial for Corona beer during the Super Bowl. In any case: The coronavirus has not killed off the beer, as far as I can tell.

Do you know there used to be diet candies — appetite suppressants — called “Ayds” (pronounced “aids”)? Yup. Very popular.

• For reasons I could explain, a friend and I were discussing Mario Lemieux, who starred in the NHL for about 20 years. His nickname — or one of them — was “The Difference” — “because, when he played, it happened,” as my friend explained. He made the difference.

I do believe that’s my favorite nickname in sports: “The Difference.”

• A little language? When golf announcers say “pace,” they don’t mean pace. The pace of something is the speed of something, whether it’s slow or fast. “The pace of play on this course is slow.”

Isn’t it always?

But listen to what today’s announcers say: “He needed more pace on that putt” — he should have hit it harder. “That putt had too much pace on it” — it was going too fast.

So strange (and very new).

• A little music? For a little post on a little waltz — composed by Schubert in honor of the marriage of a friend of his — go here.

• Jessica Hornik is a poet and a colleague of mine. She has a poem in the current New Criterion: “Coltsfoot,” here. The poem begins,

The coltsfoot is in bloom —
are words no one
has ever been moved to say.

Frankly, I had never heard of coltsfoot, before this poem. I have a lot to learn about flowers (though I love them so).

The poem has a boffo ending:

with some unnameable beauty —
like a nothing-special
sunset, when the light
just goes.

A neat, brief, offbeat, wonderful poem.

• Over and over, in book after book, the Bible speaks of wisdom and knowledge — making a distinction between the two. I was pondering this recently. And I thought of something light, which a reader shared with me years ago:

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable; wisdom is knowing not to include one in a fruit salad.

Have a good day, my friends. See you.

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[By: Jay Nordlinger

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