I am a red state liberal. I know, I know we aren’t supposed to be a “thing” but we are. There is something that goes on but often goes unaddressed within liberal circles- the tension between some red state and blue state liberals. There are some things that we liberals in the red states would like people to know about us. Here are some of them-enjoy!
1. We stay in our red states for various reasons.
I live in Mississippi. I came here to go to school, and I fell in love with the people. So I stayed. Many people live in red states because that is where they have always lived. It’s where their family is. Some of us couldn’t move if we wanted to due to finances or family obligations. Some of us love our jobs, our homes, our neighbors, our communities- basically all the reasons people stay in blue states. Our choice to live here and not let the right wing just have ownership of our home states should be respected, not ridiculed or questioned with statements like “why don’t you just leave.”
2) We do fight back!
Just because you see a Republican controlled state running amok doesn’t mean that liberals on the ground are not fighting back. We are! Mississippi is a great example for every horrible bill you see signed by our Governor there are 30-40 more that people fought to get rid of. Just because you don’t see it in the news doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
3) Those really bad laws the GOP tries out in red states? Your states aren’t immune.
I often hear from blue state liberals that they are so grateful they don’t “live in a state like Mississippi.” On the surface, I understand what they mean. I also think they are naive to think the Koch brothers, ALEC, Americans United for Life, the Tea Party, and other groups with far right agendas plan to confine their activities to red states. They do not. For proof, look no further than the U.S. House of Representatives, where the same extreme abortion laws we have seen at the state level are being presented at the federal level.
4) We need your support, not your pity or your scorn.
Here’s the thing: we red state liberals get that red states statistically receive more federal tax money than we kick in. We get it. What is not productive is every time there is an article or discussion about something happening in one of our states that the people on our side fight to remind us. We aren’t the other side. We are on the team. It isn’t helpful in conversations about red states to default to “I feel so sorry for you.” Don’t. It’s not helpful to tell us how our states are so <fill in the blank>. Blue states aren’t without problems of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and oppression. Red states don’t own these areas. What is helpful is that we all support each other in making strides in politics and liberal causes.
5) We do exist!
Since I live in the very red state of Mississippi, I get this all the time: “Where are the liberals in your state?” We are here. We are on the ground doing work; we are raising money for candidates, fighting back against horrid legislation and ballot initiatives, working for environmental causes and a host of other things. Just because you see big gains by the republicans doesn’t even mean it’s a true representation of the states electorate. Look no further than the effect gerrymandering has had on Pennsylvania where, despite a slight majority of democrats, the voting lines are skewed in favor of the GOP.
The bottom line is when people say things like “why doesn’t state X just secede” they are speaking about all of us in that state including the liberals. When liberals choose to dismiss and write off the efforts of liberals running for office in red states because “it’s too hard” or “it’s hopeless” we are effectively saying people in those states don’t deserve the same freedoms and opportunities that we believe in. When we as liberals traffic in classist stereotypes about whole areas of the country being stupid, poor, and uneducated we are no better than people who are trying to restrict who can vote and saying it’s for the same reasons.
We are supposed to be the big tent group. That tent reaches over red states too. Sometimes we don’t feel the love.