Bill Bishop, co-author of the book “The Big Sort” and a founder of The Daily Yonder, makes the case that the political split in America is not an urban-rural divide. Instead, he argues, it is between the largest cities and the rest of America.
In an email, Bishop noted thatoutside of cities of a million or more — and really outside of the 56 central city counties of these large metros — Democrats lose.This applies not only to presidential races, but to the House as well. In a piece for The Daily Yonder, Bishop wrote that “Democrats don’t have a ‘rural problem.’ They have an ‘everywhere-but-big-cities problem’.” He provided data on the pattern of partisan victory in 2014 House races on a scale from super urban to very rural. Democrats won a majority of districts only in the most urban counties, while Republicans won two out of every three in very rural districts.
Bishop argued in his email to me that “the split isn’t just about politics. It’s about lifestyle and identity.” Increasingly, where you liveis tied into lifestyle and lifestyle aligns with politics. Politics, like lifestyle, is one way we construct our identities.The accelerated shift toward urban prosperity and exurban-to-rural stagnation reinforces polarizing disagreements between city and country on matters ranging from family values to education to child rearing practices to religious faith.
The two maps below show results by county in 1992, when Bill Clinton first won the presidency, and in 2016, when Trump did. The maps demonstrate the strategic hurdles currently confronting both parties. In 1992, Bill Clinton won 1,519 counties to 1,582 carried by George H. W. Bush. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won majorities in 490 counties to Trump victories in 2622. Obama won 875 counties in 2008 and 693 in 2012.