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U.S. News and World Report’s Michael Barone on the realignment of America.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

HH: Joined now by U.S. News and World Report’s Michael Barone. Michael, always a pleasure to have you here.

MB: Always a pleasure to be with you, Hugh.

HH: Your piece on Opinion Journal today, the Realignment of America, instantly shot around America as political junkees began to read it. And demographics are destiny, and I guess what you’re writing here is that the interior boom towns like Las Vegas and Phoenix and Charlotte and Orlando and Tampa and Jacksonville, is that where the action is, Michael Barone?

MB: Well, it’s where we’re finding big flows of Americans. I mean, I took a look at the Census Bureau 2006 estimates, and compared them with the 2000 Census results, and where we are having what I call domestic inflow and domestic outflow, that is where… immigrant inflow. And what you see, and what I call the interior boom towns, sixteen big metro areas, is that there’s a very big movement into these. Something like four million people have moved into these areas net over the last six years. That’s big, and it’s…and what we see in contrast, those are cities like Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, et cetera, the Inland Empire of California, Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville, a different movement in what we call the coastal megalopolises. These are some of our biggest metro areas, for the most part, New York, Los Angeles, which the Census Bureau defines as Los Angeles and Orange County, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, Boston, San Diego. Here, you’re seeing large numbers, in most of these areas, large numbers of Americans moving out, large numbers of immigrants moving in. And you’re getting that sort of division between the rich and the poor that the Democrats are always complaining about. Interestingly, these are the areas that are the most Democratic.

HH: I want to quote from one of the closing paragraphs in the Realignment of America from Michael Barone this morning. “What’s now in store is a shifting of political weight from a small rust belt, which leans Democratic, and from the much larger coastal megalopolises, where both secular top earners and immigrant low earners vote heavily Democratic, toward the interior megalopolises, where most voters are private sector religious Republicans, but where significant immigration populations lead to Democrats. House seats and electoral votes will shift from New York, New Jersey and Illinois to Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. Within California, house seats will shift from the Democratic coasts to the Republican Inland Empire and central valley.” I think this is a cautious bit of good news for Republicans, Michael Barone, but you also seem to have a warning here that just because the population is heading to where they have been dominant in the past, doesn’t mean they’ll be dominant in the future there.

MB: That’s right, and the 2000 election results are a good hint to us that we ought to consider the possibility that areas that are more Republican than average won’t be Republican enough to elect Republicans nationally. That can happen. And I think when we’re looking at those interior boom towns, we’re seeing they’re very big movements of Americans. That tends to produce Republicans. They’re attracted there by the private sector growth. Also a significant movement of immigrants. Now when I’ve looked at Hispanic immigrants in Texas and Florida, in Arizona, what I see out of the exit polls and the area by area election returns, they’re not as heavily Democratic as Hispanics in coastal California, New York City, Chicago. They tend to adapt, perhaps, somewhat to the local terrain. They do on balance, though, vote for the Democrats, so there’s a caution there, saying the interior boom towns are getting bigger, but they may be getting a little less Democratic. And in ’04, the interior boom towns voted 56% for Bush, aggregated together. The coastal megalopolises voted 61% for John Kerry.

HH: Now Michael Barone, if you had to pick one factor, I made a guess that accounts for all of these independent indicators, is it the price of housing?

MB: Well, I think housing prices are one factor. Basically, the middle income is, people are priced out of Los Angeles County, to a considerable extent now. If they want to live on the west side of town, they need to get $1.7 million to buy a little house. Most middle income people can’t afford that. If they want to live in just a $400,000 dollar house, hey, that’s Latino South Central. And generally speaking, they don’t want to live in that kind of area. So what’s the answer? The answer is Las Vegas, the answer is Phoenix.

HH: And do these trends, do you see them accelerating? Or are they fairly constant over the six years you’ve studied?

MB: They’re fairly constant. You can see some evidence of the tech bust, for example, in the fact that there was outflow from Seattle, even though you always hear what a hip city it is, and people love the style. Domestically, there was outflow. More people left than came there. And San Francisco metro area, including the San Jose area, 10% domestic outflow. In other words, a number of people equal to 10% of their 2000 population net left…of Americans, left the San Francisco area.

HH: Wow.

MB: That’s pretty big.

HH: That’s big.

MB: Now that’s not…they left their heart in San Francisco, but they left it.

HH: Let me ask you, Michael Barone, as we’ve got a minute and a half left, I also want to switch subjects on you. Today is the pub date for Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers, your brand new book on the glorious revolution. Juxtaposed with Elizabeth II’s visit here last night, it’s really remarkable. How goes the rollout? I haven’t seen the book yet, and so I’m waiting to interview you until I’ve actually read it. But are you pleased with the rollout?

MB: Well, I’m pleased so far. You haven’t had, you know, I haven’t been on Katie Couric’s show, although I guess Katie Couric isn’t on it, either, very much. No, this is a book about an event that most Americans today, most educated Americans, really don’t know much about. And yet, it was a giant step forward for guaranteed rights, representative government, global capitalism, and an anti-tyrannical foreign policy, something we’re still involved in today. And it was a remarkable event and an unlikely one, something that really determined much of the shape of the nation, of the world that we live in now, and yet it would have been very easy for it not to happen. And so I think it’s an exciting story, as well as one that’s meaningful, and helps to explain how the world came to be what it is.

HH: I look forward to talking with you about it at length. Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America’s Founding Fathers by Michael Barone, out now, available at Michael, always a pleasure.

End of interview.

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