AMAC Exclusive by: David P. Deavel
Americans, along with our allies and much of the world, have watched with horror as the Biden Administration, which the Democratic Party and its media adjuncts have been promoted as the return of “the adults,” have abandoned Afghanistan in a way seemingly calculated to be as destructive as possible to our own troops and civilian workers, the Afghans who worked with us, our other allies, and our credibility with our allies and our enemies. After the Trump Administration’s triumphs in the Middle East, toughness on Russia, and first attempts to push back on Chinese ambitions, Team Biden’s destruction provides schadenfreude for those who warned about its dangers but also serious worry for Americans who do not relish the danger to and humiliation of their country.
But the dangers to our country do not simply come from outside. Punitive taxation, poor services, and failure to do the basic work of keeping citizens safe has led to an exodus of blue state residents that promises greater power to red states. . .but also the danger that these havens will be destroyed. Conservatives need to work hard to make sure that those fleeing California, New York, and other increasingly fouled nests understand why the nests to which they have relocated do not have the same stench.
The promise of the internal migration could be found in our last census results. States that lost seats— California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia—were largely blue except for Ohio and West Virginia. States that gained seats— Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas (the last gaining two)—were largely red apart from Colorado and Oregon.
Yet the danger can be seen in this list, too. Colorado was a red state that turned blue only under Obama. Arizona, which did not gain or lose seats this time, nevertheless took in enough blue-state refugees to achieve a drastic transformation. As Victoria Taft wrote in her 2020 postmortem on the elections in the state: “The Seattle Times reports that the refugees from California, Washington, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Minnesota, Nevada, Florida, and Utah, in that order, fled to the state with Cactus League baseball, more conservative politics, the Grand Canyon, and the Red Rocks of Sedona. And then they approved legal pot, the state’s highest tax increase ever, and put Democrats in the highest offices – the Senate and White House – to ensure their new home will be every bit as expensive and over-regulated as the one from which they fled. Toke up, ‘Zonies!”
It’s not just questions of taxes and drug laws, however. It’s the approach to culture as well. On our annual road trip this summer, my family passed through Montana both ways, visiting relatives on the way there and back who have fled from California and Washington. All of them were very happy to live in the Treasure State, with its culture of freedom, smaller, livable towns, and beauty. But they were also worried about the changes in culture that are portended by the movement of others who moved without the same desire to embrace Montana’s atmosphere of freedom and community. One cousin, who serves as town manager in a small town, noted the robust growth in population and permits to build homes, but also recounted awkward encounters between newcomers and Montanans. It’s not just Californians. New Yorkers have also been coming in droves, and one story involved a New Yorker who not onlybullied neighbors into getting rid of their geese but bragged about it around town. A store owner I spoke with in another small town expressed the same sorts of worries about culture, particularly attitudes to law enforcement as well as self-defense. She was worried that the crime of Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco would be transplanted—along with the insane policies that have allowed it to fester and grow. Would Montana become the “Treasure to Trash” State?
Not every destination state has had Arizona’s fate. But the ones that have not have been pro-active. Driving through Billings, I was pleased to see a billboard with a grainy picture of urban violence reading: “Don’t Want Portland in Montana? Vote Republican.” But there needs to be more of this sort of thing, what University of Tennessee Law professor and Instapundit blogger Glenn Reynolds has called a “Welcome Wagon” project. Both Florida and Texas have remained and even deepened their own red state voting patterns as well as traditions of independence, freedom, and free enterprise. But both states have politicians and law enforcement agents who have actively courted migrants from other states while making clear to them that they need to think about why they are thinking about moving from their own states to this state.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted last year: “To the Californians moving to Texas: Remember those high taxes, burdensome regulations, & socialistic agenda advanced in CA? We don’t believe in that. We believe in less government & more individual freedom. If you agree with that you’ll fit right in.” He then started a petition titled “Don’t California My Texas” and signed into law a measure called the 1836 Project that would mandate education about Texas’s history of freedom. In a similar way, Florida’s Polk County Sheriff issued a stern warning to newcomers to the Sunshine State, the biggest destination last year for Americans moving within the country, earlier this year: “Do me a favor, don’t vote the way the majority of the people voted from where you came or you’ll have here what you had there. Guaranteed.”
America is not yet—thank God—Afghanistan. Nor is it all contemporary California or New York. But if conservatives want to keep the chaos out, they are going to have to become increasingly vigilant about keeping solid the parts of Americathat retain the American way of living in freedom, self-government, and solidarity with each other. They must keep convincing people moving in to work with and trust their fellow citizens—and not delegate all decisions for life to the elites who have wrecked our foreign and so much of our domestic policy.
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.