December 20, 2008

Realignment of America

by Kerby Anderson, Point of View: If you haven't noticed people move around quite a bit. And I am not just talking about your neighbors who drove off the other day in a U-Haul truck. I am talking about the realignment of America. I think we have all heard that the U.S. population is lowing from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt. But Michael Barone explains that the trends are a bit more complex than that. Let's start with what he calls the "Coastal megaloplises" (New York, Los Angeles, Miami, etc.). Here you find that Americans are moving out and immigrants are moving in with a low net population growth.

Contrast this with what he called "the Interior Boomtowns." Their population has grown 18 percent in six years. And this means that the nation's center of gravity is shifting. Dallas is now larger than San Francisco, Houston is larger than Boston, Charlotte is now larger than Milwaukee. Another section would be the old Rust Belt. The six metro areas (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Rochester) have lost population since 2000. And you also have "the Static Cities." These 18 metropolitan areas have little immigrant inflow and little domestic inflow or outflow.

The political impact of this realignment is significant. Many of the metro areas voted in significant proportions for John Kerry in 2004 while the Interior Boomtowns voted for George W. Bush. But there is more at stake than just the presidential election. In less than two years we will have another census, and that will determine congressional districts. House seats and electoral votes will shift from New York, New Jersey, and Illinois to Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. Social scientists say: "Demography is destiny." That is a simple way of saying that demographic changes alter our future. But you don't have to be a social scientist to see the impact. We all know that people move around, and that changes the political landscape. I'm Kerby Anderson, and that's my point of view.

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