By Celeste Duffie
“I’m leaving on a jet plane. I don’t know when I’ll be back again. Kiss me and smile for me. Tell me that you’ll wait for me” – John Denver.
Look away, look away, Dixie Land
I recently found information online that April is celebrated as Confederate Heritage Month. I was surprised to learn that the Confederacy, which I assumed was a thing of the past, seems to be experiencing a resurgence in population and economy. Over the years, people and businesses have quietly migrated from blue states to the former Confederacy. These individuals are commonly referred to as “leftugees.”
Leftugees are people who have moved away from densely populated blue states due to reasons that could include high taxes, burdensome business regulations, and high crime rates. In light of this trend and the revival of the Confederacy, I thought it would be worth it to take a look and examine what is drawing these leftugees to old Dixie.
The past is prologue
The aftermath of the Civil War left the South in a state of ruin. The agricultural economy was in shambles, the infrastructure was destroyed, and the region quickly became the poorest in the country.
Furthermore, the defeat of the Confederate Army and the abolition of slavery dealt a significant blow to the Democratic party. In hindsight, it was necessary to destroy the slave-owning South, as secession from the nation was not a viable option, either economically or morally. As a result, the bloody “War of Northern Aggression” had to be fought. However, the cost of decimating the South was immense.
The Southern region has faced significant economic and social challenges for many years. Progress has been slow due to stagnant wages, subpar educational outcomes, and a lack of investment and development in the industrial sector. In addition, the larger society has often regarded the culture and people who emerged post-war as backwards and buffoonish.
To Southerners, the Confederacy represented the Federalist ideal that individual states would have the right to self-governance without interference from the federal government. But this was not the reality after the Civil War, as federal troops occupied Southern states with enforcing the new laws guaranteeing black people equal rights. Despite the bleakness of their circumstances, Southerners held onto the belief that the “South will rise again” and began to rebuild white communities from the rubble.
Who’s sorry now
Currently, there is a notable shift in migratory patterns, as leftugees are leaving Blue States and relocating to Red States. But what has made these red states suddenly so appealing? According to the New York Times, they are more “pro-business.”
In a recent article, economist Mark J. Perry compared ten states from which people are moving to ten states where people are moving. He found that the states gaining population have lower taxes, fewer restrictions on home construction, and lower energy costs. Moreover, these individuals are moving to economically thriving red states that offer lower costs, conservative fiscal policies, and job opportunities.
Traditionally, the South has been a preferred destination for retirees seeking a lower cost of living, and this trend went largely unnoticed. However, the pandemic has brought attention to this trend, as businesses and young families also relocate to the South. For many individuals in blue states, pandemic response measures were viewed as overly strict. Lockdown protocols, mandatory mask-wearing, and school closures may have prompted some leftugees to look towards the South, where they found inviting communities and commerce-friendly policies that managed the pandemic response without the authoritarian clampdowns observed in many blue states. The widespread adoption of telework policies allowed leftugees to take their accumulated wealth and move to the South, leaving blue states with a depleted tax base.
This migration trend is not limited to interstate relocation but applies to county-level movement within states. For example, during the urban unrest that plagued cities across the US during the George Floyd protests, many residents saw it as a signal to escape the chaos and embrace remote work due to the pandemic. According to a Forbes article, this phenomenon drove many individuals out of urban centers and into nearby suburbs, such as Sterling Ranch, just 15 miles outside Denver. Sterling Ranch is a planned community that touts itself as a model community of the future, featuring natural open lands, trails, and an abundance of innovative home technologies. The safety and lifestyle benefits these planned communities offer have attracted leftugees beyond the mile-high city. However, the demand for these enclaves far exceeds the supply, making it challenging to meet the needs of those looking to relocate.
The article reports, “Between the high crime, oppressive taxes, high cost of living, lockdowns and cold winter weather in places like New York, people are looking for a new life in a safer, more comfortable environment.”
The recent migratory patterns are raising concerns among blue state governors who are starting to recognize the potential fiscal challenges ahead. With a reduction in tax receipts, there are no guarantees during these uncertain times. However, the greater challenge lies in the unknown implications of these population shifts on future social and political systems, leading to increased anxiety and hampering proper governance.
The growing political and social polarization in America is evident in recent migration trends, as blue states become bluer and red states become redder. According to the New York Times, many individuals leaving blue states are relocating to blue cities within red states. This migration has benefited these blue cities, while pro-business policies in red states are allowing companies to attract employees to relocate. However, these population shifts raise questions about the future implications for social and political systems and may also impact the fiscal outlook for some states.
Many people are motivated to relocate by the promise of a better standard of living and improved financial opportunities. Individuals also seek out communities where they can coexist with like-minded individuals with similar values. In the past, people often segregated themselves into homogenous communities based on race and ethnicity. However, ideological alignment seems more important today than shared racial or ethnic identity. As an illustration, people who identify as liberal, regardless of race or ethnicity, often have similar lifestyles and interests.
These trends suggest that Americans are increasingly unwilling to tolerate living under values that don’t align with their own, especially if they are expected to bear the costs. Unfortunately, blue states seem to struggle to address their issues with providing public safety, rising homelessness rates, and increasing housing costs. Without a clear plan to tackle these issues, it seems likely that these trends will continue into the foreseeable future.
The last laugh
For centuries, cities have been the backbone of a nation’s economy and the epitome of cultural refinement. Individuals flocked to cities in search of job opportunities, but they remained to partake in the latest cultural trends. Additionally, cities served as a hub for people from diverse ethnic groups, social classes, and backgrounds to intermingle in a way that would have been otherwise impossible.
The pandemic has transformed the way people view urbanization. Fear and isolation caused individuals to stay indoors and limit contact with others. As a result, urbanization lost its appeal during the pandemic, and its effects are expected to last for some time. Although the pandemic was rare, its lasting consequences have yet to be fully realized.
There is an increasing demand for a lifestyle that cannot be found in cities. Many people crave clean and open public spaces, vibrant local economies, and communities free from drugs, homelessness, and crime. This is a lifestyle that leftugees are hoping to find in red states.
Consequently, those unhappy with their current living situations choose to relocate, and this migration alters the American landscape. If this pattern persists, cities may be inhabited primarily by the wealthy or those in dire need. If leaders in blue states cannot envision urban environments that offer the lower prices of red states, then the era of urbanization may be coming to an end. As a result, it is possible that the South may in fact “rise again.”
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