Highway 61 revisited
By Scott Sumner
With Minnesota in the news, I was reminded of how much American politics has changed during my lifetime. In the 1984 election, Minnesota was the only blue state. That’s partly because Walter Mondale was from Minnesota, but not entirely. In the 1988 election, the Dems won Minnesota by 7 points vs. only 4 points in New York, while California actually went red.
Millennial readers might be shocked to know that Iowa was the second bluest state in the 1988 election, behind only highly Catholic Rhode Island. Dukakis actually did better in Iowa than in his home state of Massachusetts. In 2016, Trump won Iowa by a landslide, and came very close to winning Minnesota. In a political sense, Iowa is like Minnesota if you removed the Twin Cities metro area.
During my lifetime, American politics has been buffeted by many changes. Whites living in the South and in smaller towns in the North have switched on mass to the GOP, while whites in big metro areas have moved strongly toward the Democrats. Because I left Wisconsin in 1981, I no longer know my own state. Now when I read articles about Wisconsin politics it’s as if I’m reading about some exotic place like Turkmenistan. I don’t recognize the place that banned the death penalty 100 years before Britain and France and was a leader of the “progressive” movement in the early 1900s.
What will American politics look like in 2070?
PS. Highway 61 runs up the Mississippi River, through Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Its more famous southern end is the home of blues music.