This past week was The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College, PA. It is a fairly large event as these sorts of things go, drawing 125,000 or so people to Happy Valley to browse the art/craft booths, see live music, eat festival food, and just generally hang out.
These are also events that draw political activity, like any fair or festival, and this one was no different. Democrat/liberal/progressive causes were on full display. One of the entry points to the portion of the festival that is on the Penn State campus had pro-choice protests, complete with people sharing their stories:
There was also a Democratic campaign presence outside a gay bar downtown and the two folks at the table report signing up people to vote.
Further down one of State College’s many attractive side streets where the festival was taking place, there were college students promoting Democratic candidates.
Note the cutout of The Big Guy, i.e. our Democratic candidate for senator, John Fetterman. Our candidate for governor, Josh Shapiro, also had a presence promoting his campaign against Crazed January 6 Insurrectionist Doug Mastriano.
I point this out because our two state races are deeply important for preserving our democracy, just like other state races all over the nation. If you are surprised at the Democratic presence, but then write it off as “well it’s a college town,” that is partially right. It’s partially right in the same way that Grouchy Political Pundit James Carville was in his famous “Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh in the west, Philadelphia in the east, with Alabama in between” quote.
But this is too simplistic. Pennsylvania is really “Pittsburgh in the west, Philadelphia in the east, with a red sea with blue islands in between.” This includes college towns, sure, but non-college towns and small cities as well. This link regarding the 2016 election, that one that Trump barely won Pennsylvania during, illustrates it quite well.
This map in particular, from the link:
I grew up within the limits of York, PA, a racially diverse small city. It is certainly a blue area. But just outside this blue area, there is a red sea. Hence the reference to blue islands on a red sea. Same with Lancaster, Reading, Harrisburg, Gettyburg, and so on.
Quick diversion: if you see Lancaster and think “so Amish vote Democratic?” all you are telling me is you have no idea what Lancaster is (a pretty cool, quirky little city). Plus, if you pronounce it Land-caster and not, Lang-kister, you are what is known as “wrong.”
Anyway, within these blue islands are a lot of votes, and in a close election, these votes are very important. And if you live in a red area, as I do, it does not make you a Republican. My little town had 32% of its vote for Biden. Not much, but votes nonetheless. There really are Democrats/liberals/progressives in these red areas and ignoring that is nothing but oversimplifying, much like people who dismiss southern states as nothing but backward hayseeds are ignoring areas like the Black Belt and other Democratic portions (and those people are rightfully upset by that!).
There is a tendency in the United States to oversimplify regions of our country based on shallow stereotypes. For example, people might be surprised that my hometown of 45,000 people is diverse, including a thriving Hispanic population and some good Puerto Rican food. Same goes for Lancaster, despite the kind of odd belief that no one but Amish live there. People do not seem to be able to think of things beyond an oversimplistic model of understanding.
I think this misguided thinking is okay outside of politics, but not good when analyzing politics. Fetterman has done very well with his Visit Every County strategy because he knows there are important votes to be found in the places that too many consider backwoods merely because the buildings are all under 20 stories. You need to reach out to these people so they do not feel forgotten and end up not voting.
So, what may seem like Pennsyltucky-type region to you actually could be the Pennsyltucky Sea with a Blue Island in the middle. So don’t write these kinds of areas off. You might not only find some votes, you might just find a great coffee shop, a cool top-flight microbrewery, or some very good Hispanic food.
The last word goes to West Reading, PA native Taylor Swift (no, she’s not southern), singing about a Pennsylvania childhood.
One thought on “The Important Democratic Votes In Pennsyltucky”
very good summation, but I cringe re ” red” and ” blue” states, a divisive shorthand perpetrated by media ( map). There is no such thing as red state/ blue state! it’s bigotry in sheep’s clothing, lazy reporting and serves shallowness of US media.
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