Do population changes help red America or blue America?

In many cases, the changes generally do not bode well for Republicans.

Portrait of Froma Harrop
Portrait of Froma Harrop

Growing populations are giving two additional seats in Congress to Texas and one to Florida. New York and California are each losing a seat, not because their head counts are falling but because they're not rising as fast.

Do these population changes also alter the states' politics? In many cases, yes, and that generally does not bode well for Republicans. Texas, for example, voted for Donald Trump in 2020, but many of its urban areas did not -- and those are the parts of Texas booming with transplants from outside the state.

The capital, Austin, one of America's hottest cities attracting newcomers, is a liberal supernova in what was a securely red Texas. Austin is the No. 1 destination for tech workers leaving San Francisco. Another is Georgia, a former Republican stronghold that just shocked the world by favoring Joe Biden for president and sending two Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

Austin and the surrounding Travis County gave President Joe Biden 72 percent of its votes. Nearly every officeholder in Travis County is now a Democrat.

Apple will soon open a $1 billion Austin campus with 5,000 workers. Alphabet (Google's parent), Amazon and Facebook, meanwhile, are expanding their footprints in the city. Suffice it to say, Austin is unlikely to become less liberal -- or less important in Texas politics.


But what made politicos truly take notice was Williamson County. Home to Austin's fast-growing and historically Republican northern suburbs, Williamson also went for Biden.

Biden took other booming states that have been destinations for blue-state Americans -- Colorado, Nevada and Washington. Another, Arizona, just flipped its presidential preference from Republican to Democrat.

And so, while Republicans in the rapidly growing states tout the magnetic pull of their lower taxes and laxer regulations, they can't help but notice that the newcomers are not entirely with their program. Some recent arrivals may even consider themselves conservative but regard the Trump takeover of the Republican Party with distaste.

Mark Pulliam fancies himself a Paul Revere of the right, warning conservative regions against these "colonizing" leftists. Writing in the conservative City Journal, Pulliam casts scorn on Austin's "fashionable but impractical urbanist transportation initiatives" -- he has a problem with bike lanes -- and "business-unfriendly ordinances." (Right. Austin's "business-unfriendly ordinances" must be why half the businesses in America, it seems, want to move there.)

On The Federalist website, Pulliam warns that "wokeness is everywhere, even in the brightest-red areas of Republican-majority states." One would be his small town in east Tennessee, which he doesn't name but I will. It's Maryville. Apparently, Maryville College, a 200-year-old Presbyterian-affiliated liberal arts college, exposed the community to a visiting religious studies professor who praised Karl Marx and said nothing about Jesus. Pulliam also went apoplectic over some choices on the local library's "antiracism" reading list. And a "leftist activist," he rails on, was elected to the city council.

I happen to share some of Pulliam's skepticism toward the nether regions of wokeness, but you know, the liberal had a right to run for council, and the voters had a right to elect her. Labeling everyone you disagree with as "activist" or "leftist" or both -- as Pulliam does -- is not a great way to engage.

As a reality check, Maryville's county, Blount County, did give Trump 71 percent of its votes. Eastern Tennessee seems a long way off from becoming the Brooklyn of the South.

In 2020, Biden won 85 percent of the counties with a Whole Foods store. Austin has six Whole Foods stores. There's no Whole Foods in Maryville -- yet. There are two Starbucks, though. How about that?


Froma Harrop is a nationally syndicated columnist whose work regularly appears in the Grand Forks Herald.

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