Blue Cities…

That cities are “blue” has become a truism. For the past several election cycles, the nation’s urban areas have repeatedly voted Democratic, while more rural parts of the nation have remained–or become increasingly–Red.

But “blue” also means “sad,” and according to a New York Times story a few weeks back, that meaning is also applicable to cities, if –like Indianapolis–they are located in a Red state.

The article focused upon St. Louis; the author noted that while conservatives love to point to San Francisco as an example of failed “liberal” policies, places like St. Louis demonstrate the harms done by conservative state legislatures.

St. Louis’s significantly more dire problems don’t neatly fit that conservative-media narrative. Unlike San Francisco, St. Louis is a blue island in a red state, and conservative state policies have at least partly driven the city’s decline. More apt parallels to St. Louis are places like Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis; Nashville; and Little Rock, Ark. — liberal enclaves that in a macrocosm of the worst kind of family dysfunction are at the mercy of conservative state governments. The consequences of this dysfunction can be far-reaching.

The article noted that  St. Louis has been losing population for years, a situation exacerbated by the coronavirus. The pandemic especially emptied out the office workers, “who scattered away to Zoom from their suburban homes and have not fully returned.”

A July 2022 Brookings Institution analysis described urban population loss during the pandemic as “historic.” The report highlighted cities like San Francisco, New York, Washington and Boston — and St. Louis. Some downtowns have since bounced back. St. Louis, like San Francisco, isn’t among them.

The reasons are debatable, but St. Louis’s politically fraught relationship with the Republican-controlled state government certainly hasn’t helped. Even as St. Louis leaders and schools struggled to navigate the once-in-a-century plague by following federal pandemic guidelines and expert advice, they had to contend with a barrage of lawsuits from the Republican state attorney general (now the state’s junior senator), Eric Schmitt, demanding that they drop their mask mandates.

Missouri Republicans also echo the accusations of Hoosier politicians who claim that crime is out of control. In Missouri, that led to the legislature attempting a state takeover of the city’s police force.

The narrative from the right was that the city’s soft-on-crime policies were to blame for the unmoored violence that is driving the city’s economic decline, so the police need to be under outside control.

That narrative sounds very familiar to anyone in Indianapolis who has seen the television ads of this year’s GOP candidate for mayor, who (inexplicably) wants to govern a place he evidently considers an urban hell-hole.

 Left out of that narrative is the fact that gun crime here is abetted by Missouri gun laws that are among the loosest in the nation. Virtually anyone can walk around the city with a gun, with no state-mandated background check and few state-level restrictions, and there’s next to nothing the police can do about it until the shooting starts. The state has rebuffed all entreaties from the city to be allowed to enforce some kind of permit requirement.

We have precisely the same situation in Indiana, where the Republican super-majority in our legislature has ignored both public sentiment and law enforcement testimony in favor of “permit-less carry.”

Republican critics maintain it is the city’s de-emphasizing of policing that’s the real problem, and as such, the legislature in 2021 passed a state law that effectively penalizes cities that cut their police budgets. But even the largest St. Louis police force would still be policing a city flooded with unregulated guns and few tools to confront them, courtesy of the same Republican state leaders. A current effort to pass a statewide ballot referendum that would go around lawmakers to give St. Louis the authority to impose firearms permits and other reforms is the kind of Hail Mary the city is left with.

At least Missouri allows referenda–in Indiana, there is absolutely no check on the culture warriors in the Statehouse, who were elected by  to rule over us by mostly rural voters.

The state has been unhelpful in other ways. The largest-ever Missouri state income tax cut, which lawmakers passed last year, will inevitably affect St. Louis and every other city in Missouri, where basics like infrastructure and education remain chronically underfunded.

It’s the same situation in Indiana, made even more frustrating by the fact that Indianapolis is the economic engine of the state. Evidently, none of the “good old boys” running things in the Statehouse have ever heard of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs…


  1. Agenda driven idiocy is rampant in the red states of the country and has no connection to facts. Guns are like bacteria, omnipresent, and now those who manufacture them are pushing child-sized machine guns, because, what the hell, they simply can.
    And, the worse off the blue cities seem to be, the more the Republicans can play the blame game.

  2. The far right republican culture war bigots are willing to destroy the entire country to get what they want.

  3. The last time the “good old boys” here in Indiana got their greedy hands on Indianapolis they drained it for all they could. Millions were spent on “consultants” with nothing to show for that effort. Now, due in large measure to Republican obsession with doing the bidding of the NRA, gun deaths in the city have risen to horrible numbers. And so what do the Republican’s aim to do about it?
    Well, look at the Mayor’s race that is pitting Joe Hogsett against some twerp named Jefferson Shrive. The Mayor and the voters know where the problem lies; it is with the unbelievably easy access to guns. So Mayor Joe builds his campaign around going after those stupid Republican laws that allow any damn fool to buy and carry a gun. When the early polling slows that the voters are with Joe, sniveling Shrive comes out copying Joe’s plan…. claiming that as an “successful businessman” he can change his mind. The timing for this change is dubious at best since just last April he was singing another song.
    Meanwhile, the death toll in the cities rises as the Republicans rape and pillage the farmlands and drive more of the educated population out of the state.
    Indiana… the Mississippi of the north.

  4. Civilization in the city is sustainable, rural living is going out of business. That’s a long, slow, agonizing process. However, as we have ignored AGW for too long, civilization in the great coastal cities will be increasingly assaulted by rising sea level and temperature and therefore extreme weather. In the US, southern coastal cities will be left behind in another long, slow, agonizing process. Northern coastal cities will be partially and usefully salvaged but at huge expense spent on many yet to be invented technologies.

    Us old farts will leave with all the goodies. Future generations will be taught the kind of resilience that our pioneering ancestors lived and died with. I wouldn’t claim we have been the favored ones but we’re certainly the luckiest generation.

  5. So, how is it that the population centers who are predominantly “blue” can’t overcome the rural vote that puts these Republican idiots in power? If one looks at an election map of Texas, for example, the major cities look like blue dots in a wasteland of red. And yet… there is enough rural voter turnout to elect creatures like Ted Cruz, Louis Gohmert, Gregg Abbott, et. al.

    Thing is, we rational people must find a way to activate the blue majorities to vote if we’re ever going to save the nation from the fascists trying to emulate Nazi Germany. As I’ve noted before, it’s the 30% that cause 75% of the reasons for social decline. We, the 70% are obliged to all those tombstones in military cemeteries to honor their sacrifice by saving the nation from the red plague of fascism.

  6. The root cause of violence in cities like St Louis and Indianapolis is the black market for drugs and other illegal goods. These cities have areas where law enforcement is not welcome, allowing gangs and black markets to thrive. Gun control alone will not solve the problem. Decriminalizing drugs and regulating their sale could help choke off the black market and provide funds for rehabilitation programs.

    I wonder how prevalent private prisons are in St. Louis and Missouri. This cabal would be working against any efforts to decriminalize drugs in those markets.

    Make a legit career more attractive than a life of crime – I believe that should be the goal. As long as crime pays, guess what?

  7. I agree with Pete! We’re leaving a future Armageddon to the next generation to deal with. It’s truly sick. Boomers have had our heads in the sand from minute we gained power. Our legacy is a not good. We’ve seen no end of advancement in technology and no end of disdain for humanity. We should be ashamed!

  8. Republicans seem to be willing to kill the state’s economic engine (both St. Louis and Kansas City) because the increased gun violence in cities plays to their narrative. That means the voters they can still dup, and it’s a lot of them outside the cites, will continue to vote for Republicans. It seems that winning at any cost has never meet an ounce of morality with any Republican despite 40 years of evidence that trickle down economics doesn’t work and more guns doesn’t make you safer.

    I have to laugh when people that live outside the cities comment that “gun violence doesn’t affect them” and then a mass shooting at a rural car show makes national headlines. Why? Because it was “so unexpected”!

  9. I could not agree more with Shreve’s published gun policy. But it is dead on arrival. There is absolutely no reason to believe the World’s Worst Legislature will allow any part of it to become law. Shreve is not delusional, however. It’s worse. He is patronizing. Hogsett needs to run ads agreeing with Shreve’s gun control objectives but pointing out the (obvious) impossibility of achieving them and instead arguing for the need to find solutions that will work under current conditions (I know, there might be few options there). He could point out Shreve’s disingenuosness as well as the stupidity of state house Republicans’ devotion to lax gun laws.

  10. The fascist captors of the Republican party in league with the NRA have done a good job in selling America on the proposition that we have a constitutional right to unfettered ownership and public carry of guns. Somehow, unlike the regulation of poisons, licensing to drive, seat belts etc., this proposition in spite of the resulting slaughter has made its way into our judicial system under various sub-propositions of shallow logic, as though we live as pioneers in a former frontier of Indians and animals which would justify public ownership and carry.

    Cause and effect > If there were no guns readily available in both cities and rural areas, would we have gangs and illegal drugs? A mafia? A spate in suicides? We don’t know because we haven’t tried to remove such a means of gang and drug enforcement and self-destruction. We are by far the world’s leader in death by guns and thus crime occasioned by the use of guns, and in my considered opinion the reason why is the availability of guns and public carry to each and all per the combination of NRA propaganda and payoffs (aka “campaign contributions”) to legislators which, in my further opinion, is only one level away from bordering on reckless homicide and/or involuntary manslaughter, civil suit etc.

  11. If enough of the urban liberals scatter to the suburbs and surrounding semi-rural areas, this will tend to change the red complexion of those areas toward purple. Anything that reduces sharp divides and moves us toward better balance is good. Can we take some hope from this? Something to think about.

  12. Sharon,

    The only attractions in rural Indiana are traditional schools and churches. While this may appeal to some families, job opportunities are limited. Remote work is an option, but after graduation, many young people leave for more progressive communities with better job prospects and more exciting climates and amenities.

  13. Theresa’s comment about the Indianapolis Mayoral race and the Republican candidate Jefferson Shreve has an interesting connection; just watched his campaign ad again reporting that crime rates have risen 52% here since 2016 under Mayor Hogsett. Guess the Republicans haven’t made a connection to the fact that Trump was appointed president in 2016. Just sayin’

  14. Todd. I wasn’t thinking only of Indiana, but see your point. Still, urban sprawl seems bound to change the political character of previously rural areas. Think about the donut counties around Indianapolis. Presumably similar changes are happening all over the country. Have the counties around Fort Wayne experienced this yet?

  15. In the ad Shreve says smart business people change their minds when the facts change. There’s only one key fact which changed: the office he’s now seeking. He knows a gun-toting, gun-loving Republican can’t win in a blue city and conveniently ‘changed his mind’. It’s the equivalent of Trump’s plans to update our country’s infrastructure. Plain BS, never happened. Won’t happen.

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