The blue-state exodus gains momentum

Nine years ago I published a piece that asserted, “Voters around the country are concluding it’s better to be red than dead,” applying almost the exact opposite meaning to an old phrase referring to communism. New Census Bureau figures appear to confirm my prediction — mostly.

My point was that many voters were, and are, increasingly fed up with the high taxes, heavy regulations and increasing social wokeness that have come to characterize most blue states — i.e., those dominated by liberal politicians and policies.

I argued that voters wanting to live in a business-friendly, fiscally responsible state that minimizes its tax burden would either vote out the liberals destroying their state’s economy or flee to a red state. The latest Census Bureau report highlights the red-state shift.


According to an Election Data Services analysis of the Census Bureau report, “The population projections point toward a ten [congressional] seat change over 17 states across the nation by year 2020.”

Seven states are projected to gain one or more congressional seats after the 2020 election; 10 states are projected lose one seat.

The red-state leader is Texas, with a projected pickup of three congressional seats following the 2020 census — and that after gaining four congressional seats after the 2010 election. Florida will pick up two seats, and Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one, according to the analysis.

All 10 losing states — Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia — lose only one seat.

Of the seven states gaining seats, five voted for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE in the 2016 presidential election. Of the 10 states losing seats, five voted for Trump and five for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE

But two of those five losing states that voted for Trump — Michigan and Pennsylvania — surprised most analysts since they have been blue-leaners for several years. And West Virginia is losing population in part because of a struggling state economy that has been so dependent on coal.


Arguably, even some of the blue-state gainers may support my general point.

If you are blue-leaning Californian who wants to escape the Golden State’s drift into madness but stay on the left coast, Oregon might be a reasonable alternative.

Ditto for Colorado, which has turned from red to bluish over the last decade or so as Californians increasingly head for the hills, so to speak.

But that trend also highlights a problem: Some of the people fleeing destructive blue-state taxes and regulations appear to drag their pro-big-government philosophy with them — apparently oblivious to the fact that those policies destroyed the state they are trying to escape. 

One can even see that dynamic occurring in Texas. For a decade or so, liberals have been predicting (not to mention hoping) that Texas’s growing Hispanic population would turn the state from deep red to purple and perhaps even blue.

But there is another factor: Texas has become one of the primary destinations for disaffected Californians, as more and more California businesses have concluded it’s time to go where they will be appreciated.

In addition, many California families have decided to migrate to Texas simply to find more affordable housing, lower taxes and streets that aren’t rife with homeless people, feces and used drug paraphernalia. And Texas even has a 367-mile-long coast!

But we cannot overstate the significance of the Census Bureau’s top-line finding: Texas will gain two or three congressional seats after 2020, while California will likely lose one.

That’s a big deal for California, which has never lost a congressional seat. It is a tacit repudiation of California’s over-the-top taxes and policies. Some of the other blue states, such as New York and Illinois, have been bleeding people for years. 

Several years ago, I interviewed the editor of Chief Executive magazine, which conducts an annual CEO survey of the best and worst states to do business. The editor told me the survey had two constants: Texas always comes in as the best state to do business, and California always comes in dead last. Oh, and Florida, which is projected to gain two seats, usually comes in second place.

It was only a matter of time before both businesses and individuals began voting with their feet. And that time has apparently come.

More importantly, the blue-state exodus is only a snapshot of what dissatisfaction will emerge if those blue-state policies take over the White House.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.