For generations, West Virginia was a rock-solid Democratic "blue state" -- but it changed color like a chameleon. In all four presidential elections since 2000, West Virginia became a strong GOP "red state," and Republicans gained state-level offices.
Various sociologists say America is polarizing into two camps: Urban, well-educated, younger, secular, ethnically-diverse people are the heart of the Democratic blue base -- while older, less-educated, rural, churchly whites comprise the red sector.
"Americans [are] living in two separate worlds," Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt wrote last week. "... There is a blue America and a red America. And the colors have been deepening."
The sharp cleavage can be seen in a wide array of issues: guns, gay marriage, birth control, pot legalization, labor unions, immigration, etc.
"It comes as no surprise that some 60 percent of households in Montana own guns, compared with 13 percent in Rhode Island," Hiatt wrote, "or that, with similar populations, Missouri has six abortion providers and Maryland 34."
After the Connecticut grade-school massacre, he noted, blue Connecticut and Maryland banned assault weapons -- while red South Dakota authorized teachers to carry guns. In now-red West Virginia, 36 pro-gun bills were introduced in the 2013 Legislature in the wake of the slaughter of first-graders. It was a bizarre gun orgy.
The division of America has hardened during the Obama administration, pushing states deeper into opposing political camps. "In 2012, only four (Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina) were decided by five percentage points or fewer," he said.
However, Hiatt observed, America isn't as bitterly divided as it was during the slavery showdown before the Civil War. Today's ideological gulf may soften. "Populations shift over time, attitudes change, political parties evolve," he wrote.We certainly hope that Democratic blue values -- concern for average families, instead of billionaires -- can regain their strength in West Virginia. Maybe next year's election will hint which color will dominate the Mountain State's future.