Columbia University professor Thomas Edsall, author of several political books, says America is polarizing more strongly into "blue" zones -- populous, urban, well-educated, prosperous regions that vote Democratic -- and "red ones: rural, less-educated, poorer places that vote Republican.
In a New York Times analysis this week, he described how West Virginia switched rapidly to the red side. He wrote:
"In 1988, [Democrat Michael] Dukakis won West Virginia's five Electoral College votes 52-47, carrying 31 of 55 counties, 10 of them with more than 60 percent of the vote. In 2012, Obama was crushed in West Virginia by Mitt Romney, losing in all 55 counties."
Why did the Mountain State stampede to the GOP, voting Republican in four straight presidential elections? Why do so many lower-income, less-educated West Virginians -- heavily dependent on the government "safety net" -- vote for the party of the rich, which endlessly tries to slash the safety net? It defies logic.
Meanwhile, professor Edsall said Democratic Party hopes keep climbing in ever-larger metropolitan centers where better-paid, better-educated people are more tolerant of gays, blacks, unwed couples, single motherhood and the like.
He said blue politics hinge on "the extent to which a county, state or metropolitan area have adopted liberal views and behaviors with respect to the sexual revolution and other cultural transformations of the past half-century, which are in turn central to the trend toward secularism."
Two other professor-analysts, Alan Abramowitz of Emory University and Kyle Saunders of Colorado State University, previously wrote that church attendance is the foremost indicator of whether U.S. whites vote Democratic or Republican. Strong attenders lean right; non-attenders lean left.
"The religious divide is now much deeper than the class divide," they said in The Journal of Politics -- adding that Democrats seem destined to gain "because secular voters constitute a growing proportion of the electorate."
Perhaps all these factors can help explain why West Virginia turned red in four consecutive presidential elections, while booming urban America grew bluer.
Meanwhile, we hope a majority of this state's people eventually realize that their loyalty should return to the party dedicated to helping average families, not the wealthy elite.