In 2021, one million Americans will have fled to red states, but what are those states doing to help them?

Instead of striving to be the best, many Republican states congratulate themselves on the fact that they 'Aren't Illinois or California.'

According to new census data, the United States added the fewest citizens in its history in 2021, with 0.1 percent population increase. The statistics also revealed a continuing migration of Americans from Democrat-controlled states to Republican-controlled ones, with New York, California, and Illinois losing the most population and Texas, Florida, and Arizona gaining the most.

On a recent front page, the Wall Street Journal included graphics depicting these tendencies, followed by an editorial analyzing the trend, pointing out the link between the severity of lockdowns and population loss. Economist Mark Perry also showed that states that are adding inhabitants have lower government burdens and lower living costs than ones that are losing residents.

These are both pre-existing tendencies (with the exception of California, which lost population for the first time in 2020 and 2021), but the lockdowns and societal unrest caused by American authorities' bad management of the Covid-19 epidemic appear to have hastened them.

Americans are moving from high-tax, forced-unionism, business-unfriendly blue states like CA and NY with high housing costs to low-tax, right-to-work, economically vibrant, business-friendly red states with lower housing costs like FL and TX. https://t.co/CZqJkEzMSN

— Mark J. Perry (@Mark_J_Perry) December 30, 2021

Coasting Isn’t Leadership, It’s Laziness

Red states, however, also tend to accept this situation passively. Rather than seeking to be places of excellence and well-being for their citizens, often red states simply congratulate themselves that they “Aren’t Illinois or California,” and leave it at that.

However, it is not a mark of success to say that one's state isn't as bad as those that have unleashed welfare addicts, homeless addicts, and violent criminals, just as it isn't a mark of success for public schools with middle and upper-class children to perform slightly better than schools that supervise mostly the children of never-married drug addicts. In neither scenario can they claim to have made any progress. They're merely taking credit for the decisions and benefits of others. Leadership isn't about coasting. It's a case of leadership resigning.

The Masculinist's Aaron Renn examines Indiana in a piece for the winter 2021 issue of American Affairs, where Republicans have controlled the legislature for a decade and the governorship since 2004. Many additional red states, especially those in the South and West, can benefit from his study. While Republicans have seen attracting large, primarily low-wage corporations and keeping taxes low as a sign of success, Renn claims that promoting policies that benefit corporate interests has come at the price of serving the state's residents and taxpayers.

In fact, Renn told a local reporter in a follow-up to his piece that "too frequently what's billed as limited government is in reality a special interest giveaway." "...Donald Trump's victory in Indiana, despite his rejection of many key conservative ideas, demonstrates that there is a larger demand for innovative thinking than the GOP leadership would have us believe."

Renn told the reporter “he is a lifelong Republican who is interested in ‘updating the Republican policy toolbox to respond to today’s 21st century realities, not the bygone Cold War era in which the legacy conservative policy consensus was formed.’” His article gives ideas for how local leaders can shift away from Republicans’ habit of subordinating citizens’ rights and freedoms to big business, to instead govern on behalf of those who elect them.

What Does It Mean to Put Citizens First?

“Absent favorable external factors like warm weather, the conservative approach has failed to generate demo­graphic and economic success in states like Indiana,” Renn says. He chronicles how state leaders aimed to improve Indiana the midcentury Republican way, by focusing on fiscal policy such as cutting government spending and taxes, instituting right to work laws, using public money to subsidize politically favored local business districts and development deals, and subsidizing big businesses and career-focused schooling.

In other words, Indiana’s leaders did pretty much the same stuff as the leaders of 2021’s top ten population-growth states, but didn’t get an economic or population boost from it. Renn points out that Indiana isn’t an outlier in this respect. Many Midwestern and Northeastern states have seen the same: “Looking around the Old North region, one will see many states that are a lot like Indiana: low population growth, a stagnant labor force, many shrinking counties, weak job growth, and limited success at attracting higher-wage, new economy industries.”

Renn believes that, similar to schools, variables that politicians have little influence over, such as weather and culture, have the greatest impact on state health. "Rather than thinking the iron law of the marketplace requires us to disfavor our own population in order to gain the favor of the economic gods," Renn said in the interview, "we might instead put our citizens' interests and preferences first."

Fight For Your Voters On…Anything At All

What would that entail? For starters, it would entail Republicans following Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis' lead in openly pushing back against the cultural war. Or battling for their inhabitants on a variety of fronts – education, health, federal regulations and bankrupting programs, fears of job loss, and so on.

"Republican lawmakers in red states need to start caring a lot more about their constituents' priorities than they do now." This is especially crucial now, when most of our major institutions have succumbed to progressive dogma, leaving Republican state governments as one of the few significant institutions left to defend conservative individuals," argues Renn.

On the urging of big corporations, Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican legislature rendered Indiana the most unfriendly to conscience liberties in the country in 2015. Indiana served as a test example for leftist business pressure campaigns, and state Republicans' quick surrender on religious liberty insured that the left would employ corporate cancellation as a key political tool in the future.

It has already spread to the point that President Joe Biden utilized this strategy to push through his unlawful vaccination requirement, while Republicans did little in reaction. On this topic, Indiana's government has likewise refused to safeguard voters from corporate abuse, consistently failing to protect Hoosiers from corporate and state university medical demands that are more stringent than those in many blue states. Amy Coney Barrett, a native daughter and incoming Supreme Court Justice, followed suit. Indiana's governor continues to demand children to wear masks in school or be routinely prevented from attending school for days at a time, a policy that is totally unscientific and inhumane, and which the legislature has failed to address.

Renn uses other examples, such as the state legislature overriding local tenant protections against slumlords, refusing to require employers to allow pregnant employees to use the restroom on the job, and elder abuse in nursing homes: "In Indiana nursing homes, over 20% of Covid-19 patients died, compared to a national rate of 13%." The state GOP's answer was to adopt a bill exempting nursing homes from accountability for deaths that occurred in their care."

"It's perplexing that state Republicans would side with businesses like warehouses against their own pregnant voters," Renn observes, "especially since the warehouse owners are largely major firms that have completely adopted the 'woke' party line and are aggressively antagonistic to conservatism."

For another current example, parents in Indiana, like those all over the country, want their legislators to ban critical race theory in the session that starts this week. Insiders say what they’re most likely to get is a bill that claims to do so while providing no enforcement teeth.

Deliver the Goods, Republicans, Or Die Quickly

Trump stomped on the traditional Republican style of conducting business by pissing on their people and telling them it's raining. In 2020, Indiana voters chose Trump by a 16-point margin. However, Indiana's Republican Party, like that of many other states, is led by people who act more like little Mitch McConnells. That political epoch is a wandering corpse. It's a perfect example of zombie Republicanism.

Flyover Politicians who sell out their own constituents for 30 pieces of campaign silver are unwelcome in America. They want to be in charge. Giving your voters the parts that dropped to the ground after campaign funders have had their fill is hardly a sign of leadership. It means, as Trump did, offering what the base genuinely wants.

One thing Trump delivered was punches that landed in the culture war. Another was protecting and preferring conservative voters, not their enemies.

“State and local governments are some of the few powerful institutions where conservatives retain some control,” Renn notes. “Thus, a prime emerging responsibility of elected leaders at the state level, especially in red states like Indiana, is to use the power of their offices to protect their communities against ideological coercion or abuse from other institutions. Red states must not only be willing to aggressively challenge any federal government overreach; they must also be willing to resist coercive behavior from the private and nonprofit sectors.”

“If Indiana Republicans did implement conservative voter preferences and aggressively defended their voters’ priorities, that might be a draw in itself,” Renn notes. Just look at how Florida has bloomed under a governor who shed the old Republican formula for the new one.

DeSantis is not Trump, but he has learned a lot from him. That is precisely what the remainder of the Republican Party must do, not just for their own political survival, but also for the benefit of their constituents.

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