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Will Red Counties Carry a Disproportionate Share of This War?

December 15, 2001


Much has been made of the fact that though the 2000 presidential election results were close, George W. Bush carried approximately 80 percent of the counties in the country.  Even in the close Florida contest, George W. won 51 of 67 counties, or approximately 80 percent of the counties.  (For more details about the county-by-county 2000 election results, click on the map).

Since the September 11 attacks, however, the red/blue distinction appears to have vanished.  The president has received unqualified support for his actions against the Taliban and al Qaeda from Al Gore and more importantly the vast majority of the American people.  His current approval rating is around 80 percent and has been since late September.  Much of his approval is evidenced in the patriotic fervor that arose in our country after 9/11 and now in December does not seem abated.

Flags fly from the porches of American homes (including San Francisco!), cars are adorned with flag decals, red, white, and blue bumper stickers declare “These colors don’t run,” flags flap furiously from car window mounts, and commercials ranging from Ralph Lauren fashions to Circuit City home electronic rely on patriotic themes.

Entertainment stars have sponsored TV specials to raise money for the police and fire departments that sacrificed so much on 9/11.  They have even checked their traditional liberal disgust for the military at the door and have begun entertaining the troops.  I doubt, however, any of them paid their own expenses as Bob Hope did through three wars of entertaining our troops.

So on the surface – with the rhetoric and displays of support – the red and blue county distinctions appear to be irrelevant during this time of war.

Now the reality of the war is coming home.  First, we had deaths of two Army Rangers: Specialist John J. Edmunds, Cheyenne, Wyoming and Private 1st Class Kristofor T. Stonesifer, Missoula, Montana.  Next came the death of Johnny “Mike” Spann, a front line CIA warrior who was where he was when killed because, as he told his father, “It is the right thing to do.”  Interviews with his family and friends in Winfield, Alabama, where he grew up, reveal an American boy focused on doing his duty.  We now have more military casualties: Master Sergeant Jefferson Donald Davis, Watauga, Tennessee, Sergeant 1st Class Daniel Petithory, Cheshire, Massachusetts, and Staff Sergeant Brian Cody Prosser, Frazier Park, California.  Interviews with their families and neighbors describe men proud to serve their country.  Their “friendly fire” deaths are stark reminders that the war is a grim, close-to-the-enemy, face-to-face battle that will result in loss of lives of our country’s young men.

My concern is that, at this point, of the six men killed in the line of duty, five of them were from red counties.  These five counties overwhelmingly (a majority in all five, 60 percent plus in four of them) voted for Bush, in an election where George W. Bush won with only a plurality.  I do not imply nor believe that there are not patriotic young men from blue counties who believe in doing their duty.  Sergeant 1st Class Petithory is clearly one who did his duty.  However my concern, is that as we require more and more sacrifice the boys in the red counties will disproportionately share the burden of a fight that requires indiscriminate sacrifice.

It is too early to tell if this imbalance is real or not.  In the recent past there have been several false claims of military casualty imbalances.  After Vietnam, there were attempts by the liberals (in their flailing to justify their opposition to the war) to claim that blacks suffered a disproportionate share of the casualties. It was later proven a false claim.  The liberals also claimed that the US ground soldiers in Vietnam were there against their will, i.e., draftees impressed into service.  This also was proven false.  Throughout the war the majority of ground troops were volunteers.

One Vietnam imbalance that has proven to be correct, however, is the difference between the number of boys that served in our military from rural counties and those that served from the educated, affluent classes.  I suggest those that served came mostly from, what after the November 2000 election are called, the red counties, while many fewer from the urban blue counties served.  That is one Vietnam legacy I hope we are not preparing to repeat.


Sam T. Harper graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University.  Following a tour in the US Navy and a stint as Operations Manager at Roadway Express, he earned his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.  He was a contributor to “In Search of Excellence,” the best selling business book of all time.  Sam was also Manager, Economic Planning & Analysis at Sohio Petroleum, Partner and Chief Financial Officer at investment-banking firm Bridgemere Capital, and Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San Francisco Bay Area-based think tank and international publishing firm that specializes in self-governing and entrepreneurial public policy.  Sam was a chairman of the San Francisco Republican party and the GOP co-host of California Political Review on KALW-FM in San Francisco.  Sam is currently the co-owner of the Tennessee based Institute for Local Effectiveness Training, LLC – a management consulting, training, and coaching firm.