Should you move to a place that doesn’t match your politics?

January 23, 2023

Of all the things that have changed in the way we navigate mobility in America, the biggest is probably the influence of politics on how at home we feel in a place.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking to imagine that there was a time when our geographies weren’t so polarized and politicized. Nearly 25 years ago, my husband and I made our first big move after college, to Washington, D.C., where he’d lined up a job working on Capitol Hill for one of the senators from his home state. The advice he got from his new boss: Democrats live in Maryland, Republicans live in Virginia. We passed three misspent days apartment-hunting in the politically correct state before giving up and finding an inexpensive one-bedroom next to a Metro line in the state we apparently were not meant to be living in.

And guess what? It was fine. There were plenty of both Republicans and Democrats where we settled, and at the end of the day none of that really affected our day-to-day happiness. (Joke is on them anyway: We ended up switching political parties later for entirely unrelated reasons than having chosen the wrong state to live in.)

Now? The stakes feel higher. One disgruntled Alabama resident told me that escaping her conservative town and moving to a deep blue city was the number one factor in her location strategy. I hear similar comments from other Anywhereists. They wouldn’t dare to settle in a city, state, or entire region of the country where they’d be a political outsider.

The impulse is both understandable and unfortunate. A 2019 study of political partisanship in the United States shows that whole swaths of the country are becoming intolerant of political views different than their own. Since Americans in general move to counties with their same party preference, the self-sorting threatens to continue unabated, along with the polarization and the tendency to think that people who disagree with us are, at best, ignorant and, at worst, malevolent.

Here's my take. You should have people in your life who disagree with you. That’s healthy for you and the nation. But we have an easier time attaching to the places we live if we feel like we’ve found “our people.” If you’re a political pariah where you live, you may not get to that point.

So nudge some swing states higher on your list. Pay attention to purple cities and counties that don’t reliably go for the same party every election. That doesn’t mean people aren’t passionate about their politics, but outcomes well divided between Democrats and Republicans signify tolerance—and that’s the thing we could all use more of.

 

- Melody Warnick, author of If You Could Live Anywhere

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