By now, most readers are aware of the ongoing exodus from blue states to red states, from places like California and New York to the Carolinas, Texas, and Florida. Some of these migrants are retirees in search of warmer weather. Some are millennials in U-Haul vans looking to lower the cost of living or in search of better jobs.
And some are just men and women fed up with high taxes, bad schools, street crime, crumbling cities, and left-wing policies.
In 2018, writers Roger Simon and his wife, Shery Longin, were early refugees in this generally southbound exodus. They pulled up stakes in Los Angeles where Simon had lived for nearly half a century and set off to make a new home in Nashville, Tennessee. By 2022, that trickle of refugees had turned into a flood. As Simon recounts in his book American Refugees: The Untold Story of the Mass Exodus from Blue States to Red States:
A 2022 census showed that nearly a quarter of those still streaming into Tennessee were from California. No other state was close. Tennessee’s population had grown more than 9 percent in the last decade, with more than a half million new residents moving in.
American Refugees is loaded with such statistics along with Simon’s personal anecdotes and the stories of other asylum seekers who traded blue for red. Included here as well are portraits of some of the politicians of “The Volunteer State” and the issues of the day, and the impact of the newcomers on their adopted communities. His book offers some deep reflections, frequently laced with humor, on this American migratory phenomenon.
American Refugees also contains several surprises.
Chief among these is the patriotic spirit so many of these newcomers bring with them. Until now, many conservative commentators and red-state natives have expressed “the fear that blue staters were going to pollute red states with their indelible left-wing ideology.” In fact, the opposite is true. Simon, who is himself a conservative, a co-founder of the conservative site PJ Media and now an editor-at-large for The Epoch Times, demolishes this misconception throughout his book. He writes:
The newcomers were anything but liberal and progressive, overt or otherwise. They were American refugees: people who so rejected these ideologies, who so preferred to live in a constitutional republic, that they were willing to pull up stakes; quit their jobs; leave behind friends, family, and their accustomed ways of life; and trek across the country—all to live in accordance with their values.
And by taking a close look at the politics of Tennessee, “which voted two-thirds for Donald Trump in 2020,” Simon destroys another myth. Assisted by an anonymous political insider who goes by the pseudonym of Rocky Top, Simon reveals that so-called red states are themselves all too often blighted by the same liberal policies that have wreaked havoc and ruin on their blue state sisters. Corruption and malfeasance, for example, are at work in the state and local governments of Tennessee, and though Republican legislators generally present themselves as conservative, in fact a disconnect exists between them and their constituents. The politicians make their promises to sway voters, but once elected they all too often cast aside the platforms on which they ran. Many are also moral cowards, more than willing to sacrifice principle for personal gain or to separate themselves from the great unwashed—those whose votes brought them into office in the first place.
We witness this hypocrisy at work in Simon’s account of the debut of Matt Walsh’s documentary, “What Is a Woman?” at Tennessee’s historic Franklin Theater, where Walsh, Tennessee’s U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, and director Justin Folk introduced the film. In his remarks, Walsh asked the audience to consider solutions for the problems presented in the movie once they had watched it. But “not a single question—almost all of which were asked by politicians or businesspeople—remotely addressed solutions.” Simon then adds:
This underscored my view that had grown consistently over my time in Tennessee, that most of the politicians and business community on the right were immune to solutions, as if they had an allergy to actually doing anything that might disturb the status quo and effectuate positive change.
Instead, it was as if by attending the film they had done enough. You see, we care. Just don’t ask us to do something about it.
Those who follow Republican shenanigans in the U.S. House and Senate are already more than familiar with this façade of concern.
Throughout American Refugees, however, Simon again and again remarks how pleased overall he is with his new life in Nashville. Near the conclusion, he writes:
I’m happier than I have ever been in Tennessee and grateful for the wonderful people I have met here, many of whom have been described in this book. Notably missing are perhaps the best of all—the plumbers, electricians, HVAC folks, construction workers, and the like who, when I have talked to them, have exhibited more common sense and more down-home patriotism for this country than any group of people I have ever met.
If our country is to be preserved, it may be these people and their allies, the blue state refugees, who will do the job.
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