Much virtual ink has been spilled trying to understand why, exactly, Hawaii is so blue politically. Civil Beat even has a topic page devoted to one-party dominance.
Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker had an interesting opinion piece out on the New York Times site Tuesday exploring what makes some states so blue and other so red.
He traces things back to the fact that the northeast was colonized primarily by English farmers, and the southeast by Irish and Scottish herders. And the difference between those vocations informed the way those people looked at the world and the role of government.
Anthropologists have long noted that societies that herd livestock in rugged terrain tend to develop a “culture of honor.” Since their wealth has feet and can be stolen in an eye blink, they are forced to deter rustlers by cultivating a hair-trigger for violent retaliation against any trespass or insult that probes their resolve. Farmers can afford to be less belligerent because it is harder to steal their land out from under them, particularly in territories within the reach of law enforcement. As the settlers moved westward, they took their respective cultures with them.
OK, that’s great for the mainland and all, but what does that have to do with Hawaii?
Well, Hawaii has an extensive farming history, dating to the Native Hawaiians (subsistence) through the plantation era (sugar and pineapple) to today (GMOs and small-scale farms). There are definitely some ranching operations, but I see Hawaii as more farmer-influenced than herder-influenced.
Beyond that, it’s the conclusion of Pinker’s piece that might be most instructive.
The North and coasts are extensions of Europe and continued the government-driven civilizing process that had been gathering momentum since the Middle Ages. The South and West preserved the culture of honor that emerged in the anarchic territories of the growing country, tempered by their own civilizing forces of churches, families and temperance.
Substitute “Asia” for “Europe” and the shores of Hawaii could stand in for the coasts of the continental U.S. Or are churches and families the driving factor in the islands?
I don’t know. Just something interesting to read.
— Michael Levine