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The Cities Farther to West and Further to the Right

The Wichita Wingnuts baseball team has a wide lead in its Double-A American Association division, the Wichita State University Wheatshockers basketball squad will likely be ranked among the top 10 or so teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association when the pre-season polls come out, and despite everything the Wichita unemployment rate is a bit below the national average, so our civic pride is holding up pretty well these days. Still, we were a bit embarrassed to learn that we are only the 17th most conservative city in the country.
This alarmingly low ranking comes from no less an authority than The Economist, a very high-brow and oh-so-Tory publication from England that we have come trust. We have no idea how they compiled these rankings, conservatism being a rather hard-to-define and even harder-to-quantify concept, but the list does seem plausible. Coming in at the coveted number one spot is Mesa, Arizona, and our limited experience of the city suggests that it’s pretty darned conservative. There seem to be a lot of military veterans there, which does wonders for a community’s conservatism, and it seems fairly affluent, which is another good sign. Arizona is also the home of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, peace be upon him, and they clearly have an enviable number of wised-up old folks and a paucity of tattooed hippie freaks, so we won’t begrudge them the distinction.
Coming in at number two is Oklahoma City, a city we know well, as it is our ancestral hometown, and we think that if anything it is underrated. As recently as our grandfathers’ Dust Bowl days it was a yellow dog Democrat city in a yellow dog Democrat state, but as the party has moved away from the ferociously church-going and defiantly individualistic Okies the city and state have become even more Republican than even Wichita and Kansas, which have been solidly Republican since the Bleeding Kansas days when those slave-owning Democrats were slaughtering the local abolitionists. We still have plenty of beloved kinfolk in the Oklahoma City area, even if most of them have fled north to the Mesa-like suburbs, and will humbly acknowledge the more conservative nature of their communities.
Virginia Beach, which of course is in Virginia, and Colorado Springs, which of course is in Colorado, took the next two spots. Both are also rife with military veterans, sailors in the former case and airmen in the latter, and we are glad to see them ranked so high even at the expense of Wichita. Virginia and Colorado are both “purple,” prone to vote for either Republicans or Democrats in presidential elections, and it’s good to see some solid outposts of resistance in these crucial states. Jacksonville, Florida, is next up, and we don’t know what to make of that. Our only experience of the city was on an extended hitch-hike, which involves a hard-luck fellow we encountered under a bridge during a rainstorm outside Lakeland, and is too involved to allow re-telling here, but suffice to say we were more struck by the cacophony of different languages and the cosmopolitan feel of the dock areas than the city’s conservatism. Arlington, Texas, was next, and although there’s a distinctly George W. Bush aura to the city our most vivid memory of it was a bachelor party at the most elaborate and upscale strip bar we’d ever encountered. Anaheim, California, ranked seventh, making it an essential outpost of Republicanism in a Democratic state, and we are therefore proud to report that a brother of ours stranded in southern California is rooting for the Angels of Anaheim rather than the Dodgers of very liberal Los Angeles.
Omaha, Nebraska, comes in next, and despite our affection for The Economist we must object. The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers have abandoned the Big 12, the Creighton University Bluejays have split the Missouri Valley Conference, Omaha is the hometown of the notorious crony capitalist Warren Buffet, and we will never concede they are more conservative than Wichita. Tulsa, Oklahoma, is right behind, and we have mixed feelings about that. It’s one of those sui generis towns you have to experience first-hand, a strange and always enjoyable mix of Christianity and capitalism and criminality, but we’re not quite sure that the home of Cain’s Ballroom and Hot Lips Page and the Gap Band can ever be quite so conservative as our town. Then there’s Aurora, Colorado, another important bloc of votes in that purple state, and a nice a place to visit, and Anchorage, Alaska, which we suspect is ranked so high because the population is 95 percent single white males and only 5 percent exhausted women. Fresno, California, adds a few more votes against that state’s lopsided Democratic majority at number 13, Corpus Christi and San Antonio add to Texas’ lopsided Republican majority at numbers 14 and 15, and Nashville, Tennessee, also edges out Wichita, probably on the strength of its reputation as the capital of country music.
All of these are fine cities, but a certain chauvinism still resents seeing them considered more conservative than Wichita. Strange, too, to come in just head of Las Vegas, Nevada, also known as “Sin City.” If we could just trade a few of our hometown hipsters and dues-paying machinists for a couple of those grizzled old veterans in the military towns we’re sure we’d move up on the chart, and we also blame the trade unionism of the local aircraft plants and the subversive effect of a state university. Even so, we’re plum prairie proud to be so far ahead of the likes of Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles and San Franscico, California, and Washington, D.C. We’ve spent enough time in each of these places to know what Wichita is far more livable, and that so are all of the cities ranked ahead of them in The Economist’s rankings of most conservative cities, and we don’t doubt that our relative conservatism is the reason why.

— Bud Norman

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