Flickering and Shining: Adam Lee on Red and Blue America

Nothing has caught my eye this weekend in the papers or on the websites to blog about. So let’s look at a couple recent essays by Adam Lee, who’s blogged for years and self-published one book collecting some of his work, Daylight Atheism, which I reviewed here back in 2014. His essays are currently appearing at OnlySky. Otherwise he hasn’t much of a profile; he has no entry at Wikipedia.

Yet I find him a straightforward, clear-thinking, nonapologetic thinker about religious and social matters. Here is a pair of essays from recent weeks characterizing (from his perspective) Red and Blue America. I’ll cover them in the order posted.

Adam Lee, OnlySky, 31 Aug 2023: The lights are flickering in Red America


Abortion bans, anti-vax ideology, and other right-wing culture-war issues are creating a mass exodus of doctors from red states. Conservative voters will end up paying with their lives for the policies they wanted.

This is mostly about healthcare in red states. Excerpts:

The abortion bans springing up across red-state America force physicians into a cruel dilemma. If a pregnant person comes into the emergency room, hemorrhaging or suffering sepsis from a miscarriage or dying from preeclampsia—but the fetus still has a heartbeat—doctors could face criminal charges if they intervene. Their only chance is to hope that the fetus dies before it’s too late to save the mother.

Red states are suffering brain drain, and not just in Idaho. Doctors are packing up and leaving states like Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and more.

Wyoming has one of the worst physician shortages in the country, with rural hospitals closing their maternity wards. Meanwhile, the state legislature is mulling an abortion ban that will make the problem worse. In South Carolina, more than one-third of counties have no prenatal care at all. In Missouri, rural hospitals are closing in droves.

Texas is an especially sharp example of the problem. Doctors are fleeing the state, worsening a shortage that was already at critical levels…


Republican voters are demanding policies that directly harm themselves and their loved ones. In the name of lower taxes, they forced their own hospitals to close. In the name of freedom, they refused vaccines that would have saved their lives during a pandemic. Now, in the name of banning abortion, they’re heaping even more weight on this pile. They’ve passed laws which ensure that their wives, their daughters, and they themselves won’t have medical care in a crisis. Their culture-war victories are purchased at the cost of their own lives.

The people who live in red states—especially white conservatives who live in far-flung, poverty-stricken rural areas—are confronting a dire scenario of their own creation. In the very near future, they’ll have to travel hundreds of miles for routine care, if they can get it at all. The reddest, most impoverished areas will be reduced to medieval conditions. They’ll regularly suffer from outbreaks of disease, dying from conditions that modern medicine could have cured.

My take: conservatives are enforcing a kind of monoculture on states where they prevail, privileging “Christian” values and discrediting centuries of scientific and healthcare conclusions. And they suffer, given statistics about healthcare matters; but they either dismiss or don’t believe in statistics, because ideology is more important.



Adam Lee, OnlySky, 14 Sep 2023: The lights are shining in Blue America


Throughout America’s blue states and cities, Democratic officeholders are passing laws to help people and make their lives better, from education to health care to gun control to the environment to voting rights—and more besides.

Lee begins by summarizing the earlier red state essay, and contrasting.

Red states are suffering from the laws they voted for.

Thanks to their rejection of Obamacare, rural areas have become health care deserts as hospitals lose money and shut down. COVID-denying, vaccine-refusing ideology has directly led to conservative areas suffering far more deaths and disability than would otherwise have been the case. Abortion bans are causing doctors to flee in droves, leaving states without maternity care. Schools are starved of resources, crippling the minds of the next generation and driving away businesses that need educated workers. Open-carry laws have spurred a plague of gun murders and suicides.

However, the state of the nation isn’t uniformly bleak. While the red states regress, blue states are doing better than ever. In places with enlightened, progressive governments that actually care about the well-being of their citizens, Democrats are passing a blizzard of laws to help people and make their lives better.

Lee goes on with examples: Progressive policies in Minnesota —

They created a paid family and medical leave program that covers all workers. They passed a child tax credit to help poor families. They banned conversion therapy and passed sanctuary laws for transgender children with family in less tolerant states. They bumped up education spending and instituted free breakfast and lunch for all public school students. They passed laws guaranteeing access to health insurance and driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.

— Michigan, and Illinois. And in California, New Mexico, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts. Concluding:

Last but not least, East Coast states pioneered the idea of shield laws to fight right-wing anti-choice and anti-trans ideology. These laws prevent patients and doctors from being sued, arrested, or prosecuted for receiving abortion or gender-affirming care, and forbid states from cooperating with any such investigation by overreaching law enforcement in red states. Connecticut passed the first of these laws, but the idea has spread to Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Vermont.

As conservative states sink further into the mire of theocracy, the blue states stand above them, shining like lighthouses. Not only are they protecting their citizens against religious-right encroachment, they’re offering more and more benefits like free child care, high-quality education, and access to affordable medical care. Our nation is increasingly diverging onto two separate tracks, and blue states will be havens, not just to liberals, but to everyone who wants to live a happy, healthy and prosperous life.

Thoughts: different people have different ideas about the ways to live a proper life. The issue, as I see it, is that conservatives wants to enforce their ideas on everyone, and liberals want to build a society where everyone can choose their own way of life, without government intervention. I’m sure conservatives see it differently.

But — I should say this at the end of every post — I may be wrong.

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