Red vs Blue
The first point that needs to be made is that the choices of colors to represent the two viewpoints is absurd. Red has always represented the "enemy", and for the last 50 years, the Communist rulers of countries such as the Soviet Union and China. US military exercises almost invariably used "blue" forces to represent the "good guys" and "red" forces to represent the enemy. Red has consistently been the central color to denote socialists throughout the world. Yet in the political battle being waged today, the "red" contingent is conservative, and the "blue" contingent represents the socialists. I can't believe the choices of colors to use was arbitrary, nor do I believe the colors were arbitrarily assigned. The selection of colors used to represent the different philosophies was deliberate, and meant to confuse the reader. This was the first shot fired in the new political war of ideas.
Secondly, the two primary political parties in the United States have swapped roles over the past fifty years or so. Historically, the Republican party was the party of industry and commerce, and the Democratic party was the party of rural farms and labor. Today the divisions are even more stark: the Democratic party is primarily urban, while the Republican party has become the party of the suburbs and rural life.
It's not hard to understand the reason for the segregation. For the past sixty years, the Democratic party has been the party of socialism. From FDR's New Deal to LBJ's Great Society, the Democratic party has backed government dependency. The Democrats want people, and especially voters, to be dependent on the government for at least a significant portion of their livelihood, either from dependency on social services support (welfare), retirement income (Social Security), health care (Medicare), employment (labor unions), and/or education. The Democrats have consistently pushed the idea that people should look to government to solve their problems, rather than themselves - to become dependent on government and its resources. Such dependency is tatamount to slavery, but only a small portion of the electorate can see such an obvious truism.
Conversely, the Republicans, who were first the party of industrialists - the people that actually hired people and gave them jobs - became the party of people willing to be independent, to be self-supporting, to accept individual control of their lives, and congruently, to be as independent of outside restraint - free - to accomplish as much for themselves and their family as they chose. These are the people that moved out of the urban beehives into the suburbs, that continued to live in small towns and on rural homesteads. They were also the people most likely to continue to have a strong belief in God, in a strong, individual-based morality, and in integrity, honor, and duty.
While the Republican party's strength has moved from urban to rural and suburban areas, the Democratic party's strength has moved from rural to urban areas. This is consistent with the Democratic party's emphasis on government support. It's easier to support a large number of people in a small area than in a larger one. Concentration of resources enables more people to be provided for by smaller number of support personnel. As long as the numbers in either political party didn't become overwhelming, the division was workable.
Unfortunately, as the concentrations of people requiring government support grew larger and larger, the proportion of voters dependent upon government support also grew larger, until urban areas allowed one party to have a virtual "lock" on many Congressional districts. Since Congressional seats are allocated by population, the growth of Democratic areas expanded, while Republican areas declined. This led to more Democratic control of Congress overall, and more social programs to expand the Democratic "base".
The real problem in our government today is that the needs of urban areas are different than the needs of rural and suburban areas. The demands of the constituents of each of these areas have become mutually exclusive, requiring different laws, different approaches to governing, and a different focus for each constituency. The two constituencies today are almost polar opposites, with laws that provide for the needs of one group actually being harmful to the needs of the other. At the same time, there is a strong movement to have even more government control over individual activities to force compliance with certain societal goals being set by one or the other parties.
Our Constitution dealt with this problem in its early years by allocating to the Federal government only certain tasks, and leaving other government agencies at the state and local level free to deal with unique problems found in those areas. The industrialization of the United States at the turn of the 20th Century led to the Federal government taking on more and more of the responsibilities of the states, while failing to take into consideration the unique problems of individual areas. The "one size fits all" mentality of Federal bureaucrats ensured that government programs were designed to "help everyone", when in fact they helped only a very few, and made life more difficult for others. Today the United States is awash in Federal laws that usurp the rights of the states, local governments, and the individual, all in the misguided sense that the government could solve all problems on a national level.
This presidential election again pits urban areas against suburban and rural areas in a match-up between two ideological suppositions - that government is the answer to everything on the one hand, and that government is often the problem, that government at the lowest possible level should have the final say in most decisions on the other. One very stark and clear example of this division is the recent battle between the Clinton Administration's imposition from Washington of "roadless rules" for national forests, and President Bush's administration saying that state and local governments should have an equal say in such matters.
Today there's a very strong push to do away with the Electoral College, to allow direct elections of presidents. Unfortunately this would only ensure that urban areas would elect every president from now on. More than 50 percent of our populuation live in fewer than 60 areas, each about 30 miles in diameter. This is only a small percentage of our land area. The rest of the nation would be effectively disenfranchised. This idea can be illustrated by the current debate in Colorado to apportion the state's electoral votes based on the percentage of the popular vote each party received in the general election. There are 64 counties in Colorado, but eleven of them contain 90% of the population. Eight counties, representing the greater Denver metropolitan area, contain four million people, while the state population as a whole is less than five million. Metropolitan areas tend to vote Democratic, while rural areas tend to vote Republican. Without the opportunity to overwhelm the Democratic majority vote from Denver through the combined vote of the rest of the state, there would be no chance for Colorado to affect the national election, or to have a chance to fill statewide elected offices.