Economically, Loudoun County is humming from the technology boom in Washington’s suburbs, with the number of businesses rising 49 percent from 2005 to 2015. But on the other side of that border, Jefferson County doesn’t have the same economic dynamism: The number of businesses in the county fell 11 percent in the same period, according to census data.One other big difference between the counties is that Loudoun is teaming with immigrants. I wrote back in April about the cricket league founded by Indian immigrants in Loudoun, and there are also numerous immigrants from Africa and Central America.
The two counties have diverged politically, too. Back in 2004, both favored George W. Bush for president by a similar, moderate margin. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Loudoun by 17 percentage points; Jefferson favored Donald J. Trump by 15 points.
It is a chasm you can find nationwide, according to calculations by Jim Kessler of the think tank Third Way. In 2004, there was just a two-percentage-point gap in how the presidential candidates fared between counties that had gained businesses versus those that had lost them in the preceding decade. In 2016, that was a 15-point gap, with the places that had lost business favoring Mr. Trump.
As the economists in the Times story say, they can track this growing regional divide and are getting a better understanding of how it relates to the overall economy, but they have no idea what to do about it. Politically we are presented with a stark choice: should we encourage people to move to richer communities, or find ways to encourage them to stay?
The politics of this divide are exactly what one strain of Republican does not want. Look at Texas and you see big swathes of booming surburbs around Houston, Dallas, and other cities where the Republican Party dominates. That is what Paul Ryan and his ilk want: for Republicans to be the party of economic dynamism. But in most places outside the old South – California, Washington, Colorado, Virginia – it's the fading counties that went for Trump, and all the booming places are getting increasingly blue. "Democrat" or "Progressive" are increasingly the labels sought by young people who are going places. And the more Republicanism comes to be associated with all-white rural districts and nervous factory workers, the more worrisome its future in a multi-ethnic America led by today's twenty-somethings.
Right now, ethno-nationalism plus religious conservatism and a hatred of Hollywood "elites" is winning strategy. Whether it will be in twenty years is a completely different matter.