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“Blue parents who name with red values”

Laura Wattenberg has a fascinating discussion of the one topic you think you’ve already heard enough about . . . Sarah Palin’s kids’ names. You really have to read the whole thing, but here’s the gist:

No naming event has ever filled my [Wattenberg’s] inbox with as many reader queries as the unveiling of Sarah Palin–mom to Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig–as John McCain’s running mate. “Any comment?” “I’ve never heard Trig as a name for anything but a math class.” “Is this ‘an Alaska thing’?'”

In a way, yes, it is “an Alaska thing.” If you had nothing to go on but the baby names and had to guess about who the parents were, you’d guess that that they lived in an idiosyncratic, sparsely populated region of the country…and that they were conservative Republicans. . . .

For the past two decades, a core set of “cultural conservative” opinions has served as a theoretical dividing line between “red” (Republican/conservative) and “blue” (Democratic/liberal) America. These incude attitudes toward sex roles, the centrality of Christianity in culture, and a social traditionalism focused on patriotism and the family. If you were to translate that divide into baby names it might place a name like Peter—classic, Christian, masculine—on one side, staring down an androgynous pagan newcomer like Dakota on the other. In fact, that does describe the political baby name divide quite accurately. But it describes it backwards.

Characteristic blue state names: Angela, Catherine, Henry, Margaret, Mark, Patrick, Peter and Sophie.

Characteristic red state names: Addison, Ashlyn, Dakota, Gage, Peyton, Reagan, Rylee and Tanner. . . .

Why is it the blue parents who name with red values? Because in baby naming as in so many parts of life, style, not values, is the guiding light. . . .


  1. Mike says:

    Blue or Red – doesnt matter. Today’s parents are whacked out offspring of the previous generation’s brats and this is what is the result: Messed up names that have to stick with the kid the rest of their lives.

    The more things change, the more screwed up this world becomes.

  2. Wait, so the “previous generation” had some “brats” whose “offspring” are today’s parents? That means Trig, Willow, etc. are the great-grandchildren of the previous generation? Confusing.

    My anecdotal experience in a blue city (indeed, the paradigmatic blue city) confirms Wattenberg’s claims in part. Most kids I know have classic given names (Adrian, Madeleine) or last-name-first-names (Drake, Jordan; also Milton, Dashiell). A certain aesthetic conservatism to go with our undeniable political liberalism.

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