A speckled wave of Democratic blue swept across parts of America last week, handing President Barack Obama a second term and tossing a handful of party members into the Senate and House of Representatives.
But the wave didnt reach the entire nation.
By the time it hit Missouri, it had dwindled to a small pink-purple ripple. At the Kansas border, the waters stilled the Sunflower State remains deep crimson, perhaps the most conservative state in the nation.
Why would that be?
The answer can be found in the evolving froth of culture, gender, age, and racial makeup of the rapidly changing 21st-century electorate.
In Virginia, for example, almost 40 percent of the population is either African-American or Latino, compared with just 15 percent in similarly-sized Missouri. Nevadans are 34 percent nonwhite; Kansas, just a bit smaller, is home to a minority population of less than 20 percent.
Virginia and Nevada voted for Obama, while Kansas and Missouri supported Republican Mitt Romney.
Increasingly, Kansas and Missouri are older, whiter, more rural and suburban, and more culturally conservative than Wisconsin, Minnesota, even New Mexico.
Coloradans legalized recreational marijuana; a Missouri petition for a similar vote collapsed for lack of signatures. Three states legalized gay marriage Tuesday; here, it remains explicitly illegal. In fact, in Hutchinson and Salina, voters overwhelming repealed city ordinances granting gays protection from discrimination.
There are true cultural differences between voters in Kansas and voters in New York or California, said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a man at the spearpoint of the countrys broad social policy debate. The Founding Fathers wanted it this way. Its not unhealthy at all. Its how our country was set up.
Few politicians on either side of the red-blue divide expect the local political environment to change anytime soon. Democrats in Missouri still will play a significant role in statewide races, they said, although the state appears lost to the party at the presidential level for decades to come.
Kansas is easier to predict. It hasnt supported a Democrat for president for almost half a century. It could easily wait another 50 years before it flips blue again.
In both states, leading Republicans say, Tuesdays results wont lead to any major push for moderation.
The Show-Me state emerges from Tuesdays election as a bit of a split personality.
Its General Assembly remains rock-solid Republican, now with veto-proof majorities in both chambers and a state House of Representatives with 110 members of the Republican Party the most in Missouri history.
Six of the states eight members in the new U.S. Congress will be Republican. No Republican incumbent faced a serious challenge on the ballot.
That trend, analysts said, is likely to continue and grow. In district-based elections, party identification remains strong, largely because like-minded voters increasingly tend to live in the same areas (the places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote like we do, says a website for The Big Sort, a 2008 book that describes the phenomenon.)
A different picture emerges when it comes to statewide officeholders. Four of the six officials, including Gov. Jay Nixon, are Democrats, all elected to four-year terms this week. By the end of this, Nixons second term, Democrats will have controlled the governors office for 20 of the past 24 years.