Joy Pullmann of the Federalist delivers a warning to leaders of so-called “red states” to step up their game.

New census figures show the United States added the fewest citizens in its entire history in 2021, with population growth at just 0.1 percent. The data also showed a continued exodus of Americans from Democrat-run states to Republican-run states, with New York, California, and Illinois losing the most residents and Texas, Florida, and Arizona gaining the most, respectively.

The Wall Street Journal posted graphics illustrating these trends on a recent front page, then editorialized about the trend, pointing out the correlation between strictness of lockdowns and population decline. Economist Mark Perry also demonstrated that the states gaining residents clearly have smaller government burdens and lower costs of living compared to the states that lost residents.

These are both pre-existing trends (except in California; 2020 and 2021 were its first two years ever to lose population), but the lockdowns and social unrest stemming from American leaders’ poor handling of the Covid-19 outbreak appear to have accelerated these trends.

Red states, however, also tend to accept this situation passively. Rather than seeking to be places of excellence and well-being for their citizens, often red states simply congratulate themselves that they “Aren’t Illinois or California,” and leave it at that.

But it’s not a mark of success to say one’s state is not as bad as those that have unleashed welfare dependents, homeless addicts, and violent criminals, just like it’s not a mark of success for public schools with middle and upper-class kids to perform somewhat better than schools that oversee mostly the children of never-married drug addicts. In neither case can such entities claim they made any improvements. They’re simply taking credit for other people’s choices and advantages. Coasting isn’t leadership. It’s the abdication of leadership.