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April 01, 2006

Go South, Young Donkey

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

Long ago when I argued that Democrats should nominate a Southerner for the presidency, I remember some people responding that the South is hopeless and we should look West instead. I’m increasingly convinced that they’re wrong, and I’d encourage people interested in this issue to look back at that old electoral map site that we were all following breathlessly in 2004. A Western strategy, at its absolute best, can win us 32 electoral votes – 5 in Nevada, 5 in New Mexico, 10 in Colorado, 3 in Montana, and 9 in Arizona.

There’s more votes in the more populated states to the South. Simply getting back the Southern states Clinton picked up in 1996 gives you 34 votes (if you count West Virginia and Florida, it’s 66). You should also pass your mouse over those Southern states, and compare the margins of defeat to the states out West. The 2004 margins are in the teens or less down in Virginia and the Carolinas, which Clinton always lost by margins of 6 or less. Go to Wyoming, and we lose by 40.

Certainly, winning the West helps you more with controlling the Senate. But winning the South helps you more with controlling the House. This is especially important given that we’re nearing another census, and control of state legislatures lets you redistrict heavily populated states the way you please.

I think part of the reason that Democrats tend to write off the South has to do with stereotypes of Southerners as racists. We shouldn’t forget that black people, the most loyally Democratic group in America, are much more common in the South than in the West. When Southern Democrats win, it’s because they can put together multiracial coalitions of blacks, liberals from the cities, and working-class white people. One key element of that coalition is missing in the Western states, where there also are lots of conservative Mormons.

The fact that there's more stuff to win in the South is cancelled out by offsetting factors in many respects -- it'll cost more to run there than in less populated states.  But when you're asking about which part of the country to pick nominees from so that we can score cultural identification points in presidential elections, the South is the place to go. 

April 1, 2006 in The South | Permalink

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A Western strategy, at its absolute best, can win us 32 electoral votes – 5 in Nevada, 5 in New Mexico, 10 in Colorado, 3 in Montana, and 9 in Arizona.

This bizarrely ignores the entire Midwest, where we could make a play for Missouri (11 votes), Iowa (7 votes), and Ohio (20 votes). I seriously doubt that pure regionalism is the answer to taking back the White House, but if regionalism is called for, you're looking to the wrong region. The votes up for graps are clearly in the West and the Midwest.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Apr 1, 2006 10:19:45 AM

Okay, the total electoral votes is 537. Subtract from that the votes from the asshole states, what you call the "south," and you get 422.

Subtract from 422 the stupid states and you get Kerry's total of 251. With me so far? Good.

Now, we take a look at states that, given recent polls and political activity, are trending toward enlightenment: OH, NV, NM, IA, MO, AR. If we get all of these votes, our total is 305. We win. If we don't get Ohio, we still win. If we don't get several of these, but manage to pick up one or two other states, we win.

The conclusion is obvious: Fuck. The. South.

I long to see a day where the decent people of this country can build a coalition strong enough that the south is finally treated with the derision it so richly deserves, its congressional delegations openly mocked. It will, of course, never happen. But I can dream.

P.S. If you think I've gone too far with my rhetoric, spend a few hours in the southern locale of your choice, and make the mistake of sounding like a "yankee."

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 1, 2006 10:23:48 AM

I seriously doubt that pure regionalism is the answer to taking back the White House...

Of course it's not. Where Wolf? thinks the Democratic message is just great and needs no adjustment. He, like many others, believe the reason for loss after loss is all technical.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 1, 2006 10:25:39 AM

...recent polls and political activity, are trending toward enlightenment:

I absolutely *LOVE* it when liberals use that term "enlightenment". It implies that when someone agrees with you, they have this knowledge that only you and others do not. Yes, you must be the elite to know what only you and others 'know'.

It's times like this when the mask slips, just a little, to show this fuckwad's true elitist colors. He knows best and fuck anyone else's opinions (The South, democracy, etc.). He is the elite and has the answer as long as you agree with him. If not, then you are the unwashed masses....ignorant and "unenlightened".

Ain't that fun?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 1, 2006 10:40:25 AM

Lungfish, West and Midwest is nobody's idea of a unified cultural region. You might as well say, "The Democrats need to focus on states that begin with letters after A." I'd rather play for the Midwest than the South, but the Midwest is known as a battleground by everyone. South over West is basically the point here.

Stephen, you can exclude any region and win, if you win everything else. The point is that we're a lot closer to winning in the South than most people think.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 1, 2006 10:44:55 AM

Fred, it's clear that conservatives are the ones that have problems with democracy. As far as being "elitist," since something like 55 million people agreed with me in the last election, that hardly counts as being "elitist."

And Fred, there is no one that posts here who shows as much disdain for their opponents' intellect as you do. Anyway, keep throwing the "elitist" stuff around, since it's not completely obvious to everyone how that is just another bullshit GOP talking point.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 1, 2006 10:46:58 AM

Wyoming is a completely unfair example of how far we have to go in the west, since it (along with Idaho and Utah) is certainly unwinnable.

Posted by: John | Apr 1, 2006 10:48:25 AM

OK, let's say for the argument that we should focus on the South. Democrats can only win in the South with a huge black turnout. Black turnout is essential in other regions as well. So this is a great argument for nominating a Black Southerner. Now that I've helped make the big decision, I'll leave the trivial task of picking the right Black Southerner as excercise for student.

Posted by: Gar Lipow | Apr 1, 2006 10:54:20 AM

These type of posts annoy me. The idea that we have to nominate a Southerner because Southerners won't vote for anyone else is insulting and follows the logic of rewarding petulant whiners to win power.

Caving in to the most obnoxious groups is a recipe for defeat that the Democrats have been toying with for 20 years now. Democrats need to nominate a candidate who can articulate progressive ideas and inspire the country. That's what Clinton was able to do. He didn't get elected because he was a southerner. He got elected because he connected with the voters. He could stand up and give a speech on any topic and it was obvious that he had a vision that most of the country connected with and a plan for making it happen. Restricting our prospective candidates by excluding 75% of the country is a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: Mike | Apr 1, 2006 10:55:41 AM

Neil, we don't have to win "everything else" if we exclude the south. That was my point - all we have to do is pick up some of the states that are trending toward the Dems anyway.

Look, the truth is that I don't really agree with regionalism of any sort - even with the horrible, horrible feelings I have toward the south. Let's try to win everywhere. But if we are going to talk regionally, the south is where Dems always seem to go, but it is the least likely place for us to pick up the necessary votes. As a country we need to stop bowing at the altar of the superiority of the south. It's where patriotism is defined, where American attitudes toward other cultures is defined, and it's this big battleground between the two parties. The only difference is that the GOP is getting a return on its investment, and the Dems are just throwing good money after bad. If we have a 50-state strategy, that means the south won't be ignored, either in presidential or down-ticket races. But if we're looking for parts of the country to focus limited resources, the south just isn't that place.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 1, 2006 11:00:43 AM

Fair enough, John -- but there's nothing in the South that we lose by that big a margin. Not Alabama, not Mississippi, not anything. Really, I just want people to play with the map for a while.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 1, 2006 11:00:46 AM

Hey, maybe Stephen is "enlightened" as well. Did you attend a buddhist ceremony? Did you do a lot of acid to attain this level of "enlightenment"? How does one get to become as "enlightened" as Stephen?

....there is no one that posts here who shows as much disdain for their opponents' intellect as you do.

Fuck The South. I long to see a day where the decent people of this country can build a coalition strong enough that the south is finally treated with the derision it so richly deserves, its congressional delegations openly mocked.

Well, there's Stephen in his own words where he is demonstrating his "enlightenment" and tolerance toward others who disagree with him. I don't think I really want his brand of "enlightenment".

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 1, 2006 11:02:22 AM

Lungfish, West and Midwest is nobody's idea of a unified cultural region.

The West and Midwest won't swing Democratic as easily as the South swung to the GOP, but it'd be foolish to say there are no unifying cultural elements between the plains states, or between those in the southwest. This isn't fighting over a single region like the south - its fighting over a few smaller regions - but these are indisputably cultural regions, and ignoring them in favor of another Quixotic battle to win the hearts and minds of Alabama is crazy. The Republicans have learned this lesson: they don't waste precious time and money trying to win back the Northeast. Some states are swing states, and some states have swung long ago.

I'm also a bit underwhelmed with your strategy to win the South. As far as I can tell, you want to nominate a Southern candidate, and then a miracle occurs? The last Southern presidential candidate we nominated was Al Gore, and he didn't win a single Southern state; of course, if SCOTUS had ruled the other way, he would've won the presidency without a single Southern state, too. John Edwards didn't help John Kerry win a single Southern state, and it's far from clear that Edwards would've won re-election in North Carolina if he'd actually tried, so I'm really not convinced that your specific prescription (nominating Edwards) is the cure to taking back the South at all.

If superficial changes to our candidates need to happen, it's not where they're born, but how they talk and what they talk about. If we need to focus on fighting in a region, I suggest we fight in thhe up-for-grabs states to the West: they call them "battleground states" for a reason.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Apr 1, 2006 11:22:30 AM

This is absolutely insane. When Clinton won the states you count (LA, AR, TN, KY) in 1996, everything was coming up roses. Booming economy, peace and prosperity, no semen-stained dresses, etc. Any state he didn't pick up then is one we can never hope to pick up. It's a bit like the Republicans saying that the only states they shouldn't win in are the states Reagan lost in '84. Oh, sorry. I meant "state" - MN.

The better old electoral map to judge against is 2000 - no encumbancy, things still pretty good, semen-stained dress, and the bloom of the economy slightly off the rose. LA - lost by 7 points, AR - 5 points, TN - 4 points, KY - 15 points.

Moreover, part of the reason we don't want to go South is because we believe that our core beliefs are increasingly anathma to them. Or we could just throw gay Americans and African-Americans under the bus. We get such strong African-American support because we're seen as less likely to sell that community out to get votes than the other guy. Particularly in the South. But if you want to give away one of our basic constituencies out of some benighted sense that we must win in the South (rather than just we must win), there are people in our party with whom you can work. A nice start would be arguing that there's no problem with SC flying that fucking flag, and that it ought to fly in more state capitols. Unity, you see. Inclusion, you see.

Fuck the South. We can worry about winning down there (AR, TN, and, Gawd-willing, NC and VA) after we just win. Until then - Fuck the South. We should be flying some sort of Union battle flag, not kow-towing to those fucks.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 1, 2006 11:42:09 AM

Many of these issues were hashed out in the comments, Lungfish. Al Gore was in no way culturally identified with the South once 2000 rolled around.

I don't see any reason to see the Midwest as more Western than Southern. (Then again, I've lived in the Midwest and the South for most of my life, and I don't find the differences that tremendous, while I don't know much about the West.)

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 1, 2006 11:44:44 AM

I, too, find these discussions tedious. Why? Because people don't vote for a regional candidate--though the region and its stereotypes may play into why they *explain their vote afterwards*. White southern GOP voters will *never* vote for a real democrat, whatever state he (and you know you mean he) hails from. On the fence southern democrats? They are as likely to vote for a northerner who speaks their language as for a black southernor or a gay southernor. All these discussions are simply coded for "find a savior! someone! anyone!" I say, find a stand up, can talk to anyone, seriously liberal and proud of it democrat and r un the hell out of him. If we discourage their base, and encourage our base, we can get in. But its not wholly in our hands and the state the guy comes from? forget it. It doesn't matter.

aimai

Posted by: aimai | Apr 1, 2006 11:50:02 AM

The point is that we're a lot closer to winning in the South than most people think != "best place to fish for likely electoral votes."

but there's nothing in the South that we lose by that big a margin. Not Alabama, not Mississippi, not anything. Really, I just want people to play with the map for a while.

I really don't understand this. On the 2004 map, I get a 26 point difference in AL, and a 20 point difference in MS. Those seem like pretty large differentials.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 1, 2006 12:00:16 PM

Voters absolutely do vote for a regionalist stereotype -- why do you think the White House advisors let Bush clear brush on his ranch for weeks at a time? And there's really no other way I can explain swings of 60+ percentage points in the margins in Alabama and Arkansas between 72 and 76. I wouldn't believe this stuff if the data wasn't so terrifyingly powerful.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 1, 2006 12:06:18 PM

SCMT, those are about the worst in the South, but they're not nearly as bad as the Mountain-state differentials. I was responding to someone who asked about Wyoming.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 1, 2006 12:08:52 PM

Voters absolutely do vote for a regionalist stereotype -- why do you think the White House advisors let Bush clear brush on his ranch for weeks at a time?

But this isn't done to entice voters, it's done to shore up support among the people who already voted for the GOP. The GOP has a stranglehold on the south's electoral votes. I'm not saying that we should forget all of the good progressives that live in the south - only that we don't worry about them for presidential races. SCMT is absouletly right: we can worry about winning in the south when we are just winning, period. Until then we need to focus on down-ticket races, trying to get as many victories as we can in local and state-wide races, and as many Dems heading to Congress as possible.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 1, 2006 12:20:25 PM

And there's really no other way I can explain swings of 60+ percentage points in the margins in Alabama and Arkansas between 72 and 76.

How are you accounting for Watergate?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Apr 1, 2006 12:21:43 PM

SCMT, look at the other states as a control. I see no reason to think that Watergate would play bigger in the South than elsewhere. In 72, Nixon gets his biggest margins in the South. in 76, the South is pretty much the core of Carter's base of support.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Apr 1, 2006 12:29:43 PM

You don't have to be an elitist to recognize idiocy and lunacy. And idiocy and lunacy is all we get from the south. But hey, why argue anymore? I just favor secession. I look foward to a day when the saner parts of America can undo the manacles that chain us to Dixie.

Posted by: Rob | Apr 1, 2006 12:31:20 PM

SCMT is right.

In the South, the Democratic party is the blacks-and-others party, the epublican party is the whites party.

Anything you do to increase your share of the white vote will tend to give African-Americans a reason to stay home.

Anything you do to increase -- and it's hard to see how you can increase a 90% share -- black voter shares will keep the whites home, or drive them into the Republicans's arms.

Square this circle, and I'll work to get you the Democratic nomination.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Apr 1, 2006 12:45:16 PM

Go to Wyoming, and we lose by 40.

Duh! Wyoming only has 3 residents, and one of them is Dick Cheney.

Posted by: Royko | Apr 1, 2006 12:48:27 PM

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