NYT: ‘For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics’

By pams
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 2:14 EDT
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There’s an interesting piece in the NYT by Adam Nossiter that makes some apt observations about what the results of the election mean for Republicans and the South.

By voting so emphatically for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama – supporting him in some areas in even greater numbers than they did President Bush – voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say.

The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”

One reason for that is that the South is no longer a solid voting bloc. Along the Atlantic Coast, parts of the “suburban South,” notably Virginia and North Carolina, made history last week in breaking from their Confederate past and supporting Mr. Obama. Those states have experienced an influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years, pointing them in a different political direction than states farther west, like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and Appalachian sections of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The fact of the matter is that Barack Obama received less of the white vote in the South than either John Kerry or Al Gore. And while the black turnout was record breaking in the deep South, it couldn’t overcome the white votes for McCain in those states.

It’s telling that a third of the Southern white vote in 2008 went to John McCain, and Obama only won 44 out of 410 counties in the Appalachian belt — people are stubbornly hanging on to their racial biases in these areas, so much so that they would vote against their interests no matter what, and the GOP has now become a regional party, dependent on the under-educated, low-information voter who have little exposure to diversity. After all, look at some of these statements:

One white woman said she feared that blacks would now become more “aggressive,” while another volunteered that she was bothered by the idea of a black man “over me” in the White House.

…“I am concerned,” Gail McDaniel, who owns a cosmetics business, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save. “The abortion thing bothers me. Same-sex marriage.”

“I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks,” she added. “From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”

More below the fold.

I sit here right in NC and all along I've been saying that this time it would be different – we were going to deliver for Obama. Boy was I laughed at by people outside this state. Our state, due to regional bias and having sent Jesse Helms to the Senate over and over, was cast as the cultural and educational equivalent of Alabama, usually by progressives outside of my state who were very dismissive.

I saw the voter registration drives here, I saw the early voter turnout. Hell, I drove every day down the streets and highways of our metropolitan areas (the Triangle) and saw Obama signs everywhere; the McCain/Palin bumper stickers were MIA in any number until the week before the election. For the first time we have more people living in the cities and suburbs than in the rural very Red areas of the state.

But our victory was slim, and, granted, a point the naysayers were right in one respect – the bigot backwards residents of my state made themselves visible — they turned out in numbers to gawk at Palin, and their desperation was evident by the tire slashings of attendees at an Obama rally, the kicking of a Greensboro reporter to the ground at a Palin rally, a coffin at a polling station with an Obama sticker on it, and a bear cub killed and left on a Western NC college with Obama signs stapled to its head. This was the old South going down and trying to beat off change. And they lost. However, to continue remaining Blue – since the victory was so small — we need the spotlight on that change, not the hillbilly rep delivered ad nauseum by purported political allies. Be mindful of who did turn out, and what coalitions need to continue to be cultivated.

The surprise for me was the welcome crushing defeat of Elizabeth Dole. That "Godless" ad was so over the top that newspapers all across the state, even small town ones, blasted her. Hagan's faith-based response rankled many here, but only the Durham Herald Sun was willing to really call it out for what it was.

A person's faith is a deeply personal matter, and every piece of evidence from Hagan's personal life leads one to believe her faith is genuine. The Dole ad clearly suggests otherwise, and, as such, is purposefully misleading and insulting. And Hagan is right that it seems a last-ditch, desperate effort by an incumbent who fears she is about to lose…Dole's ad is offensive on two counts — it misrepresents Hagan's beliefs and insults anyone whose beliefs are not seen as mainstream.

The bottom line is that Dole "misunderestimated" the new South — but then again, she doesn't really live here, she's holed up in the Watergate. No wonder she had Beltway beliefs about her own state.

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