Gelman brings the R

by Kieran Healy on November 5, 2008

Andrew Gelman with a first pass at analyzing the election data.

04/08 swing by state

This figure illustrates point 5 below—the election was more of a partisan swing than a redrawing of the electoral map. Andrew’s impressions:

1. The election was pretty close. Obama won by about 5% of the vote, consistent with the latest polls and consistent with his forecast vote based on forecasts based on the economy. … 3. The gap between young and old has increased–a lot: But there was no massive turnout among young voters. According to the exit polls, 18% of the voters this time were under 30, as compared to 17% of voters in 2004. (By comparison, 22% of voting-age Americans are under 30.)

4. By ethnicity: Barack Obama won 96% of African Americans, 68% of Latinos, 64% of Asians, and 44% of whites. In 2004, Kerry won 89% of African Americans, 55% of Latinos, 56% of Asians, and 41% of whites. So Obama gained the most among ethnic minorities.

5. The red/blue map was not redrawn; it was more of a national partisan swing.

{ 81 comments }

1

Jim Henley 11.05.08 at 5:09 pm

5. The red/blue map was not redrawn; it was more of a national partisan swing.

[Scooby interrogative.] Say what?

2

c.l. ball 11.05.08 at 5:12 pm

There seem to be some missing votes, or else turn-out was not as high as was predicted. (I’m not talking about fraud here) According to the CNN.com figures, Obama received 62.9 million votes. In 2004, by FEC data, Bush received 62 million. McCain with 55.7 million, however, was further behind Kerry in 2004, who had 59 million. If turn-out was up — some were estimating by as much as 6.5 million more than in 2004 — where did all those votes go? Did nth parties do better than we thought? Would we expect to find almost 8 million minor-party votes?

3

Steven Attewell 11.05.08 at 5:15 pm

You’re way off on the youth vote – the big story is that youth turnout increased as a percentage of the electorate by 1% in the largest turnout election in decades. That means the voter turnout increase must have been immense. The fact that everyone else also voted makes it look smaller.

4

a. y. mous 11.05.08 at 5:15 pm

More tiresomeness. More chances. More coverage. More expectations. More valid. More fun.

5

Jacob T. Levy 11.05.08 at 5:20 pm

“[Scooby interrogative.] Say what?”

The idea is that Obama outperformed Kerry by a pretty consistent margin everywhere (except Hawaii). That margin makes the map bluer than it was, because it pushes a bunch of states over 50% D– but he didn’t change the basic geography of where Democratic candidates do relatively better and where they do relatively worse. A unified nationwide swing in the electorate, not a scrambling of existing patterns.

6

c.l. ball 11.05.08 at 5:32 pm

Re 1

He means there was a modest shift toward the Democrats that brought what were swing states or marginally red states into the Democratic fold. Most of the states that were blue in 2004 stayed blue and most that were red stayed red. Of course, VA and NC were long-time red states (since ’92) that are now blue. Or put differently, don’t conflate Obama’s electoral vote sweep with a popular vote sweep. He is less than 1 million votes ahead of what Bush received in 2004.

7

Jim Henley 11.05.08 at 5:44 pm

@5 & 6: Thanks. Just making sure. His logic strikes me, though, as, at the very least, assailable.

Taking as red the general blueing factor, it’s still premature to say this doesn’t represent a redrawing of the map. Obama picked up states in every region of the country except the Great Plains. He picked up three Intermountain West states and two Confederate states. (I’m not even counting Florida in the Confed total.) He seems to have done this at least in part because of demographic shifts.

These demographic shifts do apply to the country as a whole (we’re less white and less old), but that’s kind of my point: it looks like Obama’s pickups happened for reasons that have a chance of obtaining in future elections in those same states. We can say after the fact, “Well Colorado and Virginia [say] were ‘weakly’ red or ‘pale red’ states that are now ‘pale blue.’ ” But before the fact, meaning right through 2005, these states were considered to be durable Republican territory. If VA and Colorado are so much as battleground states going forward, let alone safe or lean Blue states, AND places like Alabama and Wyoming and Nebraska remain Repub strongholds, then how is that not redrawing the map?

8

David Weman 11.05.08 at 5:50 pm

5, 5% isn’t close at all. That’s madness.

9

Jim Henley 11.05.08 at 5:57 pm

@6: Obama’s percentage of the popular vote is the highest for a winner since 1988. It’s the best result by a Democrat since 1964. Add to that the down-ticket pickups for the Democrats (House and Senate, I haven’t looked at governorships) and there’s no question we are talking about a landslide of sorts.

Also, to correct, you wrote, “Most of the states that were blue in 2004 stayed blue and most that were red stayed red.” ALL of the states that were blue in 2004 stayed blue. Quite a number of states that were red in 2004 turned blue. Of course, this counts as evidence in favor of Gelman, so I’m not sure why I bring it up. ;)

10

csf 11.05.08 at 6:05 pm

Re: Youth vote:
What I’d like to see is the turnout (esp. voters/eligible to register) by education (coll. grad & in-college vs. h.s. grad and less) for whites only. Hunch is that youth turnout is up for the more-educated white youth and down for less-educated white youth. Any data?

11

Anon 11.05.08 at 6:14 pm

I’ve never understood why people would think the map would get redrawn in a single election cycle. Has this ever happened barring a national catastrophe? Even then? Are Republicans just supposed to wake up one day and say, “I’ve seen the light”? Obama’s victory presages a trend among non-white voters which folks have been talking about for a while (from Karl Rove to Ruy Teixeira). The question is whether that trend can be build upon.

And I would like to see the numbers on the youth vote, not just the percentage. I find it hard to mentally normalize for turnout. But if Obama massively skewed the youth vote (whatever percentage) Democratic, that’s another trend that the Democrats will surely try to build on.

12

Kieran Healy 11.05.08 at 6:26 pm

Claude @10 — I think Michael McDonald’s blog may be the place to find this, but I’m not sure if he has those breakdowns.

13

catclub 11.05.08 at 6:34 pm

If you draw a line through the data, rather than just a 1:1 line, it shows blue states
getting even bluer and the really red states getting redder.

In more detail, the old south was STRONGER for McCain than it was for Bush – who
was popular, even though they all hate McCain. Any ideas why that might be? Bueller? Anyone?

Southern white victim mode to commence in …3,2,1

14

Ben Alpers 11.05.08 at 6:58 pm

Of course, VA and NC were long-time red states (since ‘92) that are now blue. Or put differently, don’t conflate Obama’s electoral vote sweep with a popular vote sweep.

In fact, Virginia hadn’t gone Democratic since 1964. North Carolina hadn’t gone Democratic since 1976. And Gelman’s argument has to do with the shape of Obama’s victory, not its size, so it really doesn’t address the issue of whether or not Obama should be seen as having “swept” the popular vote. And as others have noted upthread, if we compare his margin of victory to others in the last half century, it’s actually quite sizable.

There’s something of a false dichotomy in Gelman’s argument. A general national partisan shift redraws the map, as some states are close enough to flip while others aren’t.

A local note: as Gelman’s graph indicates, this rising tide had no effect whatsoever here in Oklahoma.

15

Stuart 11.05.08 at 7:21 pm

A general national partisan shift redraws the map, as some states are close enough to flip while others aren’t.

Of course under that definition, any result that doesn’t leave every state voting the same way redraws the map, which is a pointless definition in this context.

16

John Quiggin 11.05.08 at 7:32 pm

The county level map published in the NY Times gives some support to the idea of a redrawing. The Repubs gained ground in a lot of rural counties in the South. Even though they lost ground in just about every state, they’ve come out more Southern than they went in.

17

P O'Neill 11.05.08 at 7:37 pm

The partisan shift thing is just our old BBC friend the Swingometer in another guise. Increase the national swing and more of the pins start to fall. On the margin of victory, it’s a bit odd to be comparing 2 and 3 party races, which is what is going with the Clinton victory margins. Perot was hurting the Republicans more than the Democrats. In a two horse race, Obama’s 6 point margin is really solid. Also, Gelman’s point 3 figure brings out why Bush needed to ram through the Medicare Part D before the 2004 election — look at the difference in his support among older voters.

18

Ben Alpers 11.05.08 at 7:40 pm

Of course under that definition, any result that doesn’t leave every state voting the same way redraws the map, which is a pointless definition in this context.

So long as we have an electoral college system that determines the outcome in forty-eight of the fifty states by a winner-take-all, first-past-the-post system, there’s nothing whatsoever pointless about this definition.

I agree that if we elected presidents by popular vote, a truly across the board partisan shift couldn’t meaningfully be described as “redrawing the map,” but under those circumstances I think we’d all stop worrying so much about maps and would worry instead simply about votes…and wouldn’t that be something in a democracy?

19

Ben Alpers 11.05.08 at 7:42 pm

Perot was hurting the Republicans more than the Democrats.

No he wasn’t.

Can we finally put this data-free GOP talkingpoint to bed?

20

John Emerson 11.05.08 at 7:55 pm

The first hints of the Republican Southern realignment were in 1948, 1968 and 1972 were turning points, but Carter did well in the South in 1976 and the shift wasn’t established until 1980.

21

lemuel pitkin 11.05.08 at 7:59 pm

19-

Right. 1980 really did “redraw the map” in a way that would be meaningful even with a popular vote. This year did not. But, who claimed it did?

22

Ben Alpers 11.05.08 at 8:05 pm

20-

I’ll claim it did, lp.

So long as the presidential election is a battle for electoral votes in winner-take-all states, across the board shifts in partisan support can change which states are in play. This is the meaningful sense in which they redraw the electoral map. Obama and McCain fought this election in a different set of states from those in which Kerry and Bush contested the 2004 election.

23

lemuel pitkin 11.05.08 at 8:26 pm

I don’t understand what you’re arguing, Ben. The point is just that the partisan leanings of different demographic groups look the same in this election as in the past several. This is very different from e.g. 1980, when white Southerners shifted from a disproportionately Democratic group to a disproportionately Republican one.

24

Martin James 11.05.08 at 8:49 pm

First order, doesn’t the election basically look like 1992?

25

Ben Alpers 11.05.08 at 9:09 pm

lp,

I didn’t say that it was the same kind of shift as happened in 1980.

But our system for allocating electoral votes leads campaigns to focus on states whose votes will be close. Cross-the-board partisan shifts change which states those are. For example, IN, NC, and VA were in play this year; NJ, which was in play in 2004, was not. This quite literally changes the map of the election, as campaigns focus resources and even campaign themes on the states that happen to be in play. For example, we heard a lot less about ethanol with Iowa being essentially conceded to Obama this year.

Obviously regional shifts in support for the parties have more dramatic effects on the map than national shifts. But so long as campaigns are particularly interested in marginal states, national partisan shifts do change the map.

(Sorry if this sounds muddled; I’m working on three hours of sleep so I may not be making as much sense as–I hope–I usually do.)

26

Martin James 11.05.08 at 9:11 pm

Second Order, compare to 1992, the electoral vote in the west and northeast is identical. The shift was Indiana plus the South. Clinton carried TN, LA, AR, KY and GA which Obama lost. However, Obama picked up IN, VA, FL, and NC.

The only thing keeping me from calling the election a re-aligning landslide is that the Democrats were underwhelming in the senate races where OR and MN Rep’s were competitive in blue states and no crushing pick-ups in GA and AK.

The business strategy will be to shower money on the moderate democratic senators and there are quite a few to pick.

27

c.l. ball 11.05.08 at 9:27 pm

Re 9, I mean as you said all blue states stayed blue.

Re 9 & 13, I was working off 1992+ data; I didn’t meant to imply that VA or NC were Democratic in 1988.

Re 13 & 21

I usually think of landslides as a popular percentage gap of at least 10%, like Reagan in 1980 and 1984. If this election is a landslide than Bush 41′s 1988 win would be one too, and I don’t think most people consider his election that way.

Obama put NC, VA, and CO into play in ways they had not been since the 1990s — Clinton lost by less than 5% in those years and won CO in once — but OH & FL were in play for Kerry and Gore. Obama put IN into play in ways it was not before and took PA out of the play it was in 2004.

28

yoyo 11.05.08 at 9:54 pm

The main difference vs. 1992 is in the south: bubba won the interior uplands region. Obama won the southeast coast. I’d like to see the specific breakdown in the states but it looks like a loss of rural less-educated traditional dems and a gain of creative-class types. It will probably continue with the growth of metro regions in VA, NC, GA, and TX – which like NV, CO, has hispanic growth. Florida combines those two trends. The important thing is this is the first election where someone won with that coalition. Clinton had a cultural connection to the interior south, and talked about right-wing culture concerns for that region – welfare reform, killing ricky rector, etc.

29

Matthew Kuzma 11.05.08 at 10:17 pm

What qualifies as a massive increase in young voter turnout?

17% of 123.5 million voters in 2004 is 21.0 million.
18% of 136.6 million voters in 2008 is 24.5 million.
22% of voting-age Americans is 46.9 million under-30 eligible voters, so an increase of 3.5 million is 7.5% of eligible voters under 30 who showed up this year and didn’t in 2004. Since voter turnout is up across the board by about 4%, it’s true the youth vote was by no means an overwhelming force, but 3.5 million new young voters is nothing to sneeze at.

30

J Thomas 11.06.08 at 3:33 am

I’d say this chart can be useful several ways. First, look at it vertically. Look at the states that came just below 50%. MO MT GA ND SC AZ SD TX

These may be the states that come closest to being battleground states if things go well next time. If there’s a way to strengthen Democratic organizations in those states it might become a priority.

Second, turn the monitor 45 degrees and look at how far things are from the diagonal line. ;) That tells you how much better Obama did than Kerry. If everything were to line up in a straight line parallel to that diagonal, it would mean that Obama just did so many percent better than Kerry everywhere. There’s some truth to that, but it’s a pretty thick wavery line.

Look at the frontrunners, HI VT DE NV. Obama did a lot better than he needed to in those. If any of them got a disproportionate amount of money or attention that could be sent elsewhere, that might be useful information. On the other hand you don’t want to punish a state organization for working hard and getting results.

LA and AR were the two states where Kerry did better. See if there’s some obvious reason for that? You can be sure GOP strategists will look at what went right for them there, and they’ll try to make the same things happen elsewhere if they can figure it out.

MT ND NE UT were states where Obama’s lead over Kerry were close to twice the usual, though that wasn’t enough to get 51%. It might be worth looking at what let them improve so much. Were they GOP strongholds where Kerry didn’t try? Consider UT where it went from something like .27 to .36. That’s still a long way from winning but it’s a lot of new blood. Could they bring that to .46 by 2012? It seems unlikely on first principles, but it’s worth investigating the possibility. If Utah can be a battleground state then that’s one more place the GOP has to spread money and attention.

Finally, the idea that it was just like 2004 except everybody took two steps left is obviously too simple. That idea works in the states that Obama won, with a bunch of outliers. It does not work in the states that Obama lost. Those states were much more variable. Two where he went backward, a bunch that were just the same, and plenty of advances with more large ones. It stands out on the picture.

31

David Weman 11.06.08 at 7:42 am

John Emerson: “The first hints of the Republican Southern realignment were in 1948, 1968 and 1972 were turning points, but Carter did well in the South in 1976 and the shift wasn’t established until 1980.”

Not true. Carter did better in the south than in the rest of the country, although he lost the south too, except Georgia.

It’s true that this election wasn’t a major regional-political realigment. 64 was, although 76 and 80 had the old pattern with a democratic south, and a republican California. Since 84 shifts have been relatively minor.

32

Brett Bellmore 11.06.08 at 12:44 pm

I know this is not a common opinion, but 96% of black voters voting for the black candidate creeps me out just as much as 96% of white voters voting for the white candidate would have.

33

Omar Khan 11.06.08 at 1:18 pm

I agree in part. And an important caveat: I certainly don’t think the US is now a social democratic post-racial country. But here’s some significant results that point to wider consequences of demographic and other changes:

Obama won by 11 in ‘swing states’ New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
McCain won by 11 in Texas. That is, the Democrat is as close in Texas as the Republican in New Hampshire. That’s surprising. And Obama shifted margins from 2004 by more than 15 points in 9 states, including the shocker of Indiana, and explain his big victories in New Mexico (+15) and Nevada (+14). Some perspective: those are the same margins as McCain wins in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kansas.

There are now no Republican reps in New England; there is actually only one Republican county in this region that went for McCain (a rural one of 8000 in Maine; ALL NH counties went Obama). I know this is blue territory, but if the Republicans don’t change their message, they are simply throwing away too many populous parts of the country, including growing urban areas in VA and NC. Other than the South and Arizona, McCain won no states with more than 6 EVs (I think).

Bush II’s win strategy will not be viable in the future. Remember that Bush I and Reagan and Nixon all won California (and New York occasionally). Look also at the ballot stuff: South Dakota rejected an abortion ban, and although there were some horrible anti-gay results, I think the social conservative agenda will lose traction over the next 20 years. Just because this election is pushing already existing trends further along doesn’t mean that there won’t be more wide-ranging changes in the future as those incremental changes add up. In sum: Texas will go Democratic before 2028.

34

J Thomas 11.06.08 at 2:07 pm

96% of black voters voting for the black candidate creeps me out just as much as 96% of white voters voting for the white candidate would have.

When the GOP has more to offer blacks then I’m sure they’ll get more black votes.

If they had run Colin Powell for President do you think he would have gotten 96% of black votes? Would they have voted for the party of Bush just because it was a black man on the ballot?

35

lt 11.06.08 at 2:19 pm

Brett –

In all previous elections for 200 plus years, 100% of whites have voted for white candidates. Do you not find that creepy?

36

Cryptic Ned 11.06.08 at 4:28 pm

I don’t think “It” makes a very good point in #34.

More relevant –

82% of black voters voted for Carter in 1976
82% of black voters voted for Carter in 1980
91% of black voters voted for Mondale in 1984
89% of black voters voted for Dukakis in 1988
83% of black voters voted for Clinton in 1992
84% of black voters voted for Clinton in 1996
90% of black voters voted for Gore in 2000
88% of black voters voted for Kerry in 2004

Amazing, that they have been bamboozled for so long into thinking that these guys are all black.

37

Ahistoricality 11.06.08 at 4:33 pm

Since this election is right before a Census year and redistricting, I wonder if McCain is benefitting from overvalued rural votes? It’s highly likely that the next round of redistricting will reflect our ongoing shift towards intense urbanization, towards the coastal, Great Lakes and urbanized Mississipi Valley regions which were pretty strong Obama territory. It’s not going to be good for Republicans in Congress, I think….

38

Michael Turner 11.06.08 at 4:44 pm

Brett, if you look at it as “96% of black voters voting for the democratic ticket, as they have some reason to do”, you’ll find it’s hardly amazing. Of course, it wasn’t always that way. Black Americans hardly identified as Democrats at all until FDR, blacks couldn’t even attend a Dem convention in any official capacity until 1924, Nixon somehow got about 30% of the black vote in 1960, but by the time you get to LBJ, the choice was pretty clear: he got 94% of the black vote, a record that stood until just the other day. The Party of Lincoln was no longer standing up for them, and a white man from a former slave state was standing up to powerful legislators in his own party.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that there was no racial-identity motivation this time around. Far from it. Obviously. But jeez, guy: if the first Constitutional Congress had somehow outlawed slavery, we might’ve had maybe 4 or 5 black presidents by now and nobody would find an Obama particularly remarkable on the basis of race. For other reasons, certainly, but not that one.

Sometimes it’s not enough to just believe in the theoretical possibility of something. You have to go out there and be part of making it happen. Only then will it seem real enough to you. Some people who had hardly ever (or in some cases never) voted decided to register just for the chance to vote for Obama. Some of those people were black and came of age when anti-miscegenation laws in certain states were not only still on the books, but still enforced. Obama, even in the year he was born, would have been the offspring of an illegal marriage in some states. Today, he’s president-elect. As a white man, I can shrug and say, “Well, it’s a free country where anything is possible.” But that perspective is a luxury I was born with, from certain other perspectives.

Sometimes a vote is one of millions of hammer blows on the head of stake being driven into the heart of something that should never stir again. For millions of people, this was one of those moments, one of those chances. You might say that this particular monstrous thing was never going to stir again anyway. Yes. Probably. Theoretically. But for certain others of us, the motivation was probably somewhat akin to that of the large crowd at the funeral of some unusually evil old man, “mourners” who dressed up and attended not to pay their last respects but simply to be sure he was dead.

39

John Emerson 11.06.08 at 5:46 pm

Brett is really reliable, isn’t he?

40

Brett Bellmore 11.06.08 at 5:48 pm

“In all previous elections for 200 plus years, 100% of whites have voted for white candidates. Do you not find that creepy?”
No, I find that false. And this stupid realtime preview has me limited to typing one character every couple of seconds, which I find vastly annoying.

41

James Wimberley 11.06.08 at 6:11 pm

OK, the graph proves it was by and large a national swing. So it has to be explained primarily by national factors. The issues – Bush record, the economy, Iraq – are surely a large part of it. How about the campaign? The vaunted Obama “ground game” was present in many states but concentrated at the end in the 20 or so “battleground” states. The advertising was almost wholly concentrated there. Inference: the ground game may have made a difference, with diminishing returns (being phoned/visited by a volunteer the first time may be effective, but not the sixth time); TV advertising is unimportant or rather returns diminish quickly.

I maintain my suggestion that the real importance of the massive Obama volunteer operation may lie in the future. The army will not allow President Obama to go soft on his promises.

42

James Wimberley 11.06.08 at 6:12 pm

And thanks to Massa for giving us our preview back!

43

MarkUp 11.06.08 at 7:20 pm

“In all previous elections for 200 plus years, 100% of whites have voted for white candidates. Do you not find that creepy?”

“No, I find that false.”

Correct, there have been times when it’s been all the way down to almost 98 1/4%.

44

J Thomas 11.06.08 at 11:05 pm

Correct, there have been times when it’s been all the way down to almost 98 1/4%.

Not so. How many US presidential elections have more than 50% of white voters even voted?

45

lt 11.06.08 at 11:13 pm

40 -
Perhaps it was more like 99.99% The point was partly tongue in cheeck. But a society largely controlled by whites has created structures and systems that resulted in there only being white major party nominees. That *is* significant also. We shouldn’t pretend that only when there are both black and white candidates is race somehow a part of the picture.

46

Watson Aname 11.06.08 at 11:19 pm

Brett, while if I squint really hard and read you charitably I think I can see the point you attempted to make, it is rather laughable to pretend those two situations would be equivalent.

47

MarkUp 11.07.08 at 2:41 am

44> ”How many US presidential elections have more than 50% of white voters even voted?”

Start about 1828 and up to about 1908 – all were over 50% and not terribly ‘diverse;’ of course it was a different game then. How do you define “voter?” Those that should have or those that did?

48

Brett Bellmore 11.07.08 at 2:43 am

Let me be clear that I find it creepy whether it’s 97% of blacks voting for the Democratic party, or 97% of them voting for the black candidate: It’s just plain creepy having an ethnic group acting in lockstep to that extent,

49

harry b 11.07.08 at 3:46 am

Of course it is creepy that 97% of blacks voted for the Democratic/Black candidate. Brett’s right about that. But Brett, did you look at the crowd in front of McCain when he conceded? Have you listened to Rush the last day or two? Or Michael Savage? These people creep blacks out (me too). That’s where the creepiness is; in the party that cow-tows to these vicious bastards. Its not the behaviour of the black voters that’s creepy, but the behaviour of the party that is so determined not to get their votes.

50

J Thomas 11.07.08 at 3:51 am

Bret, Let me be clear that I find it creepy too. But I put the responsibility on the GOP.

Somehow they have persuaded a whole lot of blacks to vote against them. A whole ethnic group that they offer nothing to. I expect if jews in germany had been allowed to vote in 1940, almost 100% of them would have voted gainst the national socialists. It’s like that but of course far less so.

And another creepy thing is that a majority of poor and middle-class southern whites have voted for their natural enemies, the Republicans. The GOP has given them essentially nothing, and yet the Democratic Party has so alienated them that they vote Republican in spite of everything.

51

Michael Turner 11.07.08 at 4:58 am

But you know what’s really creepy, Brett? Whenever I see depictions of slavery from back when the U.S. had slavery, it looks like more than 98% of the slaves are black. It’s pretty clear that the black slaves must massed together in some kind of, well, frankly fascist manner, and bullied the white slaves out of volunteering to pose for the artist.

One can still see traces of this sort of ethnic minority monopolization in today’s sports and entertainment industres. Still, it’s clear we’ve come a very long way since the days when blacks dominated — indeed, largely constituted — the means of production in an economy that was mostly agricultural.

The latent threat shouldn’t be ignored, however. Think of all the decades after the Civil War when, having been disenfranchised from their position as the economic engine of the nation, blacks mostly held themselves aloof from the electoral process in the former Confederacy, clearly wanting little to do with any process of governance they couldn’t absolutely control. Even in the North, they banded together in communities more than 98% black, fearsomely tribal, earning shuddering fear among whites about straying over to “the wrong side of the tracks.” The fear was amply justified. Occasionally one of their men would stride over into a white area of town with the aim of touching (or worse!) a white woman. It sometimes took whole gangs of white men to restrain one of these tribal warriors. Even when one of them was strung up on a tree branch by the neck, there was some risk of getting kicked in the teeth.

We should be concerned about any ethnic group so cohesive that it tends to ignore its own economic self-interest, that tends to cluster together in its own poverty-wracked communities when there’s obviously better housing available elsewhere, that tends to shun well-paid work when it involves too much contact with other ethnic groups, preferring instead titles like “community organizer”. What if these people got too organized one day? They might immiserate us all. The U.S. could be reduced to a third-rank power, and finally, might end up exporting only agricultural goods. From there, it’s only one quick step: the blacks could sabotage all farm machinery, and practically overnight, black people would be right back to dominating the workforce at the critical base of the economic pyramid. We white folks would be stuck on top again, totally dependent on them. There wouldn’t be a damned thing we could do about it.

52

roy belmont 11.07.08 at 5:08 am

48:
It’s just plain creepy having an ethnic group acting in lockstep to that extent
Still, that’s what you should expect when you subject an entire ethnic group to intense pressure to accept an absolutely groundless identification as inferior, and use both law and scripture and whip and gun to enforce that bogus dynamic.
Stopping doing that officially didn’t quite fix things. And keep in mind that official repudiation of ethnic bigotry came after a struggle that called for above all else unified engagement by that ethnic minority.
And even now, decades of relatively earnest campaigning and education haven’t quite wiped it all away.
Not that it’s okay, mind, but the creepiness. You got to track that creepiness back to its lair. Go hunt it where it lives.
And like any aspiring hero, be prepared to be shocked and horrified by what you find.

53

JP Stormcrow 11.07.08 at 5:11 am

The nice NYT map of changes by county allow you to compare the ’92, ’96 and ’00 against this year in addition to ’04. For the discussion above it is worth looking at the 1992 to 2008 comparison. It really is a pretty interesting and shocking picture.

Also if you look at some of the exit poll data, the story is a bit more complex than the uniform “rising tide”. In fact the ’04 to ’08 county map obscures some underlying realities by putting so much focus on the Eastern Oklahoma to W Virginia “extended Appalachia” swath. (Essentially places where the ’04 to ’08 Repub gains among white voters was not offset by black voters due to a relatively small black population.) In fact it is Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana that had the largest percentage increases in Republican support among white voters from 2004 to 2008. I think we will see some pretty interesting studies pop out from the data from just within “the South” itself. So I do think there is some redrawing of the map, with some areas doubling down on their “roots” and others (like much of NC) looking more like Maryland and Northern Virginia.

54

Lex 11.07.08 at 10:13 am

Is Brett Bellmore really as stupid as this exchange makes him appear? Nations cry out to know.

55

Ted 11.07.08 at 12:39 pm

Look, Brett isn’t stupid, even though I seldom agree with him and even though he’s being pedantic in #40 above (the post in #35 should have read something like “all white voters voting for a major party candidate in a presidential election” for the statement to be true). It’s not unreasonable to suggest that there’s something troubling about overwhelming racial unity in general even if there are specific instances where it’s understandable and desirable (black support for civil rights, Jewish opposition to Hitler, etc). Like others, though, I think the blame here goes to the Republican party which either has nothing to offer to blacks or does a horrible job of marketing whatever it is. You could imagine an appeal based on social conservatism – lots of blacks go to church regularly, oppose gay marriage, and so on – yet it either isn’t made or doesn’t work. Not only are there no serious black Republican presidential candidates (sorry, Alan Keyes) there aren’t any black Republicans in Congress or black Republican governors. Why is that?

56

Ted 11.07.08 at 12:45 pm

One suggestion would be that the Republicans feel that appealing to blacks would cost them more votes than it would gain them….what would that say about their existing coalition?

57

Lex 11.07.08 at 1:14 pm

So, if what BB meant was ‘I think it’s creepy that the R’s can’t capture more than 2% of the Black vote, because it pretty much says that their underlying platform is racist’, then he makes sense? I’ll go with that. But I think he was saying something more along the lines of ‘What are these Black folks playing at, all deciding to vote for the same guy, just because his policies aren’t specifically designed to be repellent to them?’

And I quote: “It’s just plain creepy having an ethnic group acting in lockstep to that extent”.

58

A. Y. Mous 11.07.08 at 1:20 pm

Isn’t it true that in 74 days, the whole Senate will be white?

59

Hidari 11.07.08 at 1:59 pm

Since no one else seems willing to, may I just point out that Michael Turner’s post was extremely amusing.

60

c.l. ball 11.07.08 at 2:11 pm

Re 58,

No, unless Sens. Akaka and Inouye regard themselves as white. I don’t know whether Sens. Martinez or Salazar identify themselves as “white Hispanics,” or just Hispanic or Latino. (The US Census has separate categories for race and ethnicity.)

President-elect Obama is the only Africa-American in the Senate, however, and when he resigns his seat to assume the presidency, there will be blacks in the Senate, unless either Biden or Obama is replaced by a black person.

61

Michael Turner 11.07.08 at 2:33 pm

“…I think the blame here goes to the Republican party which either has nothing to offer to blacks or does a horrible job of marketing whatever it is. You could imagine an appeal based on social conservatism – lots of blacks go to church regularly, oppose gay marriage, and so on – yet it either isn’t made or doesn’t work.”

Or it’s made, it works, but then something goes horribly wrong in the process of pandering to other GOP constituencies. Good recent example: Mike Huckabee (who was actually regarded pretty fondly and respectfully by black voters in Arkansas) went after the black lifestyle-conservative vote, made serious inroads, but then tried to straddle the Confederate flagwaving issue, and only ended up tangling himself in it. Bye-bye black vote.

Or it starts out with all the best intentions, but goes south, not least because of the GOP’s touching faith in the Magic of Markets and their difficulty in believing that any government official could actually know anything useful about the problems their agencies have been given to solve. Best example: when Jack Kemp took the helm at HUD, talking up “empowerment,” with the whole Congressional Black Caucus half in love with the him, only to blow it miserably on execution.

“Empower” the poor, he said, by helping the residents of HUD-subsidized projects become managers and homeowners. Kemp’s idea sounded good. After all, it had worked in England, where Margaret Thatcher gained blue-collar support for selling off public housing to the tenants at reduced prices. But the plan didn’t make much sense on this side of the Atlantic. Many middle-class families lived in England’s public housing, which was in sound physical condition. In the U.S., the restriction of subsidized housing to the very poor now means that its tenants cannot pay for routine operating expenses, much less the cost of major repairs required in many older and run-down buildings. Despite warnings from HUD staff, Kemp plunged ahead with this Homeownership Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE) program but soon discovered that few tenants wanted to buy their buildings under those conditions. Only a few thousand units have been sold.

Basically, the GOP is never going to take seriously the problems of black America until black America is part of its constituency, and black America will never be a part of the GOP constituency until it feels it’s taken seriously by the GOP. Lyndon Johnson broke this Catch 22 for the Dems. He pushed through civil rights legislation in full knowledge that he was crippling his party in the South for a generation (and so it proved.) He did it anyway.

FDR made moves, Truman made moves, Eisenhower made moves, Kennedy made moves. LBJ made sacrifices. What accomplishment ever made any lasting impression that wasn’t the product of some sacrifice? LBJ — what crooked piece of timber that guy was. And he ended up badly scorched at both ends. But he was still better than any rotten beam the GOP ever handed to black Americans. (Lincoln was a Republican when the GOP was not so grand and not so old.)

62

lt 11.07.08 at 5:31 pm

re 58:

It’s possible Obama will be replaced by Jesse Jackson Jr. Depends on the somewhat unpredictable governor of IL.

63

Brett Bellmore 11.08.08 at 5:51 pm

“(the post in #35 should have read something like “all white voters voting for a major party candidate in a presidential election” for the statement to be true)”

Honestly? I was being a bit pendantic, but there’s a real point here, which is that you can’t really take it as a sign of racism if 100% of whites vote for the white candidate in a race where there are only white candidates. (Can’t take the absence of black candidates as a sign of Republican racism, either, when Democrats weren’t running black Presidential canidates until just now, either.) We just had a race in which there was a major party choice between a black and a white, and whites split their vote pretty much down the middle, and blacks gave such a high percentage of their votes to the black candidate that you might suspect the residue for the white was a result of errors filling out the ballots.

This is supposed to demonstrate white racisim?

Not just creepy, but problematic, too: It leaves Republicans with essentially no reason to even TRY appealing to blacks, because they can try all they like, and it isn’t going to work, because blacks don’t take voting Republican seriously enough to even notice the effort. Or notice that Republicans are actually much more in tune with them on social issues. It means black votes aren’t in play, which gets them ignored by both parties, pretty much.

Bottom line, it just isn’t healthy OR rational for an ethic group to be voting THAT MUCH in lock step. Heck, I don’t see how it’s even possible, short of some mix of fraud and coercion; Granted, the GOP isn’t the black’s best friend, but they’re not building death camps out in the desert, either.

They’re just not bad enough that no more than 3% of blacks should want to vote for them.

64

Barry 11.08.08 at 7:27 pm

“Bottom line, it just isn’t healthy OR rational for an ethic group to be voting THAT MUCH in lock step. Heck, I don’t see how it’s even possible, short of some mix of fraud and coercion; Granted, the GOP isn’t the black’s best friend, but they’re not building death camps out in the desert, either.”

I would say that this is a statement reflecting profound ignorance of the USA, but then I checked the author.

65

harry b 11.08.08 at 8:08 pm

The problem for the Republicans with Blacks is that enough of the Rep base is so vivdily racist that the Reps can’t take the risk of ditching them just on the off chance of winning a even a large percentage of the votes of a relatively small minority. I agree that most Republicans are fine, but enough are vile enough that, absent some major change, the Republicans would be sunk if they tried to compete for Black votes.

66

Watson Aname 11.08.08 at 8:52 pm

They’re just not bad enough that no more than 3% of blacks should want to vote for them.

On the contrary, as far as I can see, they actually are that bad in this context. Republicans have be consistently saying a collective `fuck you’ to black communities for the 25 years I’ve been paying attention, at least. How does this translate to anything but a pittance of potential votes?

Very rich black voters might be a target demographic that can work for them, but that’s not going to generate any real numbers. There simply aren’t any other demographics. Throwing the odd policy bone to local voters cant get you too far when your party platform supports measures that are perceived as the causes of many of the problems facing black communities….

67

Watson Aname 11.08.08 at 8:55 pm

I should have been more clear in 66. I don’t mean that individual Republicans are this bad, but collecitivly — core parts of the party’s base and policy are this bad. And a Republican who is otherwise well aligned locally with views of a black demographic who might support him or her, can only get this support by repudiating the nasty bits in their own party — a step they haven’t taken.

68

WillieStyle 11.09.08 at 4:26 am

Bottom line, it just isn’t healthy OR rational for an ethic group to be voting THAT MUCH in lock step. Heck, I don’t see how it’s even possible, short of some mix of fraud and coercion; Granted, the GOP isn’t the black’s best friend, but they’re not building death camps out in the desert, either.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

Lee Atwater 1981

69

roy belmont 11.09.08 at 7:40 am

a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.
Poor blacks. Get hurt worse than poor whites. Which makes the class inequality seem like it has some ignorant racial basis.
When it’s actually a cunningly generated and maintained virtually invisible bigotry of privilege, to which even the majority of the poor subscribe.
Which bigotry of privilege, since power in this culture is manifest in finance, appears to be about money, which it is, though only superficially.
It’s really about the most raw Darwinian power available.
Which has nothing to do with fairness or justice or equality or anything noble and humane, but is no more fundamentally racist than a crocodile is racist.

70

Michael Turner 11.09.08 at 11:54 am

Granted, the GOP isn’t the black’s best friend, but they’re not building death camps out in the desert, either.

You’re swaying me, Brett. For the warm-hearted favor of not building death camps out in the desert for them, black Americans should at least have given the GOP 5%. The party really ought to try making this a talking point in the mid-term elections.

I’m not saying it should be pivotal to their strategy or anything, but they could at least have an inner-city poster campaign based on this appealing premise, featuring photos of camps (empty WW II Japanese internment facilities would do), and captions like “Another year goes by and we’re still not sending you to death camps — why not give us a try this election?”

All right, Brett, one last attempt, even though I’ve argued with brick walls that are less obtuse than you are: imagine that option A is only 2% better than option B, but it’s pretty consistently 2% better, and every once in a while, A is astronomically better. Why would you ever choose option B? Out of some sense of fairness and proportionality? Oh, wait, I know: it’s that black Americans have no sense of adventure.

71

ogmb 11.09.08 at 2:08 pm

JP Stormcrow: the Eastern Oklahoma to W Virginia “extended Appalachia” swath. (Essentially places where the ‘04 to ‘08 Repub gains among white voters was not offset by black voters due to a relatively small black population.)

It’s not Appalachia. The Northern Appalachians (New England) were always blue and became even bluer. The Blue Ridge mountains shifted blue, as did Piedmont and the northern Ridge & Valley and Appalachian Plateau. Middle/Western Tennessee is not Appalachian, neither are the Florida panhandle, Arkansas, East Texas or Oklahoma. The only overlap between Appalachians and redshift can be found in Eastern Kentucky. The swath that turned red in the NY Times map is the rural, “American” ancestry South, aka Joe-the-Plumber Country or the Cracker Crescent.

72

Lex 11.09.08 at 4:49 pm

I think the idea that African-Americans should vote Republican once in a while just to keep Brett happy has to be a contender for solipsism of the year. So good it’s almost funny.

73

Brett Bellmore 11.09.08 at 5:41 pm

“imagine that option A is only 2% better than option B, but it’s pretty consistently 2% better, and every once in a while, A is astronomically better. Why would you ever choose option B? “

Ok, imagine that, normally, largish groups of people have some diversity of opinion, such that they disagree as to whether option A or B is better. That generally IS the case unless option B really IS building those death camps.

Imagine that the largish population group demonstrably is in better agreement on some issues with the party they’re rejecting. Normally largish groups of people disagree about how to order their preferences.

No, I’m going to stick by my position, that there’s something creepy and dysfunctional going on here.

74

J Thomas 11.09.08 at 5:51 pm

Brett, once again I agree with you.

There is something creepy and dysfunctional going on with the GOP.

I’m not sure what to do about it, but my preference would be to disband the GOP, retire most of their politicians, party hacks, precinct captains etc, and replace them with a Libertarian party.

If I had a chance to vote for an honest libertarian who intended to majorly reduce military spending, reduce government spending generally, reduce regulation of reputable business while eliminating fundamentally unethical industries like banking, he’d have a good shot at my vote.

We need a good alternative to the Democratic Party and the GOP is not it. It’s just plain too dysfunctional.

75

Brett Bellmore 11.09.08 at 6:07 pm

Of course, you realize your interpretation of this begs the question of why 96% of whites, (Or any other ethnic group.) aren’t voting for one party…

76

roy belmont 11.09.08 at 6:46 pm

#75:
It could be because the threats and potential traps and oppressive dangers of white social engagement are not monolithic, or even semi-demi-monolithic. And thus won’t produce forced unanimity at election time.
Whereas for blacks especially, in addition to the various and sundry slings and arrows of outrageous daily living there is that giant thing sitting there, blocking, or potentially blocking, your progress. Having blocked, historically, dramatically, the progress of some readily available heroes of your own ethnicity, to the point of assassination. This tends to enable unification of the subgroup.
How many Hispanic leaders have been assassinated in the last 50 years? Etc.
Claims of equal or similar oppression and social handicapping of other ethnic minorities are specious and will not be entertained.

77

J Thomas 11.09.08 at 10:44 pm

Brett, blacks voted 95% democrat, up from 88%. Increase 7%.
Hispanics voted 66% democrat, up from 55%. Increase 11%.
Asians voted 61%, up from 56%. Increase 5%.
Catholics 54% from 45%. Increase 9%.
Etc.

A 7% increase isn’t that much, compared to some others.

And going to 95% just means they’re ahead of the curve. With current GOP strategies, pretty much everybody else is heading to 95% too. The GOP is rightfully heading toward third party status.

78

Brett Bellmore 11.09.08 at 11:35 pm

J Thomas, the jump from88% to 95% represents something much more radical than a jump from 48% to 55%. It represents a 58% decline in Republican votes among blacks.

As for the notion that the white vote for the Democrats is ever going to reach 95%, do you really aspire to live in a one party state?

79

John Quiggin 11.09.08 at 11:46 pm

Brett, you’ve turned around in mid-comment. The correct question, on your own presentation, is “Do you aspire to live in a country where only 5 per cent of the population supports the Republican Party?” That seems a reasonable aspiration to me, and one which would be consistent with the way the Repubs are viewed most places in the world.

80

John Protevi 11.10.08 at 12:31 am

I know this is not a common opinion, but 96% of black voters voting for the black candidate creeps me out just as much as 96% of white voters voting for the white candidate would have.

Brett, you’ve phrased the question in much too abstract a manner. No one, black or white, voted for “the black candidate,” or even for “the Democratic candidate.” People voted for Barack Obama or John McCain or Bob Barr or Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney. And they voted in 2008 in the United States of America. In other words, those who voted for Obama voted for him, among other reasons, because he would be the first black president in our history, but also because they preferred him to McCain and the others on the economy, Iraq, etc. Such an expression of preference occurs in a concrete situation that can’t be characterized simply as choosing “the black candidate.” In other words, you’re reducing a complex multifactorial and historically dense concrete situation to a single variable choice. In still other words, voting for Barack Obama, who would be the first black president in our nation’s history, and who seemed better able to handle the economic crisis and who promised to get combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months, is not simply equivalent to voting for “the black candidate.” Or another take on it: you’re ignoring what we could call the Colin Powell phenomenon: black Republicans who in this particular election, faced with this choice of candidates, voted for Obama. After his two terms in office, they might go back to voting Republican. But they didn’t in 2008.

All that’s probably why yours is an “uncommon opinion”: most other people appreciate that your brand of reduction isn’t a good way to go in thinking about Obama’s election.

81

J Thomas 11.10.08 at 12:39 am

Brett, I don’t particularly want to live in a one-party state, but the GOP will have to get fewer votes than some other party before we get over the idea that the GOP is the only real alternative to Democrats.

Since at this point nobody in their right mind votes Republican unless their patronage depends on it, we need a second party. But the people who really can’t stand Democrats will have to see that the GOP cannot win before they will vote for another party.

I would like to see a strong Libertarian party competing with Democrats, but we can’t get it while the GOP gets more votes than the Libertarians. That is, no third party can get more than 4% of the votes while the GOP has more than 6%. So we might approach a de facto one-party state while the GOP self-destructs.

The best thing would be for the GOP to just dissolve itself right now, and let its members join or form whatever new parties they prefer. But that’s very unlikely. I’m afraid it will limp along in an undead state for years before it finally disappears for good.

I doubt the GOP will survive as a third party, as they will have no reason to exist once they can no longer hand out federal money. But they can spoil elections until they’re down to a third party.

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