November 2008 Archives

In a weak nod toward full disclosure, I should reveal that an earlier, less provocatively titled version of this bloviation appeared over yonder on the History News Network.

The polls had hardly closed, it seemed, before the punditry of print and blogosphere were positively a-twitter at the possibility that Barack Obama’s near-landslide victory is both substance and symbol of the happy reality that “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.” I can see why Obama’s big win might seem like a metaphoric triumph over the South that, at the time of his birth, would have afforded him little prospect of having the opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate, much less of becoming one. By the same time-warped logic, of course, Jimmy Carter’s victory in 1976 could have been construed as the final proof that hookworm had been eradicated. Prior to 2000, by the way, the 1976 election was the last in which either party owed its success to a single southern vote, so anyone who situates the South at “the center of the political universe” in presidential races is putting a hell of a lot of weight on just two trips to the polls.
Although I have trouble resisting the notion that such facile generalizations reflect a desire to pin the entire nation’s shift to the right over the last two generations on the South, there’s no denying that a majority of white southerners have not voted for a Democrat since 1960. Even with an expected increase in black turnout, it was hard to imagine that Obama could overcome the heightened white resistance that a black Democratic candidate was sure to arouse down South. This scenario clearly played out in states like Alabama, where Obama managed only 10 percent of the white vote as opposed to the 19 percent given to John Kerry in 2004. In Mississippi, Obama claimed only 11 percent of white voters, compared to 14 percent for Kerry, and in Louisiana, Kerry’s 24 percent showing among whites fell to 14 percent with Obama. If you ever had any doubts that ol' Billy Faulkner knew his stuff, take a gander at this graphic evidence that the past is never dead or even past. It overlays the old "Cotton Belt," a.k.a., the "Black Belt," because of its concentration both of rich,darker soils and of the slaves who worked them, with Oby's southern vote.

obamablackbelt.bmp

Across the region, however, Obama not only equaled or surpassed Kerry’s share of the white vote in nine of thirteen states, but utilizing hordes of volunteers and drawing on a huge campaign war chest, he was able to break the GOP’s grip on Dixie by actually winning Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina. Obama won in these states primarily by getting a substantially greater percentage of white votes in North Carolina and Virginia and matching Kerry’s share of the white vote in Florida, while running five to ten points ahead of Kerry with black voters as well. Excluding Oklahoma, where no poll data was available, Obama averaged over 95 percent of the black vote across the old Confederacy, and within states, he typically ran strongest in places with large black populations and in fast-growing areas like North Carolina’s Research Triangle that had attracted large numbers of more affluent, better-educated residents, most of them white.
Obama’s returns also reflected the growing suburbanization of the South’s black middle class. He carried three metropolitan Atlanta counties—Douglas, Newton, and Rockdale—that, despite giving 60 percent or more of their votes to George W. Bush in 2004, had seen their black populations more than double since 2000. Blacks represented over one-third of the population in each of these counties by 2008, and although McCain carried four other metropolitan counties with smaller but fast-growing black populations (including notoriously conservative Cobb), his share of the vote nonetheless fell short of Bush’s by from seven to twelve points. The limits of the Democrats’ metro surge in Georgia were sharply defined by race and geography, however. In adjoining counties like Walton, Forsyth, and Cherokee, which were both whiter and farther out from Atlanta, McCain claimed better than three of every four votes cast.
By bringing out record numbers of black voters, the Obama campaign boosted the fortunes of a number of white Democratic candidates elsewhere on the ticket. In Georgia, despite capturing less than 30 percent of the white vote, Democratic senatorial challenger Jim Martin was able to force a runoff with GOP incumbent Saxby Chambliss because blacks gave him 93 percent of their support. In North Carolina, meanwhile, neither Democratic senatorial candidate Kay Hagan nor her gubernatorial counterpart Beverly Perdue won as much as 40 percent of the white vote, but with 96 and 95 percent of the black vote, respectively, both claimed victory on election night.
Hagan’s race was particularly satisfying to Democrats because she ousted GOP incumbent Elizabeth Dole, who, sensing that she was in trouble, had resorted to a last-minute television spot suggesting her staunch Presbyterian opponent was actually in cahoots with an atheist organization and therefore keeping company with the “Godless.” The now widely circulated ad even closed with a voice resembling Hagan’s announcing, “God is dead.” This scurrilous bit of deception seemed to backfire on Dole among metropolitan voters in North Carolina, especially, and liberal commentators gleefully pointed out that after GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” came to Guilford County, in the Greensboro-High Point metro area, and praised it as the “real [read conservative Republican] America,” the county went for Obama by 18 points. (Washington Post, October 17, 2008)
Among rural and small town whites, however, a torrent of rumors, emails, ads, and flyers suggesting that Obama was a Muslim or even the Antichrist seemed to intensify fears and hostilities rooted in his race. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee accounted for three of the four states where the Republicans actually fared better in 2008 than 2004. Overall, only 22 percent of the counties nationwide voted more strongly Republican in 2008 than in 2004, and according to the New YorkTimesmap, as seen through my tired old eyes, at least, some three-fourths or more of them were in the South. In general, the populations of these predominantly rural counties tended to be whiter, poorer, less educated, and more evangelical than their peers elsewhere in the region. The South could claim practically all the counties where the Republicans gained an additional 10 percent or more of the vote in 2008, and one-third of the residents of these counties were Southern Baptists.
Believe it or not, I’m actually a-thinkin’ that a more conservative GOP choice might have meant even more dark of these red splotches on the South’s electoral cheeks. Skeptical at best of his ideological bona fides, the folks on Johnny Mac’s right flank (to whom he was forced to keep pandering during the campaign when he should have been wooing Independents and undecideds) weren’t exactly his most gung-ho troops. Compared to 2004, GOP turnout was down 1.3 percent across the country this year, and given the anticipated white backlash against the Obama camp’s massive voter registration effort, it surely means something that Republican turnout was essentially flat with 2004 in fast-growing Virginia. Nor should we overlook the 25,000 ballots for Libertarian Bob Barr in North Carolina, where the Obama victory margin was fewer than 14,000 votes.
Although the counties that were redder this year than in 2004 are home to a decided minority of the region’s people, some analysts seem to have fixated on places like Cleburne County, Alabama (total vote, 6468) and Itawamba County, Mississippi (total vote, 9265) in pouncing on the 2008 election results as evidence of the South’s ongoing marginalization in national politics and arguing that the Democrats should stop wasting their time on the region in presidential elections. In doing so they seem unable or unwilling to see that the South is no longer, and, for that matter never has been, simply Cleburne or Itawamba writ large. Although they were not necessary for an Obama victory this time, the fifty-five electoral votes the Democrats accumulated in winning Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia might well come in handy in future contests. Moreover, in Georgia where McCain’s final five point margin was much slimmer than once anticipated, the Obama campaign’s belated decision to run ads targeting metro Atlanta, with its large population of white newcomers and African Americans, might have indicated recognition of a lost opportunity and foretold a more formidable effort in that state in 2012.
On the other hand, in the short term, at least, it’s obviously difficult to see the Democrats investing major time or resources campaigning in states like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, or South Carolina where the electoral payoff is relatively puny and too many white voters’ hard-line attitudes not only on race, but religion and other social issues seem unlikely to soften anytime soon. Likewise, much like the Democrats in the era when they could count on essentially this same category of whites to maintain a “Solid South,” so long as their opponents leave these states uncontested in presidential elections, the Republicans have no particular incentive to pay much attention to them either.
Although the hasty proclamation of southern political irrelevance clearly doesn’t apply to all southern states, both the 2006 and 2008 elections have given reason to suspect that the Republican Party’s strong and sustained tack to the right may have unwittingly marginalized the GOP and left it with a shrunken core of support heavily concentrated in the South. With southerners occupying nearly half of the party’s congressional seats after the 2008 races, political scientist Merle Black suggests the Republicans might have “maxed out on the South” and in the process, ”limited their appeal in the rest of the country.” I’m not fit to carry Merle’s briefcase, but I’m guessing he’d be the first to tell us that the truly substantial evidence needed to evaluate the second half of this proposition won’t be available until about this time in 2012. The real meaning of any election, it seems, is something we can’t even begin to understand until we’ve had the next one.

The Difference Between Brains and Broun

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One of my all time favorite New Yorker cartoons shows a bedraggled corporate interviewer rationalizing his decision to hire a rather goofy-looking applicant with “What the hell? We can use an idiot.” This cartoon came to mind when I learned that Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman had been re-elected to Congress despite her call for an investigation of “anti-American” [read “liberal”] attitudes among her colleagues. Though distressed by this outcome, I tried to console myself by thinking that Bachman’s return made it at least arguable that we here in Georgia’s Tenth District don’t have the biggest fool in America guarding our interests in Congress.
As it turns out, however, Republican Representative Paul Brown apparently has a strong competitive streak and was not going to see himself outdone by some mere pretender to idiocy like Bachman. Hence, he has made quite a spectacle of himself in the last few days by raising the prospect that President-elect Obama plans to follow the blueprint of one Adolf Hitler by establishing his own personal military force, which will then proceed to cram Marxism down our gullets. "That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun said. "When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."
Brounie, I hardly know where to begin, unless it’s to see about getting your UGA degree revoked. Hitler was a right-winger, not a lefty. He believed in and encouraged competitive capitalism, not socialism, and he absolutely despised what he called "The Jewish doctrine of Marxism.“ While we’re at it, even the Soviet Union as we knew it, at least, wasn’t really Marxist. None of this really matters though, does it ? Hitler, Marxism., Socialism, they all scare the hell out of people. Too bad “Communist” sounds so archaic these days because you’re obviously itching to throw that in there too.
Then there’s your suggestion—and that of others as well—that the first thing Oby will do after his storm troopers are up and running is follow in Hitler’s goosesteps by taking away our blunderbusses so that he can consolidate his power. (Before anyone dismisses this classic expression of paranoia as unworthy of serious attention, check out reports of red-blooded Americans everywhere rushing out in the wake of the election to build up their arsenals of assault rifles, handguns, and ammo. ) The people who keep this kind of thing churning simply cite each other to support the inflammatory garbage they are recycling. Take this guy who trumpets the Brounie thesis about an “Obama Dictatorship” and insists somberly, “Paul Broun is a no crackpot.” Clearly this fellow has either has his crackpot filter set on “zero” or has no first-hand knowledge of Paul Broun, but in either case, he might want to ask himself why, in Brounie’s own county where people obviously do know him, damn near two out of three of them voted for his opponent last week.
One thing’s for sure, you know you’re in trouble when your congressman sounds like a hate-radio dude. Driving through Alabama last Thursday doing my traditional AM radio search for a country oldies station, I tuned into some weasel who announced excitedly that he had found further “proof” that Obama was a Muslim. It seems a “friend” of his had texted him from Indonesia to report that people there were generally happy with Obama’s victory, and since, as everybody knows, Barack Obama was briefly exposed to the teachings of Islam in an Indonesian school before, so he says, converting to Christianity, and since, as everybody knows, Indonesia’s population is 85 percent Muslim, and since, as everybody knows, anyone who converts to Christianity is dead meat in the eyes of all faithful Muslims, therefore, hence, and ipso fatso, Obama is clearly lying when he says he converted cuz if he really had, Indonesian Muslims would be mad as hell that he had just been elected president of the United States. Well, I guess that settles that, doesn’t it?
Look Brounie, I’m not unappreciative of your substantial entertainment value, but if Obama’s victory proved anything it was that words can have truly powerful consequences. Your bunch threw twenty trillion megatons of this crap at Oby before we voted, and it didn’t stick or accomplish anything other than eliciting shouts of “Kill him!” or “Take him out!” from the likeminded loonies who hung on Governor Hatemonger’s every vapid and reckless utterance. Since there’s longer any need to adrenalize your crew for an election, and we know now that the Secret Service reported a “sharp and disturbing increase in threats” to Oby after Palin started to hang labels like “terrorist,” Marxist,” and “socialist” on him, are we left to conclude that you’re fine with democracy when it goes your way, but if it doesn’t, you’re also not averse to goading some lunatic into using a bullet or a bomb to achieve what you couldn’t get done with a ballot.? Is democracy something that you’re ready to force on others at bayonet point but unwilling to accept when things don’t work out to your liking? It sure sounds that way when you warn us to " remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany.”
Congressman, your side did its best during this campaign to stake a claim on what it meant to be a “real American” or to truly have America’s best interest at heart. If either of these notions really means anything at all to you, the best thing you can do is the heed the advice that Republican bumper stickers were giving Democrats about four years ago this time: “You lost. Get over it!” I admit that I have been mighty hard on these past eight years, but the gracious and hospitable spirit he and the First Missus showed the Obamas on their first visit to the White House truly made me proud to be an American. God know, I never thought I’d suggest this to anyone, but this is one case where you’d do well to emulate ol’ “W.”

Electoral Debriefing (I’ll Take Mine Off if You Will!)

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Thank God it’s still football season. Otherwise, with the election finally over, I’m not sure what I would do with all the energy or attention I would otherwise be devoting to my day job. However, before I shift my gaze from politics to pigskins, I think a transitional debriefing would be therapeutic for us all. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do this task justice because I really do have to do some honest-to-God, pay-check-earning work that absolutely demands my attention. Still, here are a few quick potshots, starting with a breakdown of my own blognostication of Monday last.
I was flat wrong about Florida, which I said at the time was my iffiest McCain pick. The poll numbers pretty much held up there, as they did in Ohio, which crossed me up by going Democratic for the first time since Moby Dick was a minnow, i.e., 1964, when Barry Goldwater was the GOP option. To show you that I didn’t try to take the easy route with my predictions, Missouri was called for my pick, Johnny Mac, at 9 a.m. on November 5, and the jury is still out in North Carolina, where Oby is up by roughly 12,000 votes.
I boldly prophesied that Tarheel voters would split their ballots by booting the odious Elizabeth Dole while going for JMac in a squeaker. Maybe not, but with roughly 50 percent of the vote, McCain ran 6 points ahead of the summarily rejected ED. (Speaking of ED, Viagra Bob better call the company for a re-stock, ‘cause she’s going to have a lot more time on her hands real soon.)
Here in Georgia, I was correct in pooh-pooh-ing Jim Martin’s chances (Bless His Heart) against Chicken Hawk Chambliss. This really terrific MSNBC site has some other interesting Georgia stories to tell. With 99 percent of the precincts in, it appears that at least, 375,000 more Georgians voted yesterday than in 2004. By my quick calculation, Black Georgians cast some 277,000 (nearly 75 percent) of those additional votes. As a result, blacks accounted for 30 percent of the total vote this year as opposed to 25 percent in 2004, while the white share fell from 70 to 65 percent. Obama got about the same portion (23 percent) of the white vote in Georgia as John Kerry did in 2004 but outpolled Kerry among black voters by 98 to 88 percent. Hence, though Johnny Mac claimed 53 percent of the state’s votes with a base well-nigh white as he is, at 46 percent Oby ran five points ahead of Kerry because he captured damn near every one of the 277,000 additional black votes cast in 2008.
There’ll be better numbers soon, and, I dare to hope, more time to crunch ‘em. In the meantime, let me share a couple of stellar comments posted in response to Monday’s pre-election blognostication. The first is just in from my learned friend, “Bo ‘Evil’ McWeevil” over yonder in Mississippi:
I'm glad I didn't read this post until Wednesday morn. Had Florida, Virginia, and Ohio gone for McCain it would have been a much different evening than it was. Different and worse. It was a remarkable night.
But what I want Prof. Blove to tell me now is what this new political marginalization of the South will mean. This is, after all, the first election since JFK that has seen the victory of a non-Republican or non-southerner. The Deep South has been kicked to the political curb, right? The long Dixification of American politics is over? We're back to the Midwest-as-dominant-political-region model now? 48 years is a long time.

Although the Ol’ Bloviator gently reminds Bo that he did not prophesy a McCain victory in Virginia, he salutes him for raising such a damn good question, one that deserves way more thought than O.B. has time or brain cells to give it just now. It does strike him, however, that marginalization in presidential elections ain’t exactly new to southerners. When the Democrats had Dixie in their grip, they took it for granted at election time, and when the Republicans took it over, they did the same thing. Maybe McCain campaigned in Mississippi, but I sure don’t remember seeing even his free-spending Neiman Marxist sidekick in these parts.
On the other hand, facing a genuine Democratic threat in Florida, they near ‘bout wore the bark off the palm trees. Ditto the pine trees in N.C. I’ll grant you that much of Florida is Deep South only in the geographic sense, but North Carolina has voted as “southern” as any place for a lot longer than I can remember. Even if Oby eventually comes up a ballot or two short there, I can at least summon up some reason to hope that future Democratic strategerians will take note of his campaign’s success in registering lots of new black voters in North Carolina and Florida and getting them to turn out, apparently without alienating an offsetting number of whites. Who knows? The Demo Brainstrust might even decide that Georgia is worth a few visits and a campaign ad or two in 2012. That said, I’m with ol’ Bo in betting that states like Alabama and Mississippi with fewer electoral votes and more white racial hardliners are still going to be wallflowers for quite spell.
The second comment I want to share is also from a learned friend and a genuine superstar of the blogosphere in his own right, JB3, who offers a fitting benediction for these proceedings by reminding us that before succumbing to the temptation to over-analyze what just happened, we should take time simply to appreciate it:
Oh Bloviator, My Bloviator, I hope your faithful readers will take the opportunity to, should Oby win, consider what a giant step for our country his win represents.
It is easy to dismiss all "those people" who are out voting for Obama. Getting out of "your" world for a minute, let's think about what an Obama victory would mean to the black community.
Consider the following:
If my father was black ---
At age 10, he was finally allowed to go to the same school (legally) as whites.
At age 11, he could ride in the front of the bus thanks to Madame Parks.
At age 20, he would not have had to pay a special Poll Tax to vote.
At age 21, he wouldn't have had to pass a special literacy test to vote.
Consider the impact of this discrimination on a young boy growing up during that era. You think you'd want to vote in this election?
Win or lose for your candidate, try to have some perspective about what a beautiful day tomorrow will be for so many people in our country.

Amen JB3, Amen.

A Bloviator Dares To Blognosticate

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Fearless BlognosticationDownload file

We hysterians have enough trouble making sense of the past that we should know better than get into what’s going to happen tomorrow. The Ol’ Bloviator does know better, but he also knows better than to reach for that third beer, and it’s never stopped him yet. So here goes, the first-everCobbloviate Election Blognostication complete with a Download file">visual aid (Mash Link Above) constructed with much perspiration and profanity and courtesy of the fine folks at SmartDraw.com, who offered me a seven-day free trial on their product.
By way of comparison, where I give Oby the electoral nod, by 291 to 247' the folks at RealclearPolitics.com see it Obama338, McCain, 220
Obviously, I think Oby’s going to win, but, if you will indulge me in a football analogy, it’s going to be like going into the fourth quarter up by three touchdowns and only winning by a field goal.
Although before kickoff, you would have taken a three-point win as cause for a celebratory two-day drunk, after being so far ahead, your reaction to a significantly narrower victory margin is likely to be more subdued than you once imagined. Plus, you’ll have to listen to your opponent claim that he didn’t really lose, he just ran out of time. We’ll never know, of course, but JMac and his Demagogue Diva sidekick clearly closed some ground as the days wound down to a precious few, primarily by telling people that Oby was going to take hard-earned dollars away from folks who are still nowhere near the low end of his admittedly drooping threshold for tax hikes. (This would be the quadrennial hornswoggle wherein, chuckling slyly to themselves, the Repubs succeed in conning those who like to fancy themselves people of means into voting in the interests of the people who really are.) The fact that Oby’s ambiguous tax intentions, plus some good ol’ fashioned Hockey Mom hatemongering, may have cut into his margins, should not, however, detract in the least from the fact that, if he wins, he will have overcome as great a generic disadvantage as any presidential candidate could possibly have in this country. Even if he loses, he will have run one of the most brilliant presidential campaigns in American history.
By way of offering some explanation for the way my electoral map looks, here are a few state level rationalizations, that upon examination, will likely prove leaky as the proverbial sieve:

VIRGINIA—A Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won here since 1964, but the state is about to elect its second Democratic senator, and I’m thinking the “Occupied South,” as my friend John Reed calls northern Virginia, is going to, as Doug Wilder says, make The “Old Dominion” look like the “New Dominion,” for this election at least.
My Pick: Oby’s OK, but JMac beats the spread.
NORTH CAROLINA—“Liddy” Dole hasn’t done a damn thing in her first term in the Senate, and she’s down five points in the latest poll even after running a commercial calling her Presbyterian-elder opponent “godless.” If Dole wins, may be ol’ Jesse ain’t really dead yet. If she loses, that just might make Hell hot enough for the old bastard. It seems foolish to think Dole could lose North Carolina while JMAC wins it, but that’s what the OB sees coming to pass.
My Pick: JMac wins a squeaker..
FLORIDAWhat can you say about a place where the Yankees live in the South? This is where Oby's "ground game" is supposedly strongest, but I think the "bubbi" crew down south is still ambivalent about him, while I'm pretty sure that that the jeans short ("jort") crew up in the Panhandle isn't ambivalent in the least. I may be wrong about all my picks, but this is the one where my confidence level is lowest.
My Pick: JMac, but iffy.
OHIO—This state has broken the hearts of too many Demo presidential candidates to count, and if the Bradley Effect is going to rear its ugly head, this is one of the most likely places in the country. Plus, there’s always the likelihood of polling-place shenanigans.
My Pick : McCain by a nose hair.
PENNSYLVANIA— The Bradley Effect might crop up here as well, especially with the state’s Republicans running a last-second Jeremiah Wright ad, but Oby’s lead has looked pretty solid in Pennsylvania for a good while, and I’m saying he’ll hang on to win, but by less than the current polls indicate.
My Pick: Oby in a squeaker.
MISSOURI—Been a long time for the Democrats here, too, and it’s going to be longer.
My Pick: JMAC by a little.
BLOVIATOR’S BONUS PICK:—Georgia senator Saxby “Chicken Hawk” Chambliss, who sat out Vietnam, gained his seat by impugning the patriotism of incumbent Democrat Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. There’s much excitement in these parts that a Demo challenger might soon expel the Chicken Hawk from the hen house, and nobody would be happier to see it than yours very truly. However, it ain’t going to happen. Martin put on a tough, smart campaign, even if he did reportedly quote the Ol’ Bloviator at one of his fundraisers, but Chambliss is now running an ad saying “Jim Martin wants to help Barack Obama raise your taxes.” In Georgia, that message could get me elected. Nuff’ said.
So there you are. Comments are fully enabled, so sound off now or come back and mock me on Wednesday. I can take it, and, as you all know, I deserve it.

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