Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Potential Fall of Obama's South

Original Link: http://highly-opinionated.blogspot.com/2008/07/potential-fall-of-obamas-south.html

There is a lull that has hit in the political battlefield, that time between the end of the primary season and the end of the convention season. The lead candidates take the time to refocus on funding and winning votes, in some cases, votes based in myth.
During this lull period, Obama's campaign handlers are making the classic mistake made by so many Democratic campaigns in recent history; over-estimating the Southern black vote.

In the Post-Civil War South, the Democratic party was a strong entity, unified and making a firm block against the Republicans because of Abraham Lincoln. While it is true that there are a great number of those old-school yellow dog Democrats around (a term given because the saying goes "I'll vote for a yellow dog on the street before I'll vote for a damned Yankee Republican), the mindset of the South has changed, drastically, in the past few decades. Today, there are more "red states" than "blue" in the south.

Yet and still, there are myths that are still held about the Southern vote that even more experienced politicians fall prey to. A candidate with no experience is what we call "easy pickin's" for laying a trap by using these very myths against his campaign.

Two pervasive and persistent myths about racial voting in the modern South are behind the notion that Mr. Obama might win in places like Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The first myth is that African-American turnout in the South is low. Black voters are actually well represented in the Southern electorate: In the 11 states of the former Confederacy, African-Americans were 17.9 percent of the age-eligible population and 17.9 percent of actual voters in 2004, analysis of Census Bureau data shows.

And when socioeconomic status is held constant, black voters go to the polls at higher rates than white voters in the South. In other words, a 40-year-old African-American plumber making $60,000 a year is, on average, more likely to vote than a white man of similar background.

The second myth is that Democratic presidential candidates fare better in Southern states that have large numbers of African-Americans. In fact, the reverse is true, because the more blacks there are in a Southern state, the more likely the white voters are to vote Republican.

Democrats counted heavily on Mississippi in the 2004 election cycle, with Kerry losing to Bush by 20 full points, and Georgia and North Carolina by only slightly less leads. A look at the map here shows the breakdown, by state, of those states carrying Bush, and those carrying Kerry.

Virginia is perhaps the only true hope Obama has for the former Confederate states.

The demographic makeup of the electorate in Virginia is unlike that of any other state in the South. The black population in Virginia is, as a percentage, among the lowest in the region. And during the last two decades, the state has also experienced a huge influx of upscale non-Southerners, who have taken over the Washington suburbs of northern Virginia. (Florida is a perennial target for similar reasons. With a relatively small black population, a big Hispanic voting bloc and a large contingent of relocated retirees from the North, it is the least Southern of the Southern states.)

This doesn't apply to the rest of the South, however. A large part of the stratagem employed in Southern campaigning by Democrats relies heavily on the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which led to a large number of blacks to register to vote in the South, but subsequently led to a marked increase in the number of white voters registering and voting as Republicans. In other words, an exponential increase in black voter turnout in the majority of Southern states can be expected, historically, to be met by a counterbalance of an exponential increase in white voters in the same areas.

Along with this, Obama is having problems garnering white Democrat votes in other states, such as Ohio and South Dakota.

Since the end of the Civil War, there has been a saying among Southerners: "The South will rise again." It doesn't appear, however, to be likely that it will be rising for Obama.

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