Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Barry Goldwater's Revenge

The long, slow, transformation of the (White) Deep South into a Republican one-party state may now be complete. In 1964, Barry Goldwater bested Lyndon Johnson in exactly six states—his home state of Arizona, and five Southern states  where African-Americans make up more that 25% of the population: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Congressional Democrats were able to survive in these regions of the country through a combination of overwhelming support among newly enfranchised African-Americans, piling up "centrist" voting records, watching out for local issues, and so forth.

The results of the 2010, suggest the effectiveness of these tactics may be coming to an end. Here is the complete list of Democrats still standing, along with the Cook PVI for each district, and the percentage of the district's population that's African-American:
  • Jim Clyburn, SC-06 (D +12, 53%)
  • Hank Johnson, GA-04 (D +24, 51%)
  • John Lewis, GA-05 (D +26, 50%)
  • John Barrow, GA-12 (D +1, 38%)
  • David Scott, GA-13 (D +15, 49%)
  • Terri Sewell, AL-07 (D +18, 61%)
  • Bennie Thompson, MS-02 (D +12, 63%)
  • Cedric Richmond, LA-02 (D +25, 52%)
Of the eight remaining Democrats, seven are African-American. All eight districts have very high concentrations of African-American voters. This is the mirror image of the destruction of the Northeastern Republican Party. And we shouldn't blind ourselves to why this is happening. It's impolitic to discuss ... let's call it "race-conscious voting" ... in American politics. But it exists, and anyone who claims it doesn't is either a liar, a fool, or running for public office.

Tonight, Northeastern Republicans made a modest comeback, winning back two seats in New Hampshire, as well as several additional seats in New York and Eastern Pennsylvania. Whether or not Democrats can put together a similar revival in the Deep South, or in similar regions in the Appalachians and Ozarks where Obama's poor performance dates back to the 2008 primaries (and where House Dems suffered big losses tonight), is unclear.
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