Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Long Reads, Longer Range Problems

Now that the election's over - technically the formality of our canvass is tomorrow but we counted the last ballots yesterday - time for some long reads.

RIP the White Southern Democrat, 1865-2014. Rep. John Barrow of Georgia is the final casualty of a terminal illness that began in 1954, and has spread from presidential elections to the Senate to the House and now the statehouse and court house.
Much as this is a problem for white southern Democrats, it's a crisis for black ones. That’s because blacks in the Southwho, notwithstanding the very compelling counter-example of Tim Scott, are almost invariably Democratshave for decades relied on coalitions with white Democrats to increase their political power. Lacking white politicians with whom they can build coalitions, black politicians are increasingly rendered powerless.
But the Civil War ain't over, for politics in the South is still All About Race.
40 years of data from the General Social Survey — the gold standard of American public opinion research — tell us that Southern whites overwhelmingly blame blacks for their lower economic status, ignoring or denying the role played by discrimination, past and present, in all its various forms, and that the balance of Southern white attitudes has barely changed at all in 40 years.

It is only Democrats outside the white South who have dramatically shifted away from blaming blacks over this period of time, and the tension this has created within the Democratic Party goes to the very heart of the political challenge both Obama and Landrieu face — a challenge that is not going to simply go away any time soon.
So you can call it Obama Fatigue, but that great philosopher Gabby Johnson puts it concisely.

Never gets old.

But in the classic Some Of My Friends Are fallacy, Republicans will point to their counter-examples, most notably Tim Scott of Sourth Carolina, an appointed Senator who won the seat in his own right last week. But as Jamelle Bouie asks:
If Tim Scott speaks in terms of a distinctly black conservatism, then why is he unpopular with actual black voters, who overwhelmingly voted against him in last Tuesday’s election?

Part of the answer is partisanship. Black Americans tend to hold more liberal views on government and are inclined to support Democrats, even if Republicans have a black candidate. Barring an extraordinary turn in South Carolina politics, there’s little chance Scott will ever win a substantial number of black voters.
But like any other group, black voters respond to rhetoric as much as ideology, and there, Scott has a problem. Scott doesn’t just echo Booker T. Washington in his language, he echoes him in his hands-off approach to racial injustice. The black conservatism of Washington doesn’t have a critique of white society—it focuses inward on the concerns of the community.
Let's not just look South. No place is more polarized than my own native state:
Two modern-day trends have converged here in dramatic fashion: the growing divide between Democratic and Republican voters, which is more pronounced in Wisconsin than most other states; and the rise of politically one-sided communities, which is more extreme in Milwaukee than most other metropolitan areas.

"This Balkanization — it really goes beyond Democrat-Republican. It's really a difference in world view," says Robert Bauman, a Milwaukee alderman whose district includes the downtown area.
And no place is more bipolar, electing Tammy Baldwin one cycle and Scott Walker (my bet for the 2016 nomination) the next.

Yet the "moderates" worshipped by the mainstream media but moved more by "likability" than policy, expect compromise on key issues like immigration. How do you pull that off?

Fifty-six percent of voters who backed Republicans in the midterms said most immigrants in the U.S. illegally should be deported. On the Democratic side, 8 in 10 voters favored creating a path to legal status.
 (I still see a niche for a UKIP/Le Pen European style nationalist party in America...)

Expect more of this kind of standoff for the next several election cycles.And it's more than just "gerrymandering." Jamelle Bouie again:
The generational divide in partisanship, for instance, didn’t exist 25 years ago, or at least, not in the same way.

The main difference between young and old voters back then wasn’t whom they voted for as much as whether they voted in the first place. Grandfather and Grandson might vote for the same party, but the grandfather would show up for every election while his grandson was more likely to only vote every four years in a presidential election.

That divide still exists.  What’s different compared with the past is the partisan divide. Simply put, when young people go to the polls they vote for Democrats and when older people cast their ballots, they vote for Republicans. And the gap is huge.

But why is there a GOP midterm advantage now as opposed to 20 years ago, when the overall electorate was substantially whiter?

In the 1990s, a substantial number of older voters—if not most older voters—belonged to the Greatest Generation, the men and women who grew up in the Depression and fought in World War II. They were New Deal Democrats in their formative years, and they kept that affiliation through the rest of the 20th century.

By contrast, the next oldest cohort of voters—those who “came of age” during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations—were substantially more Republican in most years.
That's just a taste. But the whole point of a Long Reads post is to steer you to those long reads.

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