Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Make America Like Johnson County

Well, if Steve King wants to make America like Sioux County, I can want to make America more like Johnson County, am I right?

Sidebar tangent

Heck, we've just barely started turning Johnson County into Johnson County, with the swearing in this week of Mayor Jim Throgmorton (as called by Matt Hayek in the best political prediction since Bruce Braley accurately named the next Senate Judiciary chairman) and the rest of the Core Four progressive winners from November. 

The old guard holdovers of Dickens and Mims were pouting and posturing at the organizational meeting Monday, being political by denouncing things as being political. That's the pattern of the historic powers that be in Iowa City: whenever the left tries to change things, they're accused of "playing politics," whereas running things as they've been run forever to benefit the real estate developers and landlords is "working together."

They want their revenge and want it soon. The rumor mill says they're coming for it in the June supervisor primary and target number one is Rod Sullivan.

The message will no doubt be "we want to work with the city," which is ironic considering that the old city council was the problem in the first place. An even crueler irony if progressives, having finally taken control of the city council, would lose control of the Supervisors...

The action is in the primary of course; the brief career of John Etheredge reminded folks that a general election win under the GOP banner was too steep a climb.

Former council member Rick Dobyns was sounding an AWFUL lot like a candidate in his Press-Citizen exit interview. (Not the strongest pick: he lost a 2005 race, ran the failed 21 Bar campaign in 2007, only won in 2011 when his opponent didn't actually campaign, and lost in 2015. That's a lifetime .250, even worse than the second half of the Packer season.)

And Oaknoll executive director Pat Heiden, rumored as a candidate in the past, has finally gotten around to changing her affiliation from Republican to Democratic...
King may have used the line before (why not?) but the most recent context was introducing his presidential pick, Ted Cruz, today.

People razz on my county and call us The People's Republic of Johnson County, a term we've embraced with affection and pride. But Sioux County and the rest of the Dutch Reformed corner of northwest Iowa has no corresponding nickname even though they're WAY more red than we are blue.

Johnson County voted 66.57% for Obama in 2012, down a notch from the 70% of 2008.  But four northwest Iowa counties voted more than 70% Romney, with Sioux leading the pack at 83%. And that's in a LOSING year; Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley regularly top 90.

It's unusual that the most Republican places in a state are more Republican than the most Democratic places are Democratic. And it's also unusual that places with significant populations are as Republican as northwest Iowa.

If you ever want to get into a massive time sink of numbers - and if you read me, than I know you do - go to Dave Liep's site US Election Atlas. You have to constantly remember that he uses the worldwide convention of red for left and blue for right, rather than the American red Republicans and blue Democrats, since he built the site long before the 2000 election which locked Red States and Blue States into the vocabulary. Which you can tell from the frame-based Netscape era layout.

But the data is priceless, and one of my favorites is his superlatives page for each presidential election.

Here's the highest percentage counties for each party in 2012:

Obama Romney
Shannon, SD 93.39% King, TX 95.86%
Bronx, NY 91.45% Madison, ID 93.29%
District of Columbia, DC 90.91% Sterling, TX 92.91%
Petersburg, VA 89.79% Franklin, ID 92.77%
Prince George's, MD 89.73% Roberts, TX 92.13%

They're pretty close to equally lopsided, but there all similarity ends.

The Bronx and DC you know. Prince George's County is the black majority inner suburbs of DC. Three large jurisdictions with a lot of votes. The independent city of Petersburg is 80% black. Shannon County is entirely reservation, and last year was renamed Oglala Lakota County.

The most Republican counties, in contrast, are all virtually empty, depopulated barrens of ranch country. Romney's 96% in King County netted him just 139 votes.

Those trends continue just below the top levels, with lots of urban centers in the 70 to 80 range for Democrats, and lots of cattle voting 80% Romney.

You have to drop down a lot in percentage before you start seeing large suburban counties that contribute large actual numbers of Republican votes.

Next door in Wisconsin two counties voted more than two thirds for Romney: Ozaukee and Washington, the big suburban counties in racially polarized metro Milwaukee. Ozaukee was tops at 69.55 - but that was topped by Osceola, Lyon, O'Brien and Sioux in Iowa.

On the Democratic side, the top Obama county was Menominee at 86.5; it's all reservation ans statistically insignificant, as I recall the least populated county. The next biggest Obama margin was in Dane County. Madison is the Iowa City of Wisconsin, and Obama scored 71. Not far off from Iowa City, and college towns tend to top out at around 70% Democratic the way suburbs top out at 70% Republican.

Milwaukee was next at 67.5, below some other major cities. Milwaukee County has enough suburban turf that Scott Walker was able to get elected county executive a couple times, and Iowa doesn't really have a true metropolitan county to compare.

The larger point here is: In Wisconsin, as in most states, the most Democratic places are more Democratic than the most Republican places are Republican.  But in Iowa, that's reversed.

You look at similar counties to Sioux and Lyon in Wisconsin - mostly rural with a growing long commute/exurban influence - and they're in the mid to upper 50s for Republican percentage, and that''s true in a lot of other competitive states. That's nothing like the 70s and 80s you see in Lyon and Sioux.

That has all sorts of implications in both state and national politics, and mostly on the Republican side. Because the most conservative parts of Iowa are MORE conservative than most Republican areas, and especially because they're a particular kind of social conservative, you see presidential and state candidates focused in that direction. The most Democratic parts of Iowa, in contrast, don't leap out statistically in quite the same way.

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