Tuesday, July 01, 2008

West Virginia Politics and Reality-Based Stuff

Lincoln Walks At Midnight points to several articles on the presidential race in West Virginia, including The Washington Post's A New Political Geography: Role Reversals in Virginias Reflect National Shifts By Alec MacGillis (Sunday, June 29, 2008). While cable TV news seemed content to write off West Virginian support for Hillary Clinton as redneck racism (redneck sexism having died off, I reckon), the print journalists are analyzing demographic trends. (Bless their hearts.)

....As the gap grows between places that are prospering and those that are not, Democrats are strengthening their hold in major metropolitan areas, particularly in places faring well in the technology-driven economy.

The trend generally bodes well for Democrats. Major metro areas are growing faster than the country as a whole, the party's strength with young voters promises a lasting edge, and well-off, highly educated urban voters are valuable campaign contributors in the Internet age. The weak economy and soaring gas prices could accelerate the shift if more Americans move closer to urban hubs in search of good jobs and shorter commutes.

But the Democrats' ascendance in prosperous areas leaves them with weak spots in key swing states such as Ohio. And it presents questions about their identity: The party that fought for the little guy against the party of the wealthy has, while still representing racial minorities, increasingly become defined by the metropolitan middle and upper-middle class....

The transformation goes beyond politics. As the distance between the rich and the poor grows, so too does the gap between regions. In places such as Northern Virginia, success has fed on itself, as firms seek educated workers and proximity to rivals and clients, and people with college degrees flock to the opportunities. Such areas are also seeing a surge in foreign-born residents, who favor Democrats.

In places such as West Virginia, manufacturing and mining have been decimated by automation and foreign competition, and hopes for reinvention are undermined by the stream of young people leaving. "There is a realignment going on here. It's a long-term shift that has to do with the economic decline in some areas in the modern economy," said Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University.

The presidential campaigns seem ready to write West Virginia off, both parties. We don't expect to see much money spent on advertising, or see candidates and their surrogates appearing in person, now that the Clinton campaign is out of the race.

....Obama barely campaigned in West Virginia, lost it by 41 points and will probably spend little time campaigning there.

Leading Democrats in West Virginia lament Obama's lack of effort, contrasting it with the campaign of John F. Kennedy, who, like Obama, faced hurdles as a minority in West Virginia -- in Kennedy's case, as a Roman Catholic -- but set out to win the 1960 primary there.

....Democrats still control state government and all but one of the state's seats in Congress, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. But the state voted for Bush by six points over Gore and 13 points over Kerry. Its pro-Democrat unions have declined.

Since 2000, an argument has raged over why voters in West Virginia and elsewhere have voted against Democrats who offered health-care and tax plans that favor them. In his 2004 book "What's the Matter with Kansas?", Thomas Frank argued that Republicans have used social issues such as abortion to win poorer voters.

Bartels, at Princeton, disputed Frank with data showing that higher-income voters are more likely than poorer ones to cite issues such as abortion. Outside the South, low-income whites have stayed loyal to Democrats, he said.

These demographic shifts leave me feeling confused. My dad was a member of the Merchant Seaman's Union (busted as a bunch of Commies by Joseph McCarthy and his lawyer-for-hire Bobby Kennedy), and The New Deal and The Great Society made it possible for me to have an education. When I finally landed in the "liberal elite" world of academe, I didn't fit in, and eventually moved away from all that. I was rather miffed when the quiz Sherry Chandler posted called me "Reality Based Intellectualist."

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My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what's known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

It's just a silly quiz, I told myself, but I went back and changed answers until I qualified as "Working Class Warrior." It was the science-related material that sent me into that "liberal elite." Evolution is just a theory, like gravity. (That's not even funny, just true. After teaching sixth grade science for a semester, I can tell you that many Americans don't believe in Newtonian physics, either.) And I'd save The Origin of Species over those other books because it's more interesting and better written. (Darwin was an excellent prose stylist.) I don't even know what "non-Jesus-based thought" means.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

bless you (non denominationally) for remembering Bobby Kennedy's roots. it matters little now, but having a memory in this society is a rare and valluable thing.

john said...

Yes, I agree with Rebeca Clayton. Bless him. Comparing to West Virginia , North Virginia is poor. About 18 % of youngster are yet searching for a jobs in North Virginia.

John Philips

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