This morning’s New York Times has a major piece that, in the print edition, is titled “Why a Democratic Majority Has Yet to Materialize.” In the online version, the headline is “Southern Whites’ Loyalty to G.O.P. Nearing That of Blacks to Democrats.”
Produced by the paper’s new “The Upshot” election analysis department, the story features a map of the United States highlighting areas where President Obama had less than 20% white support in the 2012 election. Much of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia is colored in. Looking for reasons, the Times opines this:
[T]he South remains culturally distinct. It’s the nation’s most religious and evangelical region. And the so-called culture wars have polarized American politics along religious lines, often pitting the South against the rest of the country.
Despite the South’s continued economic and population growth, there’s not much sign that the gap between the South and the rest of the country is poised to narrow. Young voters have moved the rest of the country abruptly to the left on issues like gay marriage and immigration, but young Southern whites are just as conservative as their parents and grandparents. If they remain so, the gap between the South and the rest of the country could grow further.
Or, as Speaker Ralston stated yesterday in referring to his House district, “It’s a community where we cling to our religion and our guns.”
Does this data reflect the popular meme that Southern Whites didn’t vote for President Obama because he is black? The story brings that possibility up, but notes that the percentage of support by white southerners of Democratic candidates began to decline prior to the 2008 presidential election. I would prefer to think that the data the Times uses means that southern whites reflect their largely Scotch-Irish heritage, including being distrustful of a powerful central government.
Go ahead and read the whole thing. The story makes some interesting observations about how the increasingly Republican white south could affect the fortunes of both the GOP and the Democrats in the years to come.