Southern White Republicans

April 24, 2014 14:00 pm

by Jon Richards · 44 comments

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.

greencracker April 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Nach, his reading of the stats leads him to iffy conclusion b/c he’s not adjusting for population. Geez, I thought they taught stats in Yankee schools. Guess not.

Check out the places on the map where white folks are more OK with Dems: Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, the population centers.

And where they’re not: Like, everywhere else.

For every white Republican in, like, Jeff Davis County, there’s got to be a bunch of Dem-leaning whites in Fulton.

To give Fulton and Jeff Davis equal weight in your analysis of Ga politics is faulty.

Tho I would agree with his overall conclusion that the face of the GOP in Georgia is white, and Dem is non-white. But there are white Dems.

Jon Richards April 25, 2014 at 7:16 am

With close examination of the map, here are the Georgia counties where the white Democratic vote exceeded 20%:
Metro Atlanta: Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Douglas, Clayton, Rockdale and Newton
Athens: Athens-Clarke County
Macon: Bibb and Twiggs
Augusta: Richmond
Savannah: Chatham and Liberty
Columbus: Muscogee, Talbot, Chattahoochee
Albany: Dougherty
Northwest GA: Dade Walker and Murray
East GA: Baldwin, Hancock and Taliaferro

Nathan April 25, 2014 at 10:05 am

Walker County is predominately white (roughly 93%) with around 4% African American. We have a lot of old school “southern Democrats” still around in our area, and will probably remain that way until the day they pass away.

I would surmise that Dade and Murray are similar.

greencracker April 25, 2014 at 10:15 am

Baldwin County gets a lot of the professor/student Dem vote attached to Ga College, just like Athens-Clarke & UGA.

I think Athens-Clarke was the first predominately white district to elect a black person to state House, Michael Thurmond.

Will Durant April 25, 2014 at 11:23 am

Am I the only one who has associated himself in the past with self-described “yellow dog Democrats”? The writer of the article is probably a lot younger but he calls them “blue dogs”. Regardless, even though I question the validity of their data, I’m quite certain none of these guys would have voted for Romney OR Obama.

Dr. Monica Henson April 27, 2014 at 11:11 am

I’m a Blue Dog, & I voted for Obama both times. I’ve never adhered to the Yellow Dog philosophy, largely due to the liberalism of the national party and the anti-education reform, anti-charter school stance of the Georgia Democrats. I like Jason Carter, but I’m supporting Governor Deal’s bid for a second term.

Will Durant April 25, 2014 at 10:47 am

Did they really have exit poll data broken down by race for every county on the map as depicted? They say they used exit poll data but not how. The map says it was compiled from census data and Edison Research exit polls. Well the census tracks the racial makeup of a county, but I’ve never been questioned about my race on an exit poll, did they just assume? I seriously doubt they have exit polls for every county in Georgia broken down by race, much less the entire country. I’m thinking some extrapolating has been done to enforce their foregone conclusion. If not, then why not give a link to the actual data.

Will Durant April 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm

“The South gradually became more like the rest of the country starting in the middle of 20th century, with desegregation, followed by migration of Northerners to the Sun Belt. Standards of living in the South, which had long trailed the rest of the country, improved significantly. .”

I shore am glad all you fellers from New York City moved here and improved us so significantly. Hell, we may soon even make it to the 21st century.

Dave Bearse April 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Indeed the arrival of the 21st century was the high point in Georgia living standards. It’s been pronouncedly falling since then.

Ghost of William F. Buckley April 24, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I once listened to a Tech professor explain with precision and clarity that upstate New York and rural Georgia are actually very close together in terms of their voting preferences and records.

That said, must I cling to anything, make it guns and religion.

The Last Democrat in Georgia April 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm

That’s an excellent point that a mostly rural area (upstate New York) in an urban-dominated Northeastern state like New York shares more political and cultural similarities to rural parts of the Southeast than it does the greater New York City metro area.

Much the same goes for rural parts of social Democrat-dominated Midwestern and Northeastern states like Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania where the rural areas have much more in common with the often-derided rural parts of the South then they do nearby large major metro areas like Chicago, Washington, Baltimore, Philly and NYC.

Just like in Northern states like IL, MD, PA, NJ and NY where more conservative and mostly rural swaths of the state are always forced to go along with an overwhelmingly liberal governing agenda dominated by urban political interests, it is the increasing urbanization and rising demographic dominance of the Atlanta metro area (along with continued GOP dysfunction) that threatens to undermine the outright superiority of Conservative governance in Georgia.

Jon Richards April 24, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Calling a little BS on you, Buckley and TLDIG. If you look at the Times map, there are no counties where the Presidential election went 80-20 R among whites. A friend moved from upstate NY to NW Georgia because he thought NY was too liberal for his tastes. Same thing is true for much of the midwest. Even Pennsylvania, home of the original bitter clingers, bears little resemblance to the deep south as far as the NYT map goes.

At one point, upstate NY may have been more conservative than NYC, but now it has been assimilated into the more liberal than the south northeast.

The Last Democrat in Georgia April 24, 2014 at 10:36 pm

“At one point, upstate NY may have been more conservative than NYC, but now it has been assimilated into the more liberal than the south northeast.”

Well, you’ve got some good points, Mr. Richards. Though, any assimilation by those Northern and Northeastern rural areas into the much more liberal and urban-dominated political and social environments of their respective states has likely not been willingly as even the so-called “conservative” politicians in that part of the country are still very-liberal by Southern standards (see a Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, a Chris Christie of New Jersey, or a Rudy Giuliani of New York).

Ghost of William F. Buckley April 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

Jon,

The GT Public Policy professor made that comment a two years ago, so trends may have changed.

My experience in working with Cong. Austin Scott when he ran against moderate/conservative Jim Marshall showed that both men have very similar stances on issues. For the most part, each will vote with their Party.

Dem Party leadership actually gave Marshall a ‘pass’ so he could vote against PPACA in order to help him win that election! Marshall said to me, “PPACA just adds another car to the train heading off the cliff…”

The biggest area of GOP missed opportunity will be a poorly organized, half-hearted effort to educate Hispanic/Latino voters on why conservative leadership is better for them. These voters tend to be conservative in nature, Catholic (Pro-life), and very, very hard working, (Anti-big government/taxes.)

I hope GOP leadership recognizes that the predicted demographic shift in Georgia can actually cement our leadership for years to come, if addressed honestly and quickly.

Jon Richards April 28, 2014 at 9:01 am

I’ll agree with you there. Of course, it doesn’t help when some in the GOP spew vitriol in their opposition to any sort of immigration reform.

Dr. Monica Henson April 27, 2014 at 11:15 am

I worked in New England for ten years, and I was struck by the number of country music listening, pickup truck driving, Confederate flag displaying Yankees born and bred in southeastern Connecticut.

Ghost of William F. Buckley April 27, 2014 at 11:56 am

What’s not to love about country music and pickups.

We Southerners are oft amazed at the how the bastion of good will toward all men, The Nawth, surprises us with cases of racism.

MattMD April 24, 2014 at 11:27 pm

I read a piece from Thomas Sowell who did a good job explaining how southern rednecks were similar to urban thugs. He summed it up by explaining it by violence towards women, limited vocabulary, quick to temper, access to weapons and a lack of access to education. Well, it was worse than that, they both look down on education.

Rich April 24, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Interesting map. Closely resembles U.S. maps highlighting states with poor educational peformance (i.e. http://magazine.good.is/articles/educational-performance-where-does-your-state-rank). California remains, as always, an anomaly.

novicegirl April 25, 2014 at 9:41 am

Nice attempt at inductive reasoning. Perhaps we should repeal the 24th Amendment and institute a new form of literacy test to vote. Just some basic questions like: Who is the Vice President of the United States, Name one of the three branches of government, etc… I think you and I both know which Party would go down in flames with a test like that.

xdog April 25, 2014 at 9:56 am

Why don’t you tell us?

Will Durant April 25, 2014 at 10:55 am

I’ve brought this up before and it will never happen but I actually think it would be more even between the two parties in eliminating dolts than you think. I live in a precinct that votes about 90% Republican and dread elections with amendments on the ballot, knowing full well that the majority haven’t read the damn things before they got into the booth.

Rich April 25, 2014 at 12:42 pm

It is no less valid than reasoning that directed this thread to race, though no one needed to suggest overlaying the map with one of slave states in 1860 for that topic to manifest.

WeymanCWannamakerJr April 25, 2014 at 2:05 pm

The New York Times article linked by Jon is implying that white southerners are still largely racist because they didn’t vote for Obama, that is what directed this thread to race. I’m not denying there are some still out there but it is a lot more complicated than that. The elitist tone and lack of considering those complications suggests to me a bias worthy of Fox News or MSNBC.

The Republicans have done a very poor job of reaching out to minorities in the South. Here in Georgia they have done a poor job of reaching out to whites who lean Libertarian as well. But regardless of your slave map overlay, I would suggest you also use a Bible Belt one that would also explain Utah and some of the other non-slave states.

seenbetrdayz April 26, 2014 at 5:39 am

Even simpler is to remove party labels from the ballots and just have names. Talk about a free-for-all, popcorn-popping, head-shaking, jaw-dropping election!

Raleigh April 24, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Good grief. I think a few folks need to re-read Lewis Grizzard’s article on “Delta is Ready When You Are.” Now I remember why we built that subway. Nuff s said now ya’ll have fun.

Dave Bearse April 24, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Romney’s Mormonism may be the reason for the large circular orange swath centered on Salt Lake City.

dorian April 25, 2014 at 6:52 am

Can we add SEC football to the list?

saltycracker April 25, 2014 at 10:34 am

Rockefeller Republicans in the north and Goldwater Republicans south and west ?
Not to worry, the trend in both parties is from a government protecting individual opportunity to a government providing a slice of the pie. The issues couldn’t make that clearer.

ChuckEaton April 25, 2014 at 10:34 am

Georgia Presidential Results for Democratic Nominee:

2012- Obama 45.5%
2008- Obama 46.9%
2004- Kerry (white guy) 41.4%
2000- Gore (white guy) 43%

This idea that Georgians may not have voted for the Great One because he’s black is really shallow.

Chris Huttman April 25, 2014 at 10:54 am

Not nearly as shallow as you think. Here is the share of electorate that was black and estimated black support for Democrat: (just look at a bunch of south dekalb precinct results for 2004, you see a lot of 83′s, then look at 2008 you see a lot of 99s)
2012: 29% / 98%
2008: 30% / 98%
2004: 25% / 88%
2000: 23% / 90%

So, backing that data out, you come up with an estimated non-black (whites+others) Democratic vote of:
2012: 24%
2008: 25%
2004: 26%
2000: 29%

So actually, there has been greater polarization. And the other thing you have to remember is that the non-black population isn’t as white in 2012 as it was in 2000, in other words in 2000 almost all non-blacks were white, and they were giving close to 30% of their vote to Gore. By 2012, the non-black vote for Obama had dropped to 24%, but it includes significantly more asians, hispanics, etc who vote more Democratic than whites. That suggests that the white vote from 2000 to 2012 has gone from something like 29-20, maybe even a little lower than that.

It would be utterly foolish to say that Obama’s increased level of support among blacks (both in higher turnout and higher support within the racial group) has nothing to do with his race. And similarly it would be foolish to say that Obama’s bottoming out of support among whites also has nothing to do with race.

Jon Richards April 25, 2014 at 11:41 am

A few thoughts: If we accept your general reasoning, it seems to me the biggest dropoff in the non-black vote occurred between 2000 and 2004, rather than 2008 and 2012. I also question how much the composition of the non-black vote has changed in 12 years, given that hispanics and Asians are much less likely to participate in elections.

For example, here in Gwinnett the non-white population in 2010 was 56% of the total. However in terms of registered voters, it was only 12.6%.

Chris Huttman April 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Previous post was from memory, here are the actuals:
2000: Black 23, White 75, Other 2 – White share of non-black: 98%
2004: Black 25, White 71, Other 3 – White share of non-black: 96%
2008: Black 31, White 65, Other 4 – White share of non-black: 94%
2012: Black 31, White 63, Other 7 – White share of non-black: 91%.

If you assume the black percentage for Democratic candidate was 90 in 2000, 88 in 2004, and 98 in 2008/2012, and that the other percentage for Democratic candidate was 50% each year, you get the following white percentage:
2000: 28%
2004: 24%
2008: 23%
2012: 19%

To be honest, 2004/2008 shows that the white vote initially bottomed out because of the incredible appeal (at the time) of George W Bush’s re-election to Southern whites. However, if you look a little bit deeper, I think you’ll see that core rural whites still hadn’t completely abandoned the Democratic party when they still had a white nominee. I just picked one county that I know is almost all white, Fannin, and in Fannin county John Kerry still managed to get more than 28% of the vote. Fast forward to 2008, and Barack Obama is only getting 24.7% of the vote in Fannin. Fast forward to 2012 and he’s down to 20%. Bush was getting such a high percentage of the vote because he was getting a pretty high share of black votes (Sonny in 2006 too) for a Republican and also because he was getting a good percentage of the non-race sensitive white vote from places like DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett and North Fulton. Kerry was still holding onto some of the race-sensitive white vote in places like Fannin.

Once the nominee became black, and crucially the Republican nominee wasn’t a fellow Southern Christian conservative riding a 9/11 high, you see some moderate whites in metro Atlanta going back to the black Democrat, but you also see some conservative whites in places like Fannin abandoning him – even though they improbably stuck with Kerry in 2004.

And by the way – if Obama is getting 20% of the white vote in Fannin (a county that is easy to look at because it is for all purposes all white), and we believe his overall share of the white vote is 19%, and we know he’s getting >50% of the white vote in places like Decatur and probably close to 30% of the white vote in places like Dunwoody and some parts of metro Atlanta, that means there are places out there where he’s getting <10% of the white vote to average out to 19%. And that is largely south of Atlanta (starting probably in Fayette county and South Henry and going further south). There are many counties in South Georgia where Obama's overall vote percentage essentially equals the non-white turnout percentage for the county.

WeymanCWannamakerJr April 25, 2014 at 1:44 pm

“The collapse in Democratic support among white Southerners… represents an end, at least temporarily, to the South’s assimilation into the American political and cultural mainstream.”

That isn’t slanted in the least.

saltycracker April 25, 2014 at 3:48 pm

:)

Dr. Monica Henson April 27, 2014 at 11:26 am

Perhaps the South IS the political & cultural mainstream. Regardless of party affiliation, Southerners generally determine the outcome of the presidential election. It’s commonly said that nominees cannot win without winning the South. I’d like to see some New York & L.A. liberals chew on that one. The arrogance they display in presuming that the sheer size and groupthink inherent in their population centers amazes me. Carpetbaggin’ scallywags.

Trey A. April 25, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Chris, I’d love to see a similar analysis for 2010, 2006, 2002, 1998. It would be interesting to see these trends on the midterms.

Separate question, but given these trends, how many votes are the names Nunn and Carter really worth?

Chris Huttman April 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm

From memory, in 1998 I think Roy received something like 38% of the white vote (remember he won big and also the libertarian took a decent chunk).

In 2002, I estimated that it was closer to 29%, but probably was getting close to Obama levels among blacks due to the flag (which is how he did better than Gore). In 2006 and 2010, I estimate that Taylor got roughly 21% of the white vote and Roy got somewhere in the 19/20 range. Yes you read that right – I think Taylor got a higher share of the white vote in ’06 than Roy got in ’10. The reason I think that is because I believe Sonny was getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15% of the black vote, and the share of the black vote was 24%. In 2010, it was 28%+ – an all time high for a non-Presidential election.

So, how did Roy get 43% when Taylor got 38%? Simple – the black vote was 4% higher of the electorate, the other vote was maybe 1% higher, and Roy got close to 98% of the black vote where as Taylor was only getting about 85% of it. So even if he treaded water with whites, he was still going to do better.

So the real question is – Carter/Nunn can probably come close to matching Roy/Obama’s performance with blacks. With that performance, and the higher turnout level of black voters these days, if they could get what Gore or Barnes (2002) used to get with white voters, then yes, they would win.

There are essentially two types of white swing voters – younger moderates in the suburbs who swung from Bush in ’04 to Obama in ’08, and rural whites who swung from Kerry in ’04 to McCain/Romney in ’08/’12. I would imagine the Carter/Nunn name helps with the rural voters, and I would imagine Deal’s overall lack of appeal (and the youthfulness of Nunn/Carter) helps with the moderates.

We will see though.

Jon Richards April 29, 2014 at 6:44 am

Update: In the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone takes a look at the map, and concludes it might not be 100% accurate, at least in Oklahoma.

tejano2100 April 29, 2014 at 4:09 pm

The republican party has maximized their base, and in each cycle they are becoming a regional party. President Obama did not need any southern states to win the 270 electoral votes, and yet he won Virginia and Florida twice. Even if 100 % of white southern Alabamians or Mississipians voted republican, the outcome would be the same in terms of the electoral college. The republican party is becoming too southern, which empowers states like California, New York, and many center left states to become much more democratic. California and New York may be democratic states in presidential elections, but they hold a total of 21 republican house of representatives. Democrats just need a total of 17 house seats to capture the house. If the republican party continues to be more rigid and too conservative, they will lose many house seats outside the south. What works in the south, does not work elsewhere. Also, the southern states are changing in terms of the demographics changes. There is an article I recommend, “The white South’s last defeat” by Michael Lind. This explains what is happening to the country as a whole and the paralysis in congress. Minorities may have some center right ideas, but we also have feelings too. I pay taxes, I pray, and work, yet I do not like to be called racial names and getting stared with evil eyes, just because of the bad ideas people have of us. I respect people, and yet many tell me to go back to Mexico and that my skin is ugly. I don’t tell white southerners to go back to England or criticize about their appearance. We are humans, too. I used to vote republican in the past few elections, but not anymore. I changed affiliation to democratic.

The Last Democrat in Georgia April 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Democrats should keep thinking that the GOP is “a regional party” and that Democrat Presidential electoral victories in 2008 and 2012 completely guarantees another Presidential electoral victory in 2016. Democrats totally need to keep thinking that they can’t lose another Presidential election.

tejano2100 April 30, 2014 at 9:43 pm

The Democratic Party can still lose a presidential election in 2016, nothing is guaranteed, but what exactly is the Republican Party doing to expand beyond their base? After the 2012 elections, there were representatives that expressed vile comments to minority groups, such as Rep. King of Iowa, Rep. Bachmann of Minnesota, candidate for governor Donnelly of California, Rep. Young of Alaska, and many more. We live in a internet connected era, which means that what is said in one place has effects on other places. There is also the anti- immigrant Dan Patrick of Texas, that has the potential of turning off Latino voters, especially the huge Mexican-American community, which could be pivotal to turn Texas blue. Just look at the history of California, thanks to then Governor Pete Wilson’s remarks, he turned off the minority communities and changed the state solid blue. It is similarly happening in Arizona and Georgia. Texas is not a conservative state, most of the people just don’t vote, and those who vote are conservatives. Also, republicans in the state are not nearly as conservative as their southern republican colleagues. With the help of Governor Rick Perry and the bipartisanship of both parties, the Dream Act was passed. He also condemned the confederate flag in licence plates. As previously stated, I would encourage anyone to read the article “The white South’s last defeat”, just google it.

The Last Democrat in Georgia April 30, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Vile racist and bigoted remarks and behavior are bad in any party or political forum.

Heck, the late Democratic U.S. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia was a member and leader of his local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan for many years.

You just seem to be using a few examples of bad behavior by individual Republican politicians to paint the entire GOP as a bunch of racists as a way of furthering your deluded personal fantasies of turning the South blue for liberal national Democrats who can’t get elected Dog Catcher throughout most parts of the South, Midwest and West right now.

The Democratic Party will turn “blue” before the South does.

tejano2100 April 30, 2014 at 11:56 pm

You are right about Robert Byrd, but he represented the old southern faction of the Democratic Party. The New Deal Democratic coalition was formed by the newly empowered European ethnic immigrants of northern states and the white southerners, who were known as the dixiecrats. The democratic party changed power from the white southern base to the European northern ethnics. The same effect for the republican party, which was from a northern base to the white southerners. Then, after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Nixon’s southern strategy, most white southerners changed their affiliation to the Republican Party. What I am saying is that the southern states are becoming much more conservative, with the exceptions of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas (which I don’t consider it southern, but a border state). This conservatism is hurting the republican party, since it gives a bad taste to republicans outside the south. This is similar to the 1860- 1928 presidential races when the northern republican party won most elections, and the southern democratic party would be defeated harshly. Why? The southern democratic party was viewed very conservative by the northern republicans. It was too conservative that meant Republican presidents Lincoln and Grant had to send the US Army to defeat and federalize the states right’s southern democratic party. President Eisenhower was the last republican of that era, as he ordered the National Guard to continue desegregating the south and federalizing it. The 2008 and 2012 election is similar to the the maps of the timeline I mentioned. States outside the south are becoming much more democratic, since they don’t support the views of the mostly southern republican party. More precisely, states outside the south are becoming more liberal, while the south is becoming much more conservative. But the white southern conservatism is being blurred by the new immigrant and non-southern arrivals. By 2050, the south will practically be a giant California demographically and very diverse. I want to add that I voted for McCain in 2008, for the reason that he didn’t use in this campaign any southern strategy that would demonize ethnic groups and was a champion of immigrant’s rights.

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