YOU'RE OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM: YEAH, YOU.

YOU'RE OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM: YEAH, YOU. While I�m kvetching about regional politics, I may as well tell you I�m sick of the double standard that operates with respect to Democrats or liberals when it comes to the politics of opponent-framing. With impunity, sneering Republicans and conservatives can mock �northeastern liberals,� but duck and cover if you dare point the �out of touch� finger at southern conservatives. They are the real Americans, you see, and no amount of data will suffice to disprove the back-of-the-napkin Applebee�s analyses of the �Great Davids� (Broder and Brooks, that is).

Here�s just one fact from my book the national media will never report because, gripped as they are by conventional wisdom and too lazy to consider that they might be wrong, they won�t bother to take even five minutes to look it up: The partisan preferences of white northeastern voters are much more mainstream than that of white southeastern voters. The simplest way to demonstrate this is by using the white vote in the mixed bag of midwestern and western states as a benchmark, which makes perfect and legitimate sense since the presidential partisan preferences of these voters has remained firmly in the middle between the more Democratic white northeasterners and more Republican white southeasterners for three solid decades. And what do we find? In 2004, the pattern held yet again, with white voters in those 25 midwestern and western states voting 55 percent for Bush, while just 50 percent of white northeasterners but 70 percent of white southeasterners did. In other words, the benchmark deviation in the southern white vote was three times greater than it was by northeastern whites.

But forget the pointy-headed facts and figures. Real Americans go on gut, and the gut says it just has to be that those dastardly Ted Kennedy voters, not the Trent Lott voters, who are outside the mainstream � even if it�s simply not true. George Bush�s re-election share of the white southern vote (70 percent) was about the same as Reagan�s re-election share in 1984 (71 percent). And yet Bush won narrowly, while Reagan won in a landslide -- why? It has to be because either: (a) there are fewer southern whites as a share of the national electorate; or (b) John Kerry�s share of the non-southern white vote was higher than Mondale�s. And guess what? Both are true, and both facts bode well for a non-southern majority, given that the disproportionate share of Asian Americans (+17 Kerry), Native Americans (about +70), and Latinos (+20), other than Florida and Texas, live outside the South. Only African Americans, among the key racial minorities, are disproportionately found in the Southeast, and it is their presence which, sadly, makes race -- not defense attitudes, not even attitudes on abortion -- a significant explanatory factor in white southern voting, according to National Election Study data. (Just chew on that fact for a second -- abortion fails to explain the partisan preferences of white voters in the South!)

The point is that Democrats do not have a white voter problem: What they have is a southern white voter problem. Hold aside the South, and John Kerry got about 47 percent of the white vote. That�s plenty enough to put states in range to win thanks to lopsided support from non-white voters. But, again, we�re not allowed to point out who is inside or outside the mainstream, or people will tell you to �kiss their rebel ass.�

--Tom Schaller

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