Dems Favored in Southern Shift

It’s been 40 years since Richard M. Nixon came up with the “Southern Strategy” so aptly named by political analyst Kevin Phillips. Nixon took advantage of the once solidly Democratic South by playing upon upheavals caused by integration and civil rights and Southern conservative disgust with 1960s cultural change.

The GOP lock on the South helped presidents including Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush. It also helped the GOP win Congress in 1994 along with innumerable state contests.

But if you read Sunday’s New York Times, Republican influence on the South is waning seriously and has been for years although not many have noticed. Barack Obama’s big win in North Carolina last week only underscores the changing politics and demographics in Dixie. Donkey successes reverberate through Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and elsewhere.

Writing in the Times, author Jack Bass notes: “The story is most dramatic in Virginia, which in 1976 was the only state in the South that failed to back Jimmy Carter for president.” While Virginia Republicans still dominate in Congress, Democrats have won back-to-back governorships and are likely to take a U.S. Senate with Mark Warner.

“The trends suggest a region in transformation, with dynamic economic growth, an expanded black middle class, the arrival of millions of white migrants, the return of scores of thousands of African-American expatriates, and an emerging native white generation with little or no memory of racial segregation. The result has been greater tolerance, an expanded pool of talent, and growing openness to new ideas,” according to Bass.

When intolerance raises its ugly head, it is now beaten down. Witness George Allen’s loss in the Senate to Jim Webb after his ill-thought, racist heckle of “macaca” to a dark-skinned Virginia. Grinning, cowboy-boot-wearing Allen had been a perennial favorite whose “Aw, Shucks” demeanor seemed to play well in the Old Dominion. Well, not any more.

This is enormously positive change. Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, I took Mom out to a restaurant in a shopping mall in Henrico County’s West End. She was getting pretty tired of food in assisted living, so we went expensive. I was pleased to see that many of the families enjoying the pricey holiday specials were African-American. It was a scene hard to imagine 25 years ago when I last lived in Richmond.

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  1. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    PG: One quibble. George’s maccaca moment was based on hubris not racism.

    You are correct. The Democrats are gaining across the South for a number of reasons.

    The demographics is destiny evidence is in the continuing shift of Northerners South to work or retire.

    The influx of immigrants, other than Cuban, trends Democrat – although Republicans are jealous of people they see as their natural voters.

    And, the Republicans in Tenn, NC and VA (AL? – can’t recall) just blew it once they got a majority. Tax and spend Republicans lose their base.

    Democrats in the South – not elsewhere – run as Conservatives. They put it in their labels – M. Warner and Kaine are primes examples.

    I don’t know how much strength McCain will have for coat tails. He will beat Obama – unless he chooses the wrong VP and runs as a wuss. He will lose to Hillary – for the trends you cite – she can win NC, AR, and maybe GA.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    PG: I wrote a response but it didn’t go through. 2nd try.

    I agree with your assessment, not your adjectives.

    When Hispanics convert to become Evangelical Protestants in significant numbers, they go GOP.

    The Republican/Conservative message to 1st and 2nd generation Hispanics on illegals is like tight rope walking on barbed wire.

    How do you balance the message of stopping all illegals, deporting the 2 time criminal illegals (600,000) and then consider what to do with the remaining 19 million people – without making that seem like an attack on their families?

    I’ve written before that I don’t think the Christians – including Evangelicals – have the stomach for mass deportations. Yet, just implementing the first steps have to be communicated to a family-oriented community as not being an attack on their family – I dunno of anyone who can or is saying that in a convincing manner to the Hispanic community.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “George’s maccaca moment was based on hubris not racism.”

    … I would say PERCEIVED as racism…

    I see this as a big problem for the R’s because they look at Maccaca and see it as a PR issue and voters of color see if quite differently..

    Here’s the question – is the Republican Party … PERCEIVED as embracing diversity rather than merely tolerating it on a politically correct language basis?

    (in other words.. watch what you say)

    and one more question..

    why would core Republicans abandon their newly-minted tax&spend brethren to cross over to the tax&spend Dems?

    Unless we’re saying that the Republican base will not turn out, in which case, I really wonder just how much the right wing of the party will tolerate McCain trying to appeal to folks in the middle.

    I think the R’s have lost their way as a party of Fiscal Conservatives but social moderates – value’s oriented but tolerate of diversity.

    I think Dems who cast themselves as Fiscally conservative while embracing diversity have a big advantage.

    and just to clarify – again in the minds of voters – “fiscally conservative is not the mirror opposite of tax&spend”.

    one more thing… what kind of candidate should McCains VP pick be?

    Should that person be one that satisfies the base or should it be someone that will help McCain gets votes in the middle?

    I’ve heard that Condi or some other prominent Conservative should be the pick… so my question is.. will such a pick win the folks in the middle?

    which leads to the bigger question:

    How do the Republicans plan to win the folks who feel threatened by social conservatives? or perhaps the more pragmatic question.. do they?

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I agree, it’s hard to see what the Elephant Clan stands for any more. Insofar as the Rs drew strength from resentment of the excesses of the Civil Rights movement and the Great Society in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, there’s not much to draw upon anymore. Like Peter says, African-Americans are part of mainstream American society today — and there is zero interest among whites to turn back the clock.

    The problem, as I see it, is that the Rs have done a poor job of formulating a positive ideology (as opposed to a reactive one) on race relations: championing a society based upon individual rights as opposed to the D’s obsession with racial identity and group rights. Neither have Rs done a good job of reaching out to African-Americans with such market-based solutions as school vouchers and affordable housing. Further, as Peter correctly observes, the illegal immigration issue cuts severely against the Rs in the Hispanic community.

    It’s time for a major political realignment to reflect social and political challenges of the 21st century. I suspect that the Elephant Clan will be a big loser when that realignment takes place. I just don’t have a feel yet for what that realignment will look like.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    I am biased heck we are all biased :-p

    Rs need to go back to the business person type model of candidate results competence

    As Jim mentioned in his post this folksy aw schucks model doesn’t work anymore. Kilgroe and Allen both came across to me as less intelligent as their challengers. (I voted for one and against the other)

    Also Both parties have there looney extreme groups. The democrats have been much better at ignoring and distancing themselves from their groups while the Republicans are having a hard time distancing themselves from these three fringe groups

    1. Deport them all today crowd.
    2. All taxes are evil crowd.
    3. Religious right crowd.

    Unfortunaly many Republicans are only running on one or multiple of these three themes or even worse trying to out “conservative” Regan instead of talking about ideas and generally coming across as compatent.


  6. Groveton Avatar

    OK – Here’s how I see it.

    1. Obama gets the nomination. Not too tough a call on that. If the nomination went to Clinton it would be suicide for the Democrats. They would lose a huge part of their base who would probably just stay home. Hillary will not run as VP. She’d rather sit out this election waiting for Obama to lose (“see, he wasn’t electable”) or fail (“see he didn’t have the experience”). She’ll run again in 2012.

    2. Obama will beat McCain in the national election. He’ll run as the new John Kennedy. Young and idealistic – he stands for change. McCain will try to run on his experience but will lose more in the middle based on his age than he’ll gain based on his experience. The only way a VP choice will make a material difference to McCain would be if he promised not to seek a second term.

    3. The Bush legacy will be the deciding factor in the national election. McCain will try to put some distance between himself and President Bush but it won’t really work. In the end McCain will be portrayed as an old line Republican while Obama will be the “outsider”. A vote for Obama will not only be sold as a vote against McCain but also a vote against the legacy of Pres. Bush.

    4. Republicans have a perfect opportunity to expand the base with immigrants – especially Hispanic immigrants. Bush tried to get an amnesty program through Congress but failed. Nothing will happen by November. The perception will be that the Republicns are for deportation. Obama needs to stay wishy-washy on this topic – “I’ll commission a blue ribbon panel to study the matter, etc. etc.”. Obama can’t say anything that will keep the “Hillary base” at home. Look at PA. He needs those votes. NAFTA and other immigration points will only serve to hurt the Democrats.

    Today’s good news for low tax advocates – Which US president cut taxes the most (as a percentage of the GDP at the time)?

    John F. Kennedy.

  7. Groveton Avatar

    If Doug Wilder saw me in a crowd and called me “Chuck”, “Whitey” or even “Snowflake” it would be a racist comment. When George Allen saw a dark skinned Virginian in a crowd and called him monkey it was also a racist comment.

  8. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    NMM: Thanks. I thought we were going to have a love fest of agreement here.

    You have to define Religous right crowd. The way I define it – it is at least 25% of the Nation and 50% in the South. It is the key constituency in the GOP.

    JBacon: Agreed (see love fest comment above).

    The Republicans are lost in space on who they are.

    Conservatives are not. Conservatives don’t have a champion presently. But, Conservatives aren’t adrift on issues, solutions, and vision. They don’t have the political power, or leadership, among elected officials or leadership in the GOP – at every level – to put together a coherent way forward.

    Groveton: That is urban myth that Allen called that kid a monkey. What a crock.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    One thing to keep in mind is this:

    Jim Webb (D) 1,172,671 49.6
    George Allen(R) 1,165,440 49.3

    Half of Virginia did not see things the way that NoVa did….

    Fairfax County
    Webb 202,036 58.90%
    Allen 137,313 40.03%

    … the 1,165,440 who voted for Allen WILL vote in 2008….

    How many of that number will cross over to Obama vs how many of the votes that voted for Webb will vote for McCain?

    I see the likelihood of Webb voters crossing to McCain as far more likely than from Allen to Obama to the point that the NoVa vote may not be enough to offset…

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Questions for J.A. Bowden and groveton,

    How do you spell macaca correctly?

    Doesn’t it mean “Monkey?”

    Peter Galuszka

  11. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    PG: The stuttering, searching for a moniker play on a name (as Pres Bush does – check out the guy’s real name)that ended up as Maccaca – there is no official spelling of a dumbass re-naming – may mean many things in the thousands of languages across the world.

    The narrative of one meaning created by Liberal activists was creative and a cute fit.

    Check the timelines and connect the dots on who posted to Wikepedia about maccaca and when which blogs picked it up to hand it over to the hatchets of the WashPo.

  12. Groveton Avatar

    Here is the video of George Allen’s infamous speech.

    Here are a few pictures of monkeys in the genus Macaca.

    Here is the history of Macaca as an ethnic slur:

    Sorry JAB but Sen. Allen did what he did and said what he said. He should have followed the Mel Gibson model and apologized profusely. Instead, he tried to weasel out of his obvious slur.

  13. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    We are off topic. Should start a new thread – on beating dead horses.

    Check out the dates – timing is everything – and the origins of the Wikepedia entry.

    And George Allen went on serious groveling tour afterwards. I blogged about it.

    His comment was rude, not racist.

  14. Anonymous Avatar


    Religious Right is a huge term

    So treading delicately here :-p

    I admit I am a Northern transplant so I don’t really “get” the religious right but I am a Christian and I think maybe even an Evangelical but anyway

    Religious Right to me means a code for two issues

    Pro-Life (campaign on)
    Anti-Gay (campaign “family values”)

    My question would be how many people are voting on those two issues alone

    Are they really 50% of the coalition?

    Is that really all that is holding rural Virginia in the R column

    ok will toss in Guns as well


    Larry you raise some interesting points

    Lets step back even further a bit

    Mark Warner is the cause of everything. He ran a brilliant campaign focused on rural areas.

    Kaine and Webb are both where they are because of Warner.

    Mark Warner is pretty much unstoppable this fall. He is going to help Obama with the rural vote immensely just like he helped get Kaine into office.

    Allen was the super incumbant (local, gov and senate) so he had the natural advantage against Webb but he still lost.

    Allen to me was the high water mark of old-school Republican. Rs will never get that level of support again without changing issue focus and positions.

    So what does this all mean an extremely close race :-p

    Obama energizing the African American vote (you know the areas), young voters (NoVa) , and college educated (NoVa)

    Warner helping in rural areas

    McCain energizing the conservative base????…. crickets… military voters (HR/TW and old-school NoVa) and I will agree with you that there are some Webb people that will vote for McCain including yours truly :-p.

    Things to watch

    Will the conservative base get energized somehow? By who?

    Will Warner have enough clout in SW Virginia to overcome Obamas inherent weaknesses in that area

    To summarize

    To me this race is about Mark Warner again. I think Warner will outpoll Obama. The question is can Warner have enough of an impact to pull people towards Obama from the downticket or will McCain keep these people.

    But McCain isn’t out of the woods yet. How will he ensure that all of the Allen voters actually showup and vote for him and more importantly agressively volunteer for him.

    Alot can change in six months but I see Virginia being extremely close and I wouldn’t be suprised if it went for Obama.

    Current Outlook


  15. The Logician Avatar
    The Logician

    Getting back to the original thread: Does VA, a state that has elected the Republican electoral delegates faithfully for many decades, have a realistic chance to vote Democrat this year?

    Let’s at this point assume the race will be Obama and McCain. No speculation on Veeps.

    A few factors not yet discussed:

    1) Obama and McCain will be sharing the ticket with Mark Warner and Jim Gilmore. Regardless who truly owns the blame on this one, the fact that we’re still paying car taxes hurts the Republican ticket in the public eye. Advantage: Obama.

    2) Virginia is a pro-Defense state. M-words aside: Webb was aided greatly by his experience with the Navy Dept. Two of the state’s three most populous regions (Hampton Roads and NoVA) give weight to this sort of thing. Advantage: McCain

    3) We know who Kaine supports and will be energetically stumping for. Will John Warner care to step up and campaign for his colleague to balance the state political star power? Advantage: Obama

    4) Race. I’ve been around this country, but have spent the bulk of my life in Virginia, divvied up between rural, suburban, urban, and academic locations, and I’ll say confidently that Jim Crow is quietly healthy in parts of this state. Enough of the state to make an impact? Time will tell. But I’ve heard multiple Virginia erroneously pronounce Obama a Muslim, or use a more divisive slur. Sad but true. Advantage: McCain.

    For the first time in a long while, the R’s will have a fight in this state. Obama did very well in the primary here, as well as in neighboring NC, DC, and MD. Rural parts of the state (mirroring tomorrow’s results in WV) are a lot more wary of him.

    Bottom line: It’s anyone’s game.

  16. Groveton Avatar

    Assuming it’s Obama vs. McCain this November –

    I’ll wager a steak dinner that Obama wins Virginia.

    Winner to pay loser at Reston Morton’s.

    Any takers?

  17. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    I’ll take that bet or join you AFTER I know who McCain’s VP is.

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Are the folks who voted for Webb … Bush supporters?

    to be clear…. the war is unpopular..

    the folks who support the war and Bush would vote for Webb over Allen?

    those same folks.. who voted against the war.. are going to vote for McCain?

    I think.. if you are opposed to the war and opposed to Bush.. that you’re not going to vote for McCain…


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