Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The New York Times Got It Half Right

I was taken by the headline in today's New York Times (see post below): "Racial Barrier Falls In Heavy Turnout." I suppose they meant overall. Actually, it seems to me a racial barrier was actually raised across a swath of the Bible Belt.

Let's use Arkansas as an example, since that's where I'm from and I know the political landscape pretty well. In simple terms you can draw a line from northeast to the southwest and the northwest half is more Republican, while the southeast half leans more heavily to Democrats.

In terms of congressional districts, there are four. The only one represented by a Republican is district 3 in the northwest corner which is Wal-Mart country. That area has experienced phenomenal growth in the past 15 years, and in percentage terms represents one of the fastest growing areas of the country. Apparently that influx of new residents is comprised of more Republicans!

Take a look back at this time last year when Arkansas had such deep dissatisfaction with the Bush administration that it was as blue as a northeast or west coast state.

This actually gave me hope that Arkansas, which used to be considered a swing state, would swing to the Democrats this time around. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In fact, it went heavier for the Republican ticket than I have ever seen in my lifetime. Some counties went over 70% for McCain which is on par with Utah!

By using the nifty interactive maps from the New York Times, I now present you with a demonstration of just how far Arkansas is going away from the national trend.

Start with 1992 when Bill Clinton was running against George Herbert Walker Bush. Sure, Clinton was the home state boy, but Bush managed to carry the hardcore Republican counties. And Clinton carried the state in that year by 53.2%.

Jump ahead to 1996. The cum stains on Monica's blue dress may have cost him a few more counties which swung Republican, but Clinton's overall percentage actually increased a fraction from 1992. And maybe Bob Dole was appealing to those Arkansans who are more mid-western than southern. Northwest Arkansas is only a hop, skip and a jump from the Kansas state line.

In 2000 with Bill Clinton out of the picture, we start to get a more realistic view of a typical Arkansas voting pattern. George W. Bush of neighboring Texas prevailed over Al Gore of neighboring Tennessee by 51% to 46%.

In 2004 is when things get really interesting. Four years of Bush wasn't enough to get Arkansas to vote for a damn Massachusetts Yankee, even with John Edwards on the ticket. Bush jumped to 54% to Kerry's 44%. And a bit more blue disappeared.

Here we are in 2008. While most of the rest of the nation went for change, and told the Republican Party enough already, the Bible Belt deep south and a few others went wildly in the opposite direction. What happened to that "blue" Arkansas from 2007 when the voters were so overwhelmingly disgusted with the Bush antics?

I guess having that Negro on the ticket was just too much to swallow for most. A state with two Democrats in the U.S. Senate, one being a woman, and three of four U.S. Representatives being Democrats, gives John McCain from non-neighboring Arizona and Sarah Palin from a state which doesn't even border the rest of the US, a margin of victory exceeding that of Arizona or Texas! McCain carried Arkansas by a greater percentage than he did in Phoenix, and Obama even managed to carry Tucson.

Hell, McCain's margin in Arkansas was even greater than in Mississippi! But they've got more black folk over there. So that explains that.

I don't even recognize my home state these days. The blue is steadily disappearing while racism apparently is not going anywhere.

Go play with the interactive maps and see what you find. Although I am thrilled with the overall election results, I'm still rather nauseated by what I see when scratching just beneath the surface of it all.

And see that second county up from the bottom right? That's my home county. It will always be blue.

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