Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Southerners Need Not Apply!

So much to say about the Romney/Ryan ticket. First, I'm still not sure if these two names are alliterative or not. But aside from the possible literary qualities of the ticket, there is one other major historical quality about this Republican ticket to point out.

Many have already written about how this is the FIRST presidential ticket from a major party WITHOUT a white Protestant on the presidential ballot. That is something to applaud, even if to bring that about one party's ticket was replaced by a conservative Catholic and a Mormon. Actually, it's not too surprising if you think about it. Mainstream (white) Protestants have become much more moderate socially, while the Republican Party has moved to the far Right on social issues related to abortion, gay marriage, contraception, and pornography, to capture or reflect the evangelical Christian base that remains WASP.

But, notice that there's no Southerner on either party's ticket either, since...well, a long time. What about Sarah Palin from Alaska in 2008? That's just the South with ice and oil. There's one exception--Ford/Rockefeller in 1976. But since Ford was only there because Nixon resigned, and Agnew was from Maryland and on the ballot in '68 and '72, which is the "South," I'm not counting that election. Anyway, if you look at presidential election history, you see a Southerner somewhere on the ticket almost all the way back to the turn of the 20th Century. On both sides of the ticket. And, while I'm not a scholar of American political history,it appears that we're now at an important juncture in American political history.

What does the absence of a Southerner on the ticket this fall indicate about American politics and society? Well, first, it appears that the two parties are more comfortable than before in thinking that they can win the presidential election without one on the ballot. The fact that North Carolina and Virginia are turning into real swing states, along with that bizarro land known as Florida, seems to show that. Northerners can actually win those states that were once part of the Confederacy. At the same time, other Southern states are firmly in the Red column, probably still for years. So, Dem's have no incentive to try to court voters from those states by putting a Southerner on their ballot.

At the same time, you wonder if a vast majority of Southerners are getting the representatives they want if they go R. Remember, Santorum captured a majority of the Southern vote during the Primary season, except for some major metropolitan areas [click on the state results to see the pattern]. The exception is Newt, who got South Carolina and Georgia, and the same counties, generally. Overall, ANYWHERE where the median income in a county was at or below the national average, someone other than Romney won it. And that's a majority of Southern counties! Sad to say that the Republican Party--with a Mormon patrician from the Midwest/Northeast on the ticket and a libertarian ideologue from the Midwest--won't be representing those people's interests.

Romney and Ryan are now working to win an election while taking the Southern vote for granted, with the exception of VA, NC and FL, states that represent the "New South." And that's a safe strategy. But their policies, as lamented in so many other places, only hurt a majority of those voters, or at least don't help. At the same time. some don't feel sorry for the South. Some wish they would secede. I think this just indicates, perhaps contrary to some conventional wisdom, the South is not the political powerhouse it was in the 1990s. Or, more precisely, the South is changing, but, in a typical Southern fashion, very slowly..like molasses! If Obama is reelected and there is continued social change in states like NC, VA, and even Georgia, regional patterns of voting in the US could, maybe, start to end. And new divisions based on ethnicity or rural vs. urban will take their place.

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