I have been busy with work lately and haven't had time to write. However, as I have been thinking, this is a post that I have been wanting to write for a long time. I have some free time tonight, so I will write it.
First of all, as many of you know, I don't see myself as an activist. I am probably more moderate than many people here would like me to, but my greatest contribution has been in analyzing races in competitive states and districts.
And this is what I will do in this thread beneath the fold.
1968 heralded the end of the New Deal. Forming a coalition of white southerners, white ethnics, suburbanites, and Sunbelt voters, Nixon broke through the New Deal--and formed a coalition that has persisted with the GOP to this day. I am theorizing that perhaps 2008 might mark the final end of the coalition. For me to get to that point, however, I first have to start with the pre-New Deal era. That will follow into a discussion of the New Deal era, the area from 1968 until Clinton's victory, and finally the present.
First of all, up until 1932, politics followed a divide across the Mason-Dixon Line. It extended across what is now US-40. Anything above the National Road was generally Republican, and anything to the south voted Democratic. There were some exceptions, such as the high mountainous areas of states like KY and TN, which voted Republican; but, overall, the south was dark blue, and the north was dark red.
In 1920 the Republicans were able to win states as far south as TN, MO, KY, and OK. That seemed to be the limit of GOP influence in the region. As the US's population was centered up in the industrial areas and Pacific Coast, because the south was still thinly populated, the Republicans controlled the balance. Indeed, in 1916, Wilson won the majority of the country by land; and, even though Charles Evan Hughes just won the Midwest, Northeast, and Upper West Coast, he almost won.
But the first year to analyze is 1928. In that election cycle the GOP broke into south, carrying VA, TX, OK, NC, KY, and TN. These were states that Kevin Phillips defined as the "outer south" in the Emerging Republican Majority. These states rejected Al Smith because of his Catholicism. The deep south stuck with Al Smith even though it was heavily non-Catholic. The hatred of race trumped anti-Catholicism.
Out of the Great Depression the New Deal fused together the south, with the industrial regions of the country, and the West Coast. And the Democrats dominated most elections until 1952, which was the first election where the New Deal Coalition suffered a fracture. Eisenhower was able to break into "the outer south", winning states like TX, OK, KY, MO, TN, VA, and FL. He continued on that trend into 1956 and Nixon carried parts of the region in 1960.
What was at hand here was the emergence of the Sunbelt. The New Deal helped established regions such as the deep south, southern California, Arizona, and other areas that are today the fastest growing parts of the US. Whites moving to states like Florida settled in places like Orlando, turning what was a balance that leaned blue into red. However, the Sunbelt growth disrupted the political order of many southern states, replacing the old, racist southern Democratic regimes with Republicans more concerned about business. States like Florida were the first to turn red as places like St. Petersburg, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando grew. Post World-War II growth in suburbia weakened the role of cities in statewide races, undermining what were then solid Democratic machines.
By 1960, however, Kennedy was able to hold on that coalition just barely. The 1960s saw the end of the New Deal era. What happened was the Great Society. The Great Society was left-wing government that went too far in the minds of too many Americans. The Vietnam warned weakened the national security strength of Democrats, which persists to this day. In the process, angry over civil rights laws, the Dixiecrats left the party. Frustrated over the racial violence, protesting, increasing taxes, rioting, forced integration, and perceived permissiveness to crime, white ethnics (such as Catholics) fled the Democratic Party. Nixon was able to form a majority based on suburbanites, white ethnics, and Dixiecrats. This majority has persisted to this day.
Now, with history out of the way, I can address the more recent present. The issues that bound those voters together were race, hostility to social programs that benefited populations deemed "unworthy", anger toward a welfare state that (in their mind) rewarded laziness, permissiveness toward crime, hostility to the middle class, and a strong defense. These voters rejected the post-1968 liberalism that the Democratic nominees of the 1970s and 1980s advanced. In places like Macomb County, MI, where CNN cameras come every four years to talk to "swing voters", those voters became "Reagan Democrats". As middle class voters, while they thought that the Democratic party cared about the dirt poor and racial minorities (especially blacks), they offered nothing toward the middle except higher taxes for social programs that rewarded laziness and didn't benefit them. While these voters supported civil rights, they took umbrage over forced busing and affirmative action. They also didn't believe that "racism" was the cause crime or that criminals should have been coddled.
This is why, in the period between 1968 and 1992, Democrats failed to win many states that are now solidly blue. After 1964 they would not carry NJ, CA, or IL in a presidential race until 1992. They only carried PA twice and MI twice. They were unable to win states like Connecticut. That is because, in places like suburban Chicago, Democrats were lucky to poll 40% of the vote. By the Nixon and Reagan era the votes in the suburbs of America were much larger than the decaying urban areas that surrounded them.
The DLC now comes into play. I used to be a strong supporter of the DLC because I believed that the Party was too captive to the far left. By the late 1980s, as the Democrats had lost five out of six elections, it was clear that the party needed to change. As I said two paragraphs earlier the reasons why many middle class voters refused to support Democrats for president were for the fact that they believed the the Party no longer cared about their issues. While the Republicans didn't offer them anything better, at least when it came to taxes, these voters saw the GOP as being more respectful of their taxpayer dollars. Although I no longer support the DLC, back in the 1990s, it served to bring the Democrats white suburbanites back to the Party.
At first, when Clinton won, I had assumed that a new political cycle had begun. 2000 and 2004 would prove me wrong. However, Clinton broke through the first part of the 1968 coalition by bringing suburban whites back. In Clinton's first victory, followed by his smashing 1996 re-election, he carried places like CA, IL, PA, and NJ. Three out of four of those states had not supported the Democratic nominee for president since 1964. Since the 1992 cycle the suburbs in blue states have trended heavily toward Democrats. An example in question is Delaware County, PA. 60% for Bush I in 1988, it gave 56% of its votes to Kerry in PA. Even solid red counties like DuPage in Illinois and Orange in California have turned less Republican. Counties like Fairfax in Virginia have gone from 60% Republican as late as 1998 to 58% for Jim Webb in 2006.
The 9/11 attacks gave the 1968 coalition its final hurrah. While I can't promise that the 2008 cycle will lead to a Democratic victory, I see some interesting parallels. Like Vietam the war in Iraq has become increasingly unpopular. The War on Terror still remains unresolved. Osama Bin Laden remains free. There has been cronyism and corrupt across the government. Although Americans were willing to give Bush and the GOP another four years in 2004, based on the current trends, and the lack of popularity, conservatism as it was represented during the Nixon/Reagan era may be dying. The war in Iraq, coupled with the problems here at home, has made it harder to defend right-wing Republicanism. The takeover of the religious right and Christian Reconstructionism has alienated but the hardcore right in the South.
This post will conclude with the future geopolitical map going into the next 20-30 years. First of all, as I look at the map, I see the GOP being marginalized to the following states in the Deep South:
Lousiana (the loss of blacks in the aftermath of Katrina puts LA in this category)
These states will be the base of the GOP in future presidential cycles to come. What makes them solidly Republican is the fact that these states are extremely rural, have no real big cities with international populations, and are not growing.
This next set of states is probably going to be the "border" region of the south, where the GOP will carry in most cycles, but where the Democrats might be able to win occasionally.
These three states, unlike their peers in the first category, have booming populations. They are dependent on the international economy. Their minority populations are also rising. Although they will most likely than not be solidly Republican well into the 2010s, if these states become more connected to the international economy, and if minority populations continue to rise, they will form the "border" between the deep south and the rest of the country. GOP strength will start to fade in this area, but be strong enough to prevail in most national elections.
These next states will be the key swing areas between the north and south. These states will be extremely competitive, as they are in the border region. Kerry fared miserably in most of these states because he was from the northeast, but a non-northeastern Democrat should have a reasonable shot:
These five states will be the battleground of the region. Virginia is becoming more promising because of the Democratic trends in suburban DC. Loudoun County has swung toward the Democrats, going from 66% for Bush in 1988 to 56% for Bush in 2004. In 2005 and 2006 Tim Kaine and Jim Webb prevailed there. Democrats won seats in the House of Delegates and State Senate there. If Fairfax and Loudoun counties, a very fast growing area, continue to trend blue, the VA might be a blue state in the next few cycles presidentially.
Florida will be a battleground due to the fact that the state is rapidly growing, has a significant connection to the International Economy, and has a large retiree population. While Democrats have not fared well there recently, when Castro dies, some of the hostility among the Latino community toward the Party will fade. As areas like Orange County, where Orlando is continue to turn blue, if Democrats can make better headway in the I-4 corridor and turn out their base in Palm Beach, Broward, and Dade Counties, they might be able to win the state. At the very least it will be a key battleground.
Out of the south the safe GOP states in the Midwest and Plains will be Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. And I don't see that changing really. Those states have cultures that have been Republican since statehood, lack large minority populations, and don't have major international cities.
The Rockies are the next region. I see a division opening between the northern and southern rockies. The following Rocky Mountain States will be competetive:
Those five states are all rapidly growing. MT has been the most friendly state toward the Democrats in the northern Rockies. Dukakis polled 47% there in 1988. MT has turned against national Democrats over guns and the environment, but Schweitzer and Tester might be able to change that. Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico have burgeoning Hispanic populations. They are also becoming more connected to the world economy. These factors will make them battlegrounds.
The northern Rockies will remain Republican, except for Montana. They include these states:
These states will be out of reach for the Democrats. Utah is out due to Mormonism. Idaho, Alaska, and Wyoming are just too Republican. They will remain Republican for the same reasons as those other Plains and Southern states.
If the GOP continues its embrace of the right, its refusal to fix the Iraq war, and so forth, it runs the risk of where the Democrats were in 1968. The similarities are striking in many ways. The issues that gave rise to the 1968 have dissipated. Jesse Jackson, the Rainbow Coalition, the NAACP, feminist groups, and other perceived "far left organizations" no longer dominate the Democratic Party. The racial violence of the 1960s is a distant memory. Anger over integration and civil rights have dissipated. Democratic leaders, except for the far left ones, are tough on crime. Also welfare has been reformed. Public housing complexes have been demolished. So the anger over the perceived "welfare state" that rewarded laziness is no longer there.
The other factor favoring Democrats is that, in 50 years, minorities will be a majority in this country if current demographic trends hold. While I think that the Democratic Party would be foolish to rely on a minority-vote only strategy, as these groups grow, Democrats will have an easier time winning. However, the Democrats will still need to be competitive with whites. They need to poll 40% of the white vote at least to be competitive. As getting minorities to the polls will always be difficult, Democrats can't rely on non-white votes to win.
2008 presents the Democrats with the opportunity to build a new majority based upon the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Southern Rockies, the outer south, and the border region. They have the opportunity to marginalize the GOP to the deep south, Great Plains, and northern Rockies. It might just be possible to forge a majority based on cities, suburbs, sunbelt, and states with large cities connected to the world economy.