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“The Relevance Of The South In The Democratic Presidential Race”: Less To Do With Ideology And More To Do With Race

On ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, host George Stephanopoulos asked Bernie Sanders about his campaign strategy at this stage of the race. The Vermont senator, making an oblique reference to his message to Democratic superdelegates, presented himself as a “stronger candidate” than Hillary Clinton. It led to an interesting exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: She’s getting more votes.

SANDERS: Well, she’s getting more votes. A lot of that came from the South.

Just as a matter of arithmetic, there’s certainly some truth to that. Clinton, at least for now, has a sizable advantage over Sanders – both in pledged delegates and in the raw popular vote – in part because of several big wins from Texas to Virginia. Remove her successes in the region from the equation and the race for the Democratic nomination would obviously be very different.

The result is a provocative rhetorical pitch from Team Sanders: Clinton may be ahead, but her advantage is built on her victories in the nation’s most conservative region. By this reasoning, the argument goes, Clinton’s lead comes with an asterisk of sorts – she’s up thanks to wins in states that aren’t going to vote Democratic in November anyway.

Stepping back, though, it’s worth taking a closer look to determine whether the pitch has merit.

First, it’s worth appreciating the fact that “the South,” as a region, includes some states that are far more competitive than others. Is there any chance of Alabama voting Democratic in the general election? No. Is there a good chance states like Florida and Virginia will be key battlegrounds? Yes. In other words, when talking about the region, it’s best to appreciate the nuances and not paint with too broad a brush. Indeed, even states like North Carolina and Georgia could, in theory, be close.

Second, there’s an inherent risk in Team Sanders making the case that victories in “red” states should be seen as less impressive than wins in more liberal states. After all, some of the senator’s most lopsided successes have come in states like Utah, Kansas, and Idaho, each of which are Republican strongholds. (Similarly, Clinton has won in some traditional Democratic strongholds like Massachusetts and Illinois.)

But perhaps most important is understanding why, exactly, Sanders made less of an effort to compete in the South. The New York Times reported last week on the campaign’s strategy headed into the Super Tuesday contests in early March.

Instead of spending money on ads and ground operations to compete across the South, Mr. Sanders would all but give up on those states and would focus on winning states where he was more popular, like Colorado and Minnesota, which would at least give him some victories to claim.

The reason: Mr. Sanders and his advisers and allies knew that black voters would be decisive in those Southern contests, but he had been unable to make significant inroads with them.

It’s a key detail because it suggests this has less to do with ideology and more to do with race. The notion that a liberal candidate struggled in conservative states because of his worldview is inherently flawed – Sanders won in Oklahoma and Nebraska, for example – and according to the Sanders campaign itself, skipping the South was necessary, not because the right has statewide advantages in the region, but because of Clinton’s advantage among African Americans.

Sanders wasn’t wrong to argue on ABC yesterday that “a lot” of Clinton’s lead “came from the South,” but it’s an incomplete description. It downplays Clinton’s success earning support from one of the Democratic Party’s most consistent and loyal constituencies: black voters.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 11, 2016

April 12, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trumpkins Beware, It Get’s Worse”: Why We’re Segregated On Super Tuesday And How It Helps Explain Trump

The most segregated place in American politics just might be a partisan primary.

The massive racial disparities in voter turnout between Republicans and Democrats help explain how Donald Trump seems to be insulting his way to the nomination. But this same dynamic also underscores how screwed the GOP is in terms of national demographic shifts if they choose to go further down this dangerous path.

Today is Super Tuesday, nicknamed the SEC primary because it includes many states in the Southeastern college sports conference. Contrary to stereotypes, the South is more racially diverse than many regions in the United States. Also contrary to stereotypes, Republicans field a more diverse set of statewide elected officials than Democrats, as evidenced by the presence of two Hispanic senators from the South running for president on the right side of the aisle.

But the good news stops there. The racial polarization beneath our politics becomes clear when you look at who turns out to vote in partisan primaries.

Let’s start with a look at South Carolina—a state where black people make up 28 percent of the population, roughly double the national average.

Hillary Clinton won a massive victory there this past weekend, winning 86 percent of black vote in a primary where African Americans made up 61 percent of the turnout.

A week earlier, Republicans ran in the same state and CNN exit polls showed that black support for Republicans was almost nonexistent—or, in the statistical parlance of exit polls, “n/a”—not applicable.

This troubling trend is likely to become only more pronounced on Super Tuesday. Eight years ago—the closest comparison we have to this open-seat presidential cycle—voter turnout was high but the diversity was also skewed to one side, especially in the South.

In delegate-rich Texas, for example, black people make up 10 percent of the population, but made up only 2 percent of the voters in the 2008 Republican primary. Hispanics made up 38 percent of the Lone Star State population, but only 10 percent of the Republican votes. But in the Democratic primary, black Americans were 19 percent of the vote and Hispanics 32 percent of the vote, respectively.

In Alabama, black people make up 26 percent of the population, but made up only 4 percent of GOP primary voters in 2008. On the Democratic side of the aisle, black voters made up 51 percent of the primary electorate.

The same dynamic was evident in Georgia. Black Americans made up 31 percent of the population in 2008, but only 4 percent of the GOP primary vote. In contrast, black voters made up 52 percent of the Democratic primary turnout.

We’ll round out the sample set with Virginia, where black people make up 19 percent of the total population but made up only 3 percent of GOP primary voters in 2008. On the Democratic side, black voters constituted 30 percent of the primary turnout.

If you’re from the South or have spent much time there, these results may seem unremarkable. But they are a sign of a deeper sickness in our political system, where race is too often a partisan signifier.

Here’s the short version of how this happened in the South: This division is rooted in the legacy of slavery and the Civil War: The states of the former Confederacy voted against the Party of Lincoln for a hundred years (and blacks who could vote were loyal Republicans) until conservative Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Southern Strategy began. White Southern Democrats became Republicans, but they remained conservative populists.

This dynamic was compounded in recent years by collusion between the two parties in the form of the rigged system of redistricting, which gerrymandered the South into white and black congressional districts, rural and urban, driving the Bill Clinton-era Blue Dogs—centrist white Southern Democratic congressmen—into extinction. There are no swing seats left but the racial polarization of the parties in the South is intact, further reinforcing the sense that partisans can simply play to the political and racial base rather than reach out to form new coalitions.

Almost needless to say, this racial polarization does not mean that voters in the respective parties are racist—especially by the standards of a generation ago—but it does mean that the rank and file of our political parties are more segregated than our society at large. And the elevation of Donald Trump to the GOP nomination will only compound these problems.

This primary turnout explains how the rise of a Trump is possible while spewing divisive racial rhetoric: There is no short-term political cost and quite possibly some short-term political benefit in playing to fears of demographic change, cultural and economic resentment and anger toward the first black president. But the long run is all downside.

That’s because partisan primary turnout is often unrepresentative of the overall state. So you can win a partisan primary without having those results be a predictor of how the state will vote in the fall, especially in the case of a crucial swing state like Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, or Virginia. The primaries become the tail that wags the dog: A small number of voters, represented by an even smaller number of professional partisan activists and special interests, get massive attention from candidates trying to win the nomination. If you’re campaigning for the Republican nomination, you can safely ignore diverse communities, but that play-to-the-base path to winning the nomination is a surefire path for losing a general election.

Say what you want about George W. Bush, but he was genuinely passionate about increasing the reach of the Republican Party into communities of color. The foundation of his 2000 presidential run was his landslide re-election as governor of Texas in 1998, when he won 40 percent of the Latino vote.

Trumpkins will point out that The Donald won the Latino vote in the Nevada caucus last month. This is true and doubly impressive/depressing running against two actual Hispanics, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—as Ruben Navarrette predicted in The Daily Beast. But it’s not incidental to point out that while a record 75,000 Republicans caucused, only an estimated 6,000 were Latino—well below the 27 percent of the population that is Hispanic. Cut this stat with two other facts—President Obama won the Latino vote by 50 points in Nevada and 80 percent of Latinos nationwide have a negative view of Trump—and you quickly pack up any notions that Trump’s Nevada caucus victory is an indicator of general-election strength.

And so it goes. The increasingly narrow base of the GOP, dominated by conservative populists, has created the conditions for a celebrity demagogue like Donald Trump. The absence of a strong center-right or real depth of diversity among the Republican constituency means that the party can be too easily hijacked in five weeks of partisan primaries by pandering to an electorate that doesn’t look much like the America that candidate will have to win—let alone govern.

While the polls show that Donald Trump is primed for a big night, don’t believe the hype: No matter how “yuge” the win, the underlying electoral math is apocalyptic for any party that chooses to not only ignore but insult the growing diversity in America.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Partisan Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP House In A Landslide”: House Of Representatives Is So Firmly In The GOP’s Hands

On the Republican side, at the very least, this may be the year for political scientists and analysts to try to forget everything that they think they know. But we still need to have some rational basis for what we’re saying, right? I mean, who can fault David Wasserman over at the Cook Political Report for using the presidential blowouts of 1964, 1972, and 1984 to try to guesstimate how a 2016 blowout might affect control of the House of Representatives? It’s as good a place to start as I can think of, so why not take a look?

Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with looking at the best precedents we have, and it can even be described as basic due diligence. But I think you have to go a little deeper than just looking at raw numbers.

To begin with, any scenario in which the Democratic Party enjoyed the benefit of the Solid South is simply not applicable to the present. The 1964 election, which came right on the heels of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act, was pretty much the starting point of the realignment that over the next fifty years methodically flipped the South into a Republican stronghold. I’d argue that this process wasn’t really complete until the 2010 midterms, although the 2002 midterms wiped out a half dozen southern Democratic senators. It took decades for the South to stop voting for the Democratic Party on the state and local level. Even in the 1992 election where Clinton, despite some successes, lost most southern states, southern Democrats did quite well in the congressional elections. Today, this type of ticket-splitting is extremely rare.

By the time we get to the 1972 landslide, things are slightly more familiar, but it still basically holds true that the South chose Nixon for president and the Democrats in the down-ticket races. The corollary today would be the South voting uniformly for Hillary Clinton while returning almost all of their Republican senators and representatives to Congress. I don’t see that happening, although I can foresee Clinton winning a few southern states. Obama won Virginia and Florida twice, North Carolina once, and was within spitting distance in Georgia. It remains to be seen how the people of Arkansas feel about their royal family in our present climate, but I have my doubts that it will even be a competitive state.

Still, we’re talking about a hypothetical landslide election in which the Republicans nominate someone so divisive and controversial that they wind up losing supposedly safe red states. It’s probably true that in that kind of scenario, the House seats would tend to split. Senate seats would be more vulnerable, but I don’t see Richard Shelby losing in Alabama no matter how badly Trump or Cruz or Carson do at the top of the ticket.

The 1984 election seems almost modern compared to 1964 and 1972. At least the modern Democratic coalition was beginning to take form. But even in 1984 the Democrats still enjoyed a lot of stubborn southern support on the congressional level.

What’s more relevant today is the way party support has been split between urban/suburban and suburban/exurban/rural. This, in combination with aggressive (mainly Republican-controlled) gerrymandering, has resulted in very few true swing districts in Congress. It’s also resulted in a situation where the Democrats can win the overall congressional popular vote by a substantial margin and still not even come close to controlling House of Representatives.

Also interesting is just how persistent the disbelief is in the idea that Donald Trump might be the nominee. Wasserman refers to “the remoteness of a scenario in which Trump would face Hillary Clinton in a one-on-one contest.” Over at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney assures us that Trump will lose Iowa, thereby become a “loser” himself, and wind up getting his butt handed to him in New Hampshire.

They could certainly be right, but I think they’re a little over-confident personally. I also think a landslide election is just as much of a possibility with Cruz as with Trump. And a brokered convention is a real wildcard. It could wind up preventing a landslide by cutting off the nomination of a Trump or a Cruz, but it could also be just the thing that makes a landslide possible. After all, this isn’t the year that the Republican base will tolerate having the Establishment step in and pick a nominee that they haven’t voted for.

But, it’s true. The House of Representatives is so firmly in the GOP’s hands, that even a landslide defeat on the presidential level might not be enough to wrench control away from them.

It wouldn’t hurt, though.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 14, 2015

December 16, 2015 Posted by | House of Representatives, Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Same Monstrous Reasoning That Defended Slavery”: The U.S. ‘Right’ To Own Guns Came With The ‘Right’ To Own Slaves

For most of the last two centuries, Europeans have been puzzling over their American cousins’ totemic obsession with guns and their passion for concealed weapons. And back in the decades before the American Civil War, several British visitors to American shores thought they’d discerned an important connection: people who owned slaves or lived among them wanted to carry guns to keep the blacks intimidated and docile, but often shot each other, too.

In 1842, the novelist Charles Dickens, on a book tour of the United States, saw a link between the sheer savagery of slave ownership and what he called the cowardly practice of carrying pistols or daggers or both. The author of Oliver Twist listened with a mixture of horror and contempt as Americans defended their utterly indefensible “rights” to tote guns and carry Bowie knives, right along with their “right” to own other human beings who could be shackled, whipped, raped, and mutilated at will.

As damning evidence of the way slaves were treated, in his American Notes Dickens published texts from scores of advertisement for the capture of runaways. Often these public notices described the wanted men and women by their scars. One especially memorable example:

“Ran away, a negro woman and two children. A few days before she went off, I burnt her with a hot iron, on the left side of her face. I tried to make the letter M.”

Dickens also compiled a list of several shooting incidents, not all of them in the South: a county councilman blown away in the council chamber of Brown County, Wisconsin; a fatal shootout in the street in St. Louis; the murder of Missouri’s governor; two 13-year-old boys defending their “honor” by dueling with long rifles, and other examples.

What could one expect, he asked, of those who “learn to write with pens of red-hot iron on the human face” but that they carry guns and daggers to use on each other.  “These are the weapons of Freedom,” Dickens wrote with brutal irony.  “With sharp points and edges such as these, Liberty in America hews and hacks her slaves; or, failing that pursuit, her sons devote themselves to a better use, and turn them on each other.”

When Dickens was writing in the 1840s, remember, keeping Negro slaves was defended as a Constitutional right with the same vehemence that we hear today when it comes to keeping and bearing arms, and perhaps with more foundation. The original U.S. Constitution was built on an explicit compromise (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3) that allowed slave-holding states to count human chattel, described as “other persons,” as three-fifths of a human being for purposes of taxation and state representation in the House, but allowed them no rights as human persons whatsoever.

The Second Amendment, adopted a couple of years later as part of the Bill of Rights (of free white people), was essentially written to protect the interests of Southerners in the states that formed militias—often known as “slave patrols”—to crush any attempt at what was called, in those days, a “servile insurrection.” That’s why the full text of the Second Amendment reads:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

To keep slaves in slavery, you needed militias and they needed to be armed. Such is the fundamental “right” assured by the Second Amendment.

Dickens, who saw a lot that he disliked about America, but disliked slavery and the irrational and immoral thinking behind it the most, wrote quite correctly that there was a substantial, stubborn class of people “who doggedly deny the horrors of the system, in the teeth of such a mass of evidence as never was brought to bear on any other subject.”

A few years later, after the messianic abolitionist John Brown tried and failed to start a slave uprising by attacking the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, Southern paranoia reached new heights, and so did gun sales.

“I do not exaggerate in designating the present state of affairs in the Southern country as a reign of terror,” wrote British Consul Robert Bunch in Charleston, South Carolina, the epicenter of secession and slavery. “Persons are torn away from their residences and pursuits, sometimes ‘tarred and feathered,’ ‘ridden upon rails,’ or cruelly whipped; letters are opened at the post offices, discussion upon slavery is entirely prohibited under penalty of expulsion, with or without violence, from the country.”

Bunch, the central figure in my recent book Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War Southnoted that “on the part of individuals the sense of danger is evinced by the purchase of fire-arms, especially revolver pistols, of which very large numbers have been sold during the last month.”

In 1861, the great British war correspondent William Howard Russell, traveling through the South in the early days of the Civil War, was as bemused as he was appalled by what passed for “dueling” in Mississippi, which amounted to little more than random, often drunken murders. One resident told him “without the smallest animus, and in the most natural way in the world … tale after tale of blood, and recounted terrible tragedies enacted outside bars of hotels and in the public streets close beside us.”

It is a grim irony, therefore, that the legal precedents set in the antebellum South are still with us today, embedded in recent federal court rulings that make it easier and easier for more people to carry guns,  as Fordham University historian Saul Cornell and New York University law professor Eric M. Ruben pointed out in The Atlantic in September.

As Cornell and Cohen made clear, “gun-rights advocates find themselves venerating a moment at which slavery, honor, violence, and the public carrying of weapons were intertwined.”

Back in the day, what Dickens, Russell and Bunch understood was a basic truth that seems to have escaped our contemporary legislators and jurists, just as it did those of the slave-holding South. As Russell observed in Mississippi, the government seemed unable and unwilling to rein in gun violence, and the consequences would be inevitable.  “The country in which it is tolerated,” he wrote, “will become as barbarous as a jungle inhabited by wild beasts.”

Day after day, week after week, we see in America the toll taken by gun “rights,” whether the shooters wear beards and veils and murder colleagues in California in some bizarre Bonnie-and-Clyde version of jihad, or shoot people at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado, or settle scores in Chicago, or slaughter children at a school in Connecticut.

The guns are still with us, and so are the beasts.

 

By: Christopher Dickey, The Daily Beast, December 6, 2015

December 7, 2015 Posted by | Charles Dickens, Gun Violence, Militia's, Slavery | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Really, Really, Really Don’t Get It”: ‘Heritage Not Hate’? Sorry, White South, They Go Together

On the grass where I sat and played with my friends and family in the Atlanta suburbs, the second Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1915. At the time I was none the wiser.

As a child, I would regularly retreat with my family and friends to the comfort of Stone Mountain Park to escape the city life. We’d climb the gigantic quartz rock mountain, and we’d lounge on the grass and gaze at the carvings of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis on the mountain’s face. I still have fond memories of watching the celebrated laser show held every Fourth of July at this Southern Mount Rushmore. It was an event that everyone wanted to attend: The fireworks are supposedly the best in the state!

Over the weekend, a pro-Confederate Flag rally was held at Stone Mountain Park and promoted the slogan “Heritage not Hate.” Yet despite the organizer’s best efforts, hatred showed up. A KKK member decided to attend and spew his racist bile, and the pro-Confederate Flag supporters promptly booed him and told him to leave. Likewise, anti-Confederate Flag supporters desecrated the flag, and the “Heritage not Hate” crowd asked them to leave or instructed other supporters to ignore them. Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson, an African American, even attended the event with the intent of learning more about the perspectives and values of some of his constituents.

“It challenges me to have a deeper appreciation for people who think differently than I,” said Johnson, as you hear someone yell “racist” in the background of the video. “We may think differently, but as long as we are not hating on each other I think we’re good.”

There were no arrests, and most in attendance said that the event was more peaceful than they anticipated. Yet the relative tranquility is nothing that merits excessive celebration. First of all, a quick browse through Facebook for Confederate Flag rallies will lead the visitor to a volume of hatred and bigotry that we would hope was confined to the past. But second, we’ve already condoned and accepted organized violence and hatred, as long as white Americans are the source, and this is a serious problem.

However, if progress is our aim, we should examine the inherently (yet possibly unintended) oppressive nature of the “Heritage not Hate” message.

The choice of Stone Mountain as the venue shows how celebrating “Heritage not Hate” is impossible. In 1915 the second Ku Klux Klan was founded at Stone Mountain. (The first Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, by veterans of the Confederate Army and existed until 1870, when the federal government passed the Force Acts, which protected African-American liberties, and suppressed Klan activities.) A year later the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) began carving Jackson, Lee, and Davis on the face of the mountain. The UDC’s primary objective may have been to celebrate their forefathers, but to believe now that these women did not hold bigoted beliefs that would be frowned upon today is delusional. Southern heritage and hatred are so interwoven that entertaining the idea that the two can be separated borders on lunacy.

This rally purported that within the Southern context, heritage and hate can be separated, and that collectively we can celebrate a history of white supremacy while ignoring that history’s hatred of non-whites. There is no evidence that this argument holds any water, and it only represents a sad attempt at saving face and perpetuating a false, idyllic narrative of constant white ascension in the United States.

Yet the most offensive aspect of the “Heritage not Hate” argument is how it continues the social standard of limiting Southern black voices with the attempt of reducing us to irrelevancy. Southern culture arose when black Americans were not considered people, and the social norm has always been one in which blacks have had limited agency over their lives. This argument sustains this structure because a Southern heritage must remain about white existence, and nothing else.

I’m not white, and I am as Southern as they come, and in no way does my heritage incorporate a support of white supremacy, racism, or the purity of white existence. My family’s presence in the South has been documented to the late 1700s. I’m from Georgia, my mother’s family is from Charleston, South Carolina—I’ve discussed this ancestry in a previous Daily Beast piece—and my father’s family is from Alabama, but we know his ancestors were bought in Savannah, Georgia.

My family’s Southern heritage more closely echoes the shooting at Emanuel AME Church and the recent vandalism at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta—where Martin Luther King Jr. was baptized and became co-pastor—where four Confederate battle flags were found on Thursday.

“This is the same as placing a swastika on the campus of a Jewish temple. Whatever the message was, clearly is not about heritage, but about hate,” said Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. “It was disturbing and sickening, but unfortunately not terribly surprising. We’ve seen this kind of ugliness before.”

This is the Southern heritage that black Americans are acquainted with, but this perspective is missing in the “Heritage not Hate” argument. This absence perpetuates the continuation of a society and a narrative where black lives and black voices hold no agency and are pushed to the borders of irrelevancy. They encourage our expunging from the past and the present.

Southern black congressmen are welcomed to attend “Heritage not Hate” rallies at the location of the second founding of the KKK, but the idea is that they have an obligation to learn about the struggles and complexity of whiteness in the South. There is an assumption that no one in attendance wants to hear the narrative of a black Southerner because it is known that this story will contradict and erode the foundations of the rally and the entire movement.

I’m black and a Southerner and my heritage is one filled with hate—and not a hatred that emanates from my family. The hatred could have originated from the Confederacy, the KKK, and/or nondescript white Southerners who attacked and vandalized churches, spewed racial epithets, murdered black Americans or prevented us from finding housing and employment. All of these actions are spawned from the same notion of white supremacy, but with different names. They are constantly interwoven and inseparable from one another. This is not a discussion about semantics, but one about a society that has condoned hatred, terror, and black irrelevancy.

I’m not irrelevant. I do not terrorize those who are different than I am, and I do not hate the South, despite the horrors of Southern life inflicted upon black Americans. I’m as Southern as they come regardless of how comfortable that makes me feel.

 

By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daily Beast, August 5, 2015

August 6, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Confederate Flag, Racism | , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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