Thursday, November 01, 2012

(Slightly) New Take on an Old Meme

A few days ago Andrew Sullivan made it a point to point out that if North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida flipped to Romney, then -- and I'll use his wording here (note his tone, facial expressions, and body language as well -- he's speaking absolutely, and has a smug look of satisfaction after he says it.  It's his shot of goodperson amphetamine for this segment.)
"If Virginia and Florida - go back to the Republicans, it's the Confederacy, entirely."
"You put the map of the Civil War over this map, you've got the Civil War."
The "subtle" point here is, if you vote Republican, you're a slave-owner-backing racist.   If that's not the point of saying this, why say it?

He later pretends to walk it back a bit, after he's made his bold, soundbite psychological talking point to be picked up by others in the media and in the professional and amateur punditry across the country (and that is the point here) by saying that he means the white people who have changed their minds are only in the Confederacy.

Which is also not true, and it will be reflected in this upcoming election.

Now Touré Neblett, (who has apparently renamed himself simply "Touré", which I consider another act of self-worship) has picked up this meme and run with it as well.

Sullivan's 4th grade "analysis", as opposed to Will's much more serious analysis, deliberately dismisses the data outside of the Confederate states, and then, "viola", we're supposed to be surprised that the state's he's talking about have seen this flip and we're fighting the Civil War again (and if you vote Republican, you're on the wrong side, nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

Just to drive that point home, he adds the line:
"Here's the map of the states in 1861, colored for their position on slavery"
And shows said map.

Yup.  If you vote Republican, you back slavery.  Don't think that's what they're trying to say here?

That's the meme. Now Andrew apparently knows that it was the Republicans who ended slavery and passed virtually all of the Civil Rights legislation between then and 1970 (so hey, at least we've gotten that point across), but he brings up the other meme ... that the parties switched sides.

"The parties, of course, have switched sides since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The party of the Union and Lincoln is now the Democratic party. The party of the Confederacy is now the GOP. And racial polarization is at record levels, with whites entirely responsible for reversing Obama's 2008 inroads into the old Confederacy in three Southern states. You only have to look at the electoral map in 1992 and 1996, when Clinton won, to see how the consolidation of a Confederacy-based GOP and a Union-based Democratic party has intensified - and now even more under a black president from, ahem, Illinois. 
I find it troubling - and interesting."
They have not switched sides, as I argue here.

Will correctly points out that we're talking about a very small percentage of white voters changing their minds.  Now what Andrew is missing is that that very small percentage of white voters changing their minds is pretty much across the country.   It won't make a difference in the outcome in solid blue states -- but ones that aren't solid ... they're going to turn red whether it's in the north or the south.

Now, Mark Newman has an excellent, facts-only, analysis of voting geography out here.
And on it, if you read the whole thing (and I encourage you to do so), you'll find this map.
I've seen this map before as well, and one thing I note is that, in general*, the bluest regions are the regions with the high population-density centers ... that is ... big cities.  Andrew's right about one thing.
We are in a new civil war.  Just not the one he's trying to portray it as.

It's not a north vs south geographical war.  It's a culture war.  And the numbers are roughly 50/50.  That's why it's gotten so contentious.

My theory is that people living outside of cities, in more rural areas -- have retained the American ideals of personal responsibility and the recognition of the sanctity of the individual whereas people in large population centers have become more accustomed to the thought of collectivism and covetous and accepting of expanding government services.  Whether this is a result of the close proximity in living arrangements, or the flocking of people who wish to take advantage of government services flock to those areas, or the more successful people who drive by the glaring displays of poverty in parts of the cities are alleviating some of their guilt by voting have others pay for what they will not themselves voluntarily -- or ... most likely, some combination of these -- I think it is largely an urban/rural culture war.

And culture wars are not won in the voting booth.

They're won in dining rooms and living rooms and around the water cooler.

* note that many rural counties, especially in the west, are geographically large and therefore will show a large area of blue if there is a decent sized city within its boundaries. Also, demographics do matter. Areas with large numbers of retirees or ethnic minorities who vote to retain special privileges that come with being in the right ethnic minority or other demographic I think do show up on the map, but in general, it's the population centers and proximity to them that seem to me to be the main driver.

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