Political Realignment on Steroids ?

(Cross-posted on Daily Kos and the Swing State Project)

Beginning in the 1960’s the Republican Party won many elections using their “Southern Strategy”.  The strategy worked pretty well for them for over three decades, but beginning maybe a dozen years ago, it began to have a counter-effect whereby areas outside the South began to increasingly vote Democratic (in part as a reaction to the “Southernization” of the GOP).   This trend accelerated rather rapidly over the last few election cycles, culminating in the 2008 election where the “Southern Strategy” literally blew up in the face of the Republican Party.  The latest polling from Research 2000  –summarized here in a diary from earlier today: http://www.dailykos.com/weekly… — indicates that this realigning trend has perhaps reached new and unprecedented levels.

Looking at simply support for President Obama and support for the Republican Party will give you an idea of what I’m talking about …


Northeast – 81% favorable; 13% unfavorable

Midwest – 62% favorable; 33% unfavorable

West – 60% favorable; 36% unfavorable

“non-South” – 67% favorable; 28% unfavorable (for the “non-South” I combined the data for the three regions above, adjusting for population proportions)

South – 27% favorable; 68% unfavorable

As you can see, the numbers for the South vs. the “non-South” are almost exactly the reverse of each other !  If you look at this as a net plus/minus aggregate, the difference between the South and the non-South is an astounding 80 points !

It appears that, despite the fact that President Obama’s overall numbers have gone down over the last several polls, he is still VERY popular in the “non-Southern” area of the country which encompasses 70% of our population.

The Research 2000 polling also included data based on race/ethnicity.  I played with the numbers here a bit to try to extrapolate (an educated “guesstimate”) what the proportion of “Southern whites” thinks about the President.  For this purpose I assumed that blacks and Hispanics, regardless of whether they live in the South or not, would generally have a similar opinion of President Obama (blacks: 86% favorable, 5% unfavorable; Hispanics: 63% favorable, 30% unfavorable).  My extrapolated numbers for Southern Hispanics may be off a bit as the largest concentrations include both the relatively more Democratic population in Texas, as well as the relatively more Republican population in Florida; nevertheless, the Hispanic numbers here don’t play as large of a role as the numbers for the black population, so I feel my final extrapolated numbers are quite accurate.  After crunching all the numbers I “guesstimated” the following:

“Southern Whites” (approx. 21% of the U.S. population):

Obama – 5% favorable; 91% unfavorable

“everyone else” (non-Southerners of all races and Southern blacks and Hispanics; approx. 79% of the U.S. population):

Obama – 68% favorable; 26% unfavorable

The net difference between the two groups above is an amazing 128 points !

I repeated the entire process to analyze support for the Republican Party:


Northeast – 6% favorable; 91% unfavorable

Midwest – 10% favorable; 81% unfavorable

West – 11% favorable; 77% unfavorable

“non-South” – 9% favorable; 83% unfavorable

South – 46% favorable; 40% unfavorable

“Southern Whites” – 64% favorable; 18% unfavorable

“everyone else” – 9% favorable; 84% unfavorable

The favorable number above for “everyone else” is really only a bit over 8.5% (which I rounded to 9%), so among the 4/5 of the U.S. population that isn’t “Southern white” the opinion of the Republican Party is, in effect, a 10 to 1 unfavorable to favorable ratio !  These numbers clearly support the assertion made by many over the last number of months that the Republican Party is becoming a rump, regional entity.

The purpose of this diary is not to bash Southern whites.  I simply find it very interesting how disparate the numbers are when comparing that particular population with the rest of the nation.  Much of this may already seem like “common knowledge” but the numbers from the Research 2000 polling are still mind-boggling to me.  

Perhaps the point to all this is that when looking at aggregate national poll numbers that measure the “popularity” of President Obama, the Republican Party, or health care for that matter, we should always keep in mind that they are just an average, and the overall “toplines” should not necessarily be used to measure the country as a whole.  Instead, greater consideration should be given to how the numbers play out regionally.  A good example of this includes when we’re trying to figure out how the 2010 Congressional elections will play out.  The GOP may indeed capture seats from us next year — but where will those seats be ?  With 46-40 favorable/unfavorable numbers in the South, it seems quite conceivable that a number of Southern seats may be lost; on the other hand, with a 6-91 numbers in the Northeast, it’s a much steeper hill to climb for the GOP in that region (btw, this poll also provides Generic Congressional Ballot preference numbers, though with decidedly larger numbers of undecideds; for ex. the generic GOP candidate in the South beats the generic Democrat by a 2 to 1 ratio, while in the Northeast the generic Democrat wins by a ratio of 5 to 1).  All politics is local, ofcourse, but understanding the current state of regional political differentiation in this country at this point in our history will go a long way towards planning strategy, whether the battle is winning Congressional elections or the health care debate.

One thing does seem certain here, though.  The GOP’s Southern Strategy is dead, and it appears to have taken the party down with it.  Whether the GOP can rise from the ashes is another question.  But if it rises, it will not be through the resurrection of the Southern Strategy.


Reader KTinOhio (from the Daily Kos version of this diary) makes a really good observation re. the realignment process.  I am adding KTin’s comment below as I think it’s very relevant to this discussion:

First, the most recent polling – especially the Gallup tracker that gives Obama a +7 favorability rating – matches the election results closely.  Gallup had Obama up 50-43.  Last fall’s vote was 53-46, and very few of those 46% will support the president now.

Second, in comparing the Research 2000 regional favorability ratings as posted on Kos to the election results, it is odd that Obama is doing better now than he did in the election in three out of four regions.  Any guesses as to which one is the exception?


Popular Vote:  Obama 16,955,765 (59.44%), McCain 11,163,386 (39.14%), Total 28,524,587.  Electoral Vote:  Obama 117, McCain 5.

Research 2000:  81% Favorable, 13% Unfavorable.


Popular Vote:  Obama 17,790,208 (52.98%), McCain 15,253,735 (45.43%), Total 33,576,392.  Electoral Vote:  Obama 97, McCain 34.

Research 2000:  62% Favorable, 33% Unfavorable.


Popular Vote:  Obama 15,720,655 (55.94%), McCain 11,765,120 (41.86%), Total 28,104,554.  Electoral Vote:  Obama 96, McCain 28.

Research 2000:  60% Favorable, 36% Unfavorable.


Popular Vote:  Obama 19,032,324 (46.14%), 21,767,161 (52.77%), Total 41,251,078.  Electoral Vote:  Obama 55, McCain 106.

Research 2000:  27% Favorable, 68% Unfavorable.


Popular Vote:  Obama 69,498,952 (52.87%), 59,949,402 (45.60%), Total 131,456,611.  Electoral Vote:  Obama 365, McCain 173.

Research 2000:  55% Favorable, 40% Unfavorable.

So, if we compare the election results to the current favorability polls, which are obviously not the same thing, but the election was a much a referendum on Obama as anything else, Obama has gone from +7 to +15 nationally, +20 to +68 in the Northeast, +8 to +29 in the Midwest, +14 to +24 in the West, and – 7 to -41 in the South.  Somehow, a lot of McCain voters in the Northeast now give Obama a favorable grade, as do a smaller number of McCain voters in the Midwest and West.  But in the South, the opposite is true; large numbers of Obama voters seem to have turned against him.

Thank you KTinOhio for crunching the numbers and for your very relevant and insightful analysis.

Louisiana SecState Dardenne (R-Baton Rouge) following RACIST Republican Script

Cross posted over at Daily Kingfish and Daily Kos

Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, (R-Baton Rouge) in testimony to the House Government Affairs Committee on 2 May 2007 used a racist code word in support of his position to deny Louisianans displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita the right to vote in Louisiana elections. 

He was invited to give his opinion on Jalila Jefferson-Bullock’s HB 619, which would extend the right of displaced persons to vote in Louisiana elections for the upcoming gubernatorial election this fall. 

The code word used by Secretary Dardenne?  Chaos.

UPDATE: Don’t believe this?  Then click here
and go to 2 May 2007, and click on House Gov Affairs.  It’ll launch Real Player, and in the interest of saving you 3 hours, skip to 2:40, and watch from there.

Many younger folks won’t remember this, as they weren’t alive for it … (I wasn’t) … but Richard Nixon, back in 1968, used the words “law and order” in campaign commercials while showing scenes of riots in urban areas.  In other words, the commercial showed scenes of African-Americans rioting in the urban centers of America the summer after Dr. King was shot, and the voice-over said, Richard Nixon will restore law and order to America, or some variation of it.  This was the beginning of the Southern Strategy for the Republicans, one which emphasized white power over people of color.  And Secretary Dardenne is proudly following that script. 

For Secretary Dardenne to use the word “chaos” in describing the use of satellite voting locations during the New Orleans Mayoral election in 2006 is ingenious at best, racist as hell at worst.  Obviously, most of the displaced folks in New Orleans that haven’t been able to return are African-American, as the only section of the city that is still largely uninhabitable is the 9th Ward, which includes the Lower 9th, which is still a ghost town today.  And guess who most of the residents of the 9th Ward were?  African-Americans. 

During his testimony, he constantly changed his reasons for not being supportive of this bill … First, it was that his office has no money to conduct early voting, then it was that there no one to run the effort, then it was that his office didn’t have any voting machines, then it was that his office spent too much money on the voting machines, then it was that it took too much time to count ballots, then it was the whole process was chaos, and too difficult to implement, and too susceptible to fraud. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Of all those “reasons,” the fraud one is most serious one.  The way to combat such fraud is simple … making sure that every Registrar of Voters office throughout the State of Louisiana has access to the voting records for the 11 Parishes affected by the bill, and OVERSIGHT.  Each displaced person who comes forward to vote in a different parish has to sign a statement stating that they are the person they claim to be, and leave some current contact information.  If it turns out that someone is committing fraud, guess what?  By signing that statement, they are essentially saying, “If I am lying, you have the right to prosecute me for misrepresentation.”  And if someone commits fraud in such an instance, then, by all means, Mr. Dardenne, prosecute their lying behind.

For someone who makes no secret about his desire to be Governor, running an election is difficult?!  Mr. Dardenne, running an election is a cakewalk compared to governing Louisiana.  Perhaps you better stick to the Secretary of State’s office for awhile.  Or better yet, just go home when your term is up.

The bottom line is that Secretary Dardenne objects to having to spend some MONEY for early voting in satellite locations throughout Louisiana for voters who say they have been displaced from their parish of residence. We’re not even talking about going to Atlanta, or Houston, or Denver, where quite a few of our citizens were displaced to.  We’re talking about putting a freaking voting machine in the Registrar of Voters offices throughout the state of LOUISIANA, in the event that a displaced New Orleanian, or a displaced resident of Cameron, shows up in another parish’s Registrar of Voters office to vote in the gubernatorial election.

Guess what?  Democracy ain’t free.  Over the last 204 years, Louisianans have shed their BLOOD for our right to vote, and are currently doing so in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our lovely Secretary of State is opposed to spending some MONEY to allow some of our citizens to exercise their right to vote. 

Give him a call … and let him know he’s WRONG on this issue.  1-800-883-2805 … and make him spend some more money while you’re at it.

LA-GOV: Reading Walter Boasso (D-Arabi), Reading a Southern Republican’s Party Switch

First posted at Daily Kingfish, a Louisiana political blog started by two SSP members from Louisiana.

This election cycle could not be more frustrating and confusing, and I hope I am the only one who is already exhausted.  But at least our state Party has not stacked the deck in favor of one candidate who has a vague campaign message full of platitudes with no solutions and no unifying theme, unless an identity suspended in quotation marks, “Bobby,” constitutes a theme.  To me it appears to be a floating signifier, a mere vocalization that refers to no mental concepts and to no objects that exist in the tangible world.  Republican bloggers must be really bored with the rehashed and revisited rhetoric of 2003 with all the same tropes of Democratic corruption and all the same idle crowing about the wonderful ideas ready to spring from the intelligent mind of “Bobby,” as if he were a modern day Zeus.  How many times can a blogger type, “It is not who you know; it is what you know?”  How many times can one beg readers “not to vote for ideology but for competence?”  How many times does one have to avoid discussing the legislative record of someone who mindlessly voted for the national GOP’s disastrous policies 97% of the time?  How many times can one use the same sheet of toilet paper? 

Because Ryan has already penned a diary on Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, I will deal with the rhetoric surrounding the latest Democratic candidate to announce: Walter Boasso, former Republican but now Democratic state Senator from Arabi, St. Bernard Parish.

Louisiana politics is never boring, and this cycle will be no exception.  So the Southern Strategy is ready to enter phase 4 and swallow Louisiana once and for all.  Democrats, the LCRM claims, will lose seats or be pressured to switch parties, and “Bobby” will be rewarded with a Republican majority in the state House on the day of his coronation, a ceremony to be funded with the precious budget surplus the Republicans ostensibly want to protect.  Republican realignment, we are told, is dawning over the horizon.  But how does this square with the novelty of a Republican state Senator in a Deep South state switching to the Democratic Party?  Boasso’s move is somewhat anomalous, and if one chooses to think about this phenomenon historically, it may signal the obsolescence of the 40 year effort of the Republican Party to colonize the South.  And Boasso may be in good hands.  For on the other end of the South, we have a new Democratic US Senator in Virginia named Jim Webb, who switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party last year, when he won his Senate race by a nailbiting 7,000 votes.

So Boasso’s switch may have a broader significance lost on those who are focused on the empirical and on the partisan and not on the historical.  Do not expect LSU – Shreveport Political Science Professor Jeffery Sadow to engage in such an abstract mode of thinking, for that may require some thought and effort.  But to return to the point of this essay, will Boasso exploit it?  Will Boasso use his party switch to his advantage and to the advantage of the Louisiana Democratic Party?  Is his switch a harbinger for something much larger than himself? 

According to Boasso,

[T]oday I have rejoined the Democratic Party because [sic] I believe that running as a Democrat will give me the best opportunity to push an agenda for change and reform.  The people of Louisiana, regardless of party affiliation, are in search of a leader, and are [sic] eager to stand side by side with someone willing to challenge the establishment and reform our state.

An interesting transvaluation of Republican tropes: reform, change and leadership are now in the purview of the Democratic Party, and the values of the silent majority are to be found underneath the Democratic umbrella, not the dysfunctional, slipshod apparatus brandished by the Republicans.  And state Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington is right there in Boasso’s big tent.  Responding to a question about Boasso’s party switch, Whittington quips, “The more the merrier.”  Boasso continues:

The political deal makers have run this state for too long at the expense of so many of our people who need affordable healthcare, quality education and the opportunity to secure a good paying job.  I will not be silenced by the status quo or by those unwilling to embrace a new direction for our state.  The challenges are too large and [sic] we have no time to waste.

Now this is a powerful paragraph.  Corruption and cronyism are placed squarely on the lap of the Republican Party, as are inflexibility, the status quo and useless dilatory tactics, a coded phrase that can be translated to mean inefficient government that enjoys wasting time. 

These are the words of a fighter, and Boasso is not taking any prisoners.  This must have grated on state Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere’s nerves.  And Villere’s response?

Some politicians switch parties because of philosophy and principle. … Walter has made it clear that he is just the opposite. He’s switching because he hasn’t been successful as a Republican candidate.

This is a petty response more befitting a schoolyard bully than a Party Chairman who locked a credible candidate named Walter Boasso out of the political process.   Actually, it does befit Roger Villere, for he is a schoolyard bully.  But if Villere desires to discuss principle and philosophy, let us discuss the many southern Democrats who switched to the Republican Party during the last three decades of the twentieth century as a result of their opposition to Civil Rights legislation.  Let us discuss the southern Republican Party’s use of coded and overt racism to increase white, Republican turnout in close elections.  Let us discuss the southern Republican Party’s roots in figures such as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. And let us discuss some of its more recent incarnations, George “Macaca” Allen, David Duke and LSU – Shreveport Professor Jeffrey Sadow, who claims Boasso “is even more off the reservation than Campbell.”  If Boasso is the opposite of those who adhere to racist principles and philosophies, I am more than ready to embrace his candidacy.

But notice what else Boasso mentions in this paragraph:  Boasso switched to the Democratic Party, as Boasso hopes to address the problems of healthcare, education and un(der)employment.  This is not your typical Republican menu of wedge issues with “family values,” guns and tax breaks as your main entrĂ©es and a gratuitous jab at the Landrieus as the lagniappe; this to me reads as the domestic agenda of a Democratic candidate.  Although I am still awaiting the specifics, I am impressed with what I see thus far.

Do you believe Boasso will propose a Democratic social agenda?  How many of his positions do you believe he will modify?  And how do you believe the Democratic Party should handle Boasso’s switch?  Should Chris Whittington make this into a world historical event, or should he allow Roger Villere to frame it as so much political prostitution?  And how should Boasso explain his decision to switch parties?  Should he mention President Bush’s approval ratings?  Should he mention Iraq?  Should he mention the disaster that was the 109th Congress?  Should he discuss how Jindal was one of the reasons the 109th Congress is named the “do nothing” Congress?  And should he mention Jindal’s failure to “get it done” for Louisiana? 

Feel free to quote from other news sources in the comments thread.  And be sure to read Jeffrey Sadow’s insane meditation on Boasso’s switch.  Sadow is so unglued, leather restraints cannot hold him back. 


Thomas Schaller, Louisiana and the GOP: Please Do Not Whistle Past Us

(The importance of holding on to what we can in Louisiana is critical. This will be a make-or-break year for Louisiana Democrats. Are we ready? – promoted by James L.)

Having had penned multiple diaries on Louisiana politics and the plight of the Democratic party in my state here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, I am elated Thomas F. Schaller of Whistling Past Dixie fame has written this 20 FEB 2007 article for Salon.com on the GOP’s planned 2007 sweep of Louisiana.  The situation is grim, and the graphic accompanying his article, a blue Louisiana in the process of being delaminated into a red Louisiana, aptly summarizes the state of affairs in my state.

Here are some of the key passages from Schaller’s article, key passages I hope will compel my readers to begin participating in the mobilization project on behalf of Louisiana Democrats I am trying to enact here and elsewhere in the blogosphere:

“The polls show him [Bobby Jindal] ahead big.” Not surprisingly, state Republicans are licking their chops. “The GOP is very organized and aggressively fundraising,” says a top Louisiana Democrat, who asked not to be named. “They will be well financed and looking to use a big gubernatorial win [in 2007] to catapult other GOP wins down ballot.” Louisiana is, in short, perhaps the only state in the nation where George W. Bush’s policies may end up creating a permanent Republican majority.

In fact, however, Louisiana was trending away from Democrats even before the hurricane. Bill Clinton carried the state in both 1992 and 1996. But Al Gore — who spent little time there, despite the fact that his campaign manager, Donna Brazile, knows the state’s politics better than almost anyone — received just 45 percent of the vote in 2000. Four years later John Kerry slipped to 42 percent. So recently a swing state, Louisiana will be on neither party’s 2008 target list.

Notice how the second paragraph establishes a causal connection between the national Democratic party’s lack of investment in Louisiana and the state’s rightward trend.  Somehow the fifty-state strategy of Dr. Dean flew over Louisiana, and state Democrats on the local, state and federal level are paying dearly.  And 2007 will be no different.  All statewide, executive offices are on the ballot, as is the entire state legislature, and I have written many diaries that are cited above on the 2007 situation.  Republicans can sweep both state legislative chambers and control redistricting after the 2010 census, lending them the opportunity to gerrymander districts to the favor of the Republicans.  And if a Republican governor in Bobby Jindal is elected, the gerrymander will be especially damaging to Democrats, as he and Sen. David Vitter (R) have been planning the 2007 collapse of the Louisiana Democratic Party for many years.  Discussion of this latest installment of the Southern Strategy can be found in the diaries I cite above, which contain links to other writers who have elaborated on the cynicism undergirding the Republicans’ power grab in Louisiana.

So Schaller has alerted a broader audience of a problem about which I have been writing for at least three months.  What can be done?  Will we bring the fight to the Louisiana GOP?  Or will we allow them to steamroll over our state? 

The first step would be donating to a grassroots Democratic candidate who is running in a special election to be held on 10 March for Louisiana House District Seat 94, a seat vacated by a Republican named Peppi Bruneau, who has held that seat since 1974.  I have penned a long article about this race here, noting how the grassroots, Democratic challenger, Deborah Langhoff, who in my opinion is an excellent candidate we should all support, has a real chance at winning this race.  Her strongest opponent, Jeb Bruneau, Peppi Bruneau’s son, has raised a lot of money with the help of his father and lobbyists in Baton Rouge.  But the cynicism of his father’s last minute retirement has upset voters in District 94, and this gives Langhoff a chance to win this race with her compelling message of governmental reform and change.  

Langhoff’s race is important, as this is one of the first competitive races in 2007.  With the entire legislature up for reelection in November,  a Langhoff victory will send the Louisiana GOP a signal that they have a very big fight on their hands if they want to change this state red.  It will also give beleaguered voters the hope that they will have representatives in Baton Rouge who understand their plight.  

Louisiana, as many of you may recall, was a swing state in 2000.  Clinton won the state in 1992 and 1996, and Mary Landrieu managed to eke out wins for her Senate seat in 1996 and 2002.  If Louisiana falls to the GOP, Arkansas will be the only Democratic leaning state in the South, and the GOP will eventually focus their efforts there.  We must stop the Southern Strategy, and this begins with supporting Deborah Langhoff now.  

Schaller claims that John Breaux, who may run for Governor, may be the only hope for the Louisiana Democratic Party.  Perhaps he is.  But we can also help out by participating in races such as LA-HD94 that may at first seem very insignificant.

Expect more diaries on Louisiana politics.  If the GOP sweeps the state, our displaced residents will most probably never be able to return home.  The GOP has been cynically exploiting Katrina and Rita for political gain, and it is incumbent upon us to inform them that we as citizens will not allow them to destroy a wonderful state in order to expand their political power.  I hope you will join me on behalf of this beautiful albeit struggling state.  And please accept my apologies for the rushed diary.