Divided Nation

It looks like the blue states and the red states split in the US presidential poll is almost identical to the results in 2000, and both Houses of Congress are still almost evenly poised – with some small movement to the GOP. Chris Sheil’s post at Backpages and comments there by Patrick Bateman have spurred me to do a quick analysis of winning margins by incumbent presidents who have been re-elected (including those who succeeded to the Presidency through the death of the incumbent).

David Leip’s online Atlas of US Presidential Elections demonstrates that Bush has the smallest margin in both the popular vote and in the Electoral College of any re-elected incumbent in the last 100 years. Only Wilson in 1916 comes close to Bush’s margins of victory.

Reagan, Nixon, Johnson and Roosevelt all won second terms by landslides. Eisenhower in 56 – another Republican incumbent – won with 57% of the popular vote and 457-73 EV. Truman got 49.55% of the popular vote to 45.09% for Dewey and 303-189-39 in the EV (with Thurmond picking up normally Democratic support in Southern states). Coolidge got 54.04% in 24 with a 382-138-13 split in the EV. Robert La Follette’s candidacy as a Progressive similarly drained off normally Republican votes.

This sure ain’t no historic victory for the Bushies – except perhaps for the smallest 2nd term margin for a re-elected incumbent in at least a century.

So what accounts for this victory? The narrow margin in Ohio – a rustbelt state which Kerry had to win and which has seen over 240000 job losses in Bush’s term – in the context of 2.7 million manufacturing jobs lost over the whole of the United States – suggests that cultural rather than economic factors prevented the Democrats from winning the state’s Electoral College vote. Similarly, commentators yesterday on CBS suggested that the African-American vote had broken for Kerry by about 8 points in some areas less than it went for Gore. The suggested reason was that “church folks” had gone with the “values” message epitomised by the “Marriage for a Man and a Woman” measures on the ballot in many states.

In the 1980s, we started to hear about Reagan Democrats – traditionally Democratic blue-collar voters who had turned away from their party allegiance because of perceptions that the national Democrats were culturally alien and committed only to “minority” issues. This case was made by people like Bill Clinton and his acolytes in the Democratic Leadership Council. The roots of this trend, and the Republican strategy seeking to “wedge” blue-collar and yellow-dog Democrats in fact go back much further – to Nixon’s southern strategy and his stances on issues like the Vietnam War and bussing as early as the 1968 election. The ramifications of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the shift of the Solid South from solid blue to solid red are also far-reaching. As LBJ remarked on signing the bill, “I’ve just signed away the south to the Republican Party for my lifetime”. The Republicans sought to stir up the “culture wars” in 1992 – at a convention which seemingly backfired on the Northeastern Republican incumbent George H. W. Bush. The same strategy appears to have triumphed for his son in 2004, although only narrowly.

Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas?, noted in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine, that the poorest county in the United States, Loup County in Nebraska, “a region of struggling ranchers and dying farm towns” gave George W. Bush a majority of over 75% in 2000. Frank writes:

When I told a friend of mine about that impoverished High Plains county so enamoured of President Bush, she was perplexed. “How can anyone who has ever worked for someone else vote Republican?”, she asked. How could so many people get it wrong? Her question is apt; it is, in many ways, the pre-eminent question of our times. People getting their fundamental interests wrong is what American political life is all about. This species of derangement is the bedrock of our civic order; it is the foundation on which all else rests.

He goes on to say:

If you earn more than $300000 a year, you owe a great deal to this derangement. Raise a glass sometime to those indigent High Plains Republicans as you contemplate your good fortune: It is thanks to their self-denying votes that you are no longer burdened by the estate tax, or troublesome labour unions, or meddlesome banking regulators. Thanks to the allegiance of these sons and daughters of toil you have escaped what your affluent forebears used to call “confiscatory” income tax levels. It is thanks to them that you were able to buy two Rolexes this year instead of one…

In Australia, it was noted that American and British commentators tended to view our election through the lens of foreign policy – as a referendum on the Iraq War in the smallest member of the “Coalition of the Willing”. We have a corresponding tendency. It would seem, though, that George W. Bush’s issues were “God and terror”. Kerry’s issues were the economy and the mismanagement of the Iraq War. Perhaps the mistake Kerry made was not to engage Bush centrally on the former.

As James Carville famously said in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid”. Yet the Democrats, in recognition of the cultural divide obscuring economic interests, were keen to talk “values”. As Joan Didion writes in ‘Politics in the “New Normal” America’:

“Hope beats anger,” Al From and Bruce Reed had advised in a March memo to John Kerry published in the Democratic Leadership Council’s Blueprint Magazine. “Hope will beat fear every time,” Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana dutifully said during her turn on the Fleet Center platform. (“Hope,” in these approved constructions, tended to be not “hope for” but just “hope,” strategically unattached to possibly entangling specifics about what the objects of the hope might be.) This nonspeak continued, a product of the “discipline” imposed on convention speakers by the DNC and the Kerry campaign: the Democratic candidates, it was said repeatedly on the Fleet Center platform, would bring hope and optimism back to America, build a stronger and more secure America, stand up for the values that Americans cared about. Hope and values, it was said, were what Americans believed in. Americans believed in the values of good-paying jobs, in the values of affordable health care, in protecting our security and our values. When Elizabeth Edwards was campaigning for the Democratic ticket in Tennessee, according to The New York Times, she cautioned supporters who had spoken harshly about the President not to be “too negative,” not to use the word “hypocritical.” “It’s not useful,” Mrs. Edwards said, “because that kind of language for swing voters¢â¬âthey are tired of partisanship.” These voters, she advised, “don’t want to hear how lousy the other guy is. Talk about how your values inform what you are doing.”

Clinton’s victory in 96 perhaps proved that economic prosperity trumped values. Gore’s attempts to distance himself from Clinton in 2000 over values seemed to fail. Will the values card always fall to the right? How can the left engage on this territory in a divided nation? Or is it more sensible to stick to the economy, stupid?

UPDATE: Tony Jones reports on Lateline tonight that a “large percentage” of American voters ranked “moral issues” above economic and foreign policy concerns as their first priority in deciding their vote. 80% of these voters broke for Bush.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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cs
cs
2022 years ago

Bush has the smallest margin in both the popular vote and in the Electoral College of any re-elected incumbent in the last 100 years

Interesting statistic Ken, but it was still an appreciably higher popular vote than Clinton’s second term vote in ’96 (and in 92, for that matter). Imagine if the US economy had performed. The mind boggles!

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Chris – yeah, but it depends on whether you take into account turnout (and population growth). I think the margin makes more sense for historical comparisons. There are other trends which impact on turnout and it would be hard to do an analysis which held these constant and difficult to pinpoint what would be the relevant construct to use as a dependent variable. Sorry for the psephological/statistical speak!

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Sorry Mark. Whe’re now having this conversation at both places!

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

huh? did cs just call you ken and did you just call cs norman? cs & norman – do you both plan to sue mark for defamation?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Well, that’s a record. Poor old Mark keeps getting mistaken for his father Brian, but that’s the first time anyone’s confused him with me. In any event, I was wondering about the comparison with Clinton’s re-election in 1996, so thanks for completing the picture Chris.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Confusion reigns, Chris, Jason and Ken – I’ve just given back Chris his true identity in my comment to avoid any possible legal ramifications :)

Must be some correlation between elections, hangovers and general confusion.

thersites
thersites
2022 years ago

“both Houses of Congress are still almost evenly poised”

I’m not sure a 55 Rep to 45 Dem/Ind Senate could be regarded as evenly poised? Apparently the first time the Republicans have been re-elected in all 3 Presidency, Senate, Reps since McKinley in 1900.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

On the title of Mark’s post, though, and the assumption behind it, I question whether the US can really be said to be uniquely (or even especially) divided at present. Democrats must surely have felt at least as devastated when Nixon and Reagan got re-elected in the 70s and 80s respectively. Both were every bit as controversial and divisive in their time as Bush is today.

And, although Bush’s winning margin may be fairly ordinary for a re-elected incumbent President, there have been plenty who didn’t get re-elected at all (not least Bush senior). Just securing over 50% given the ongoing Iraq casualties, job losses etc was a fairly major achievement for Bush. And when you add in the retention and enhancement of Republican control of both Houses, it’s difficult to argue convincingly that this wasn’t an impressive victory in a purely partisan political sense.

Although I generally agree with what Tim Dunlop had to say, I doubt that Wolfowitz will be made Defense Secretary or Secretary of State, and I doubt that the second Bush administration will be in a position economically or militarily to pre-emptively invade Iran or Syria or North Korea or anywhere else much. They’ll probably keep stuffing up the Iraq involvement until the accumulation of casualties and bad news forces them to manufacture a spurious pretext for troop withdrawal (but probably not until they manoeuvre Allawi into “elected” government by fair means or foul). And they’re not likely to have much luck in repairing relations with the UN etc (assuming they even try), but whether that matters very much in the short term is questionable, given the UN’s own impotence as a peacekeeping/creating body. So, while I don’t feel at all happy about Bush’s re-election, I don’t think it’s the end of the world either.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

It’s still relatively even as the Demos have retained the capacity to block Republicans’ absolute control – Reps would need 60 votes to counter a filibuster. There are a few liberal Republicans left who vote with the Demos on occasion as well. You really need about 57 or 58 to get a working majority. The Demos will also be more ideologically cohesive with the loss of the Southern seats – though that poses a real problem for them in terms of regaining the Senate in the future – given that their crop of candidates were acknowledged as pretty good and ran the Republicans tight in some races.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Ken – that’s true – but what’s new I think is the real sense of cultural division. Bush also did very badly compared to previous “War Presidents”. I’m not trying to minimise or gainsay his victory – if anything his victory is testament to the power of the issues which divide the American electorate. It was interesting as well that Bush ran a strategy designed to capitalise on this rather than the less partisan “unify America/ignore the opponent” sort of campaign that Reagan ran in 84. I think what’s significant about the result in a historical sense is that it reinforces the sense that there are “two nations” in America – going beyond partisan division – the dissensus in basic values is a new thing. I could quote stats on how single people and people with no religion broke overwhelmingly to Kerry – so it goes beyond just a geographic or partisan cleavage.

Don't count your fillies just yet
Don't count your fillies just yet
2022 years ago

Result: The 109th Congress will feature a 55-45 GOP Senate majority, a net gain of four seats. Could this be the end of obstructionism? Daschle has done a very effective job of keeping his party unified to filibuster Republican legislation and especially judicial nominees. Ending a filibuster requires 60 votes, which means the GOP now need pick off only five Dems rather than nine. And Daschle’s defeat may send a message to other red-state Democrats, of whom there are at least 14 [6 of whom reside in states where Bush won by a margin of >20 per cent]

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

That’s assuming the Republicans can hold all their troops in line and if the Democratic caucus is a more unified and ideologically cohesive block, picking up 5 Demos is a big ask. The red states/blue states division doesn’t automatically map onto the Senate – except perhaps in the South which is now very unfriendly territory (except some states in the outer South) for the Demos in general. And there’s another election for the Senate in 2006 when the Republicans will be defending vulnerable seats. There has been a long term historical trend for the Presidential party to lose (sometimes quite heavily) in the 6th year of a presidency. Still, 55-45 is clearly not as good as 51-49.

yobbo
2022 years ago

Mark: There may be divisions within electorates on a non-geographical basis, but a quick look at the electoral map suggests that there really are two Americas. The America on the West and NorthEast coasts, and the America in between. The in-between part is what coastal Americans condescendingly refer to as “flyover country”.

It’s no different than Australia’s electorates, where inner-city urban “elites” can’t seem to work out why those stupid suburbanites and rural people keep voting conservative.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Not denying that there are geographical divisions, yobbo – but it’s also worth noting that there are divisions within the red (and blue) states – states like Arizona are trending much more Democratic over time – partly through urbanisation and partly through a greatly increasing Hispanic demographic. Of interest also is the tendency of cities in red states and their suburbs based around value-added industry, research or innovation to be increasingly Democratic. There is some case for arguing that demographics are moving in the Demos’ favour – an argument made (along with a fair bit of DLC rhetoric) by John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira in The Emerging Democratic Majority.

I take your point about Australian geographical/cultural divides, but I remain unconvinced that the “culture war” thesis fits well with Australia. Australia has a much more unified society than the States in terms of homogeneity of values, and I don’t believe that issues which are at the heart of the cultural divide in the States cut through in anywhere near the same fashion as in America. All the recent talk aside, we are still a relatively secular and tolerant society.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

In economic terms Raygun was as every bit as spendthrift as Bush Jnr however with Nancy’s guiding hand and hopeful look at history He became much more moderate.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Laura try similar things with Georgy.

Raygun had a hell of a better foreign policy team however. Does a Phd in economics help?

Next theory please
Next theory please
2022 years ago

“Samizdata has an interesting statistical table showing how demographics has worked against the Democratic Party. Had the apportionment of electoral votes followed the population distribution of the 1960s, John Kerry would have won. Democrat bailiwicks have not grown as quickly as the those which have tended Republican.

1960 census (1964, 68 elections) — Kerry 270, Bush 268
1970 census (1972, 76, 80 elections) — Kerry 270, Bush 268
1980 census (1984, 88 elections) — Bush 276, Kerry 262
1990 census (1992, 96, 2000 elections) — Bush 279, Kerry 259
2000 census (2004, 08 elections) — Bush 286, Kerry 252

“It would be interesting to discover what the underlying reason for this differential growth is. Some will argue, no doubt, that “Blue State” social attitudes may have depressed their birthrates, but that is too pat an answer, and the whole question deserves a more scholarly treatment. But whatever the explanation, if the trend is real — and the divergence looks to have persisted for forty years — then the leftist assumption that they are the vanguard of the future and the party of youth is empirically suspect. Time is not obviously on their side. If so, there is no reason to believe that their prospects will improve simply with the passage of years.”
(Last post from Belmont club)

Spiros
Spiros
2022 years ago

“there have been plenty who didn’t get re-elected at all (not least Bush senior).”

Bush senior was one, Carter was another. They were I think the only two Presidents in the twentieth century who were beaten in elections, certainly the only two after world war one.

It is actually a very big ask for a challenger to defeat an incumbent President.

John
John
2022 years ago

“Bush senior was one, Carter was another. They were I think the only two Presidents in the twentieth century who were beaten in elections, certainly the only two after world war one.”

Roosevelt defeated Hoover in 1932. Carter defeated Ford in 1976.

Spiros
Spiros
2022 years ago

OK, but Ford barely counts, since he was never elected in the first place, not even to Vice President, so it’s not as though the American voters were repudiating a decision they had made four years earlier.

Spiros
Spiros
2022 years ago

20th century Presidents who were relected were Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt (3 times), Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton.

The American voters rarely admit they made a mistake four years earlier.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

That’s a great post Mark..

– a remark to Yobbo: people keep assuming that the Left doesn’t understand the “stupid suburbanites and rural people” who vote against them. And that if we did, we could make them vote for us. I think we do understand them. They understood what we were saying. They disagreed with us.

– on the lost Democratic South: to an outsider, the Southern Democrats I read about always seemed to be a massive anomaly. Racist and reactionary. With the passage of time, they went to their real spiritual home. Since it is logical, it is pretty hard to fix.

sheelple
sheelple
2022 years ago

Another big trend, which I don’t think has been mentioned, is the collapse of the the post-civil war/reconstruction divisions in the US. The Democrats enjoyed one party rule in the South for over a century (Texas I think had a Democratic majority in the state legislature from 1832 until about 1996 and didn’t even have a viable Republican party until the 1950s) and they are going to be out in the cold down there for a long, long time (as is always the case for a party that holds on too long).

This change has taken a remarkably long time to play out, from Truman’s desegregration, through the Civil Rights movements, Nixon’s ‘southern strategy’ and the ‘Reagan Democrats’ but now’s it’s complete and the face of American politics has changing dramatically. I think we’ve in the last few years we’ve seen the development of a truly ‘national’ politics in the US for the first time, the Dixiecrats and Boll-weevils have all gone, and party discipline has begun in the congress.

The Republicans have certainly worked long and hard at developing their political machinery in the 40 years since Goldwater’s defeat, but they have been able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of this trend. The Democrats, on the other hand, have squandered the advantages they held over the same period and have only begun developing their machine in the last couple of years, and there was no way they were going to be able to catch up by Tuesday.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Spiros and John, the other 20th century President not to be re-elected was Taft in 1912. Of course, his major problem was his predecessor the former President Teddy Roosevelt’s running on the 3rd party “Bull Moose” Progressive ticket. Wilson got 41.84% of the popular vote and 435 EV, Roosevelt 27.4% and 88 EV, and Taft ran third with 23.17% and 8 EV. So the poorest performance for an incumbent by a mile. Interesting to note that the Socialist candidate, Eugene Debs, got 5.99% of the popular vote.

Taft was no doubt cheered up by being made Chief Justice later on – the only President to serve at the top of both Executive and Judicial branches.

Thanks, David. There were also always progressive Southern Democrats – LBJ perhaps being one of them – it was a one-party region and the general election was a formality against the Republican so all the action was in the Demo primary. Think, for instance, of Sen. Al Gore Sr of Tennessee (a much more inspirational character than his son), Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Sen. William Fulbright of Arkansas, Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas, and of course, in a category all of his own, Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Sheelple, that’s right and I did refer to the long term electoral impact of the LBJ Civil Rights Act of 1965 in my post. It has only been since 1994 that the Democrats have not had a large majority of HoR members from the South. Demos can still win in the South in Federal elections (Blanche Lincoln was easily re-elected in Arkansas yesterday and Mary Landrieu won in Louisiana against enormously well funded opposition in 2002) – but they need to do a delicate balancing act between the African-American vote and the White vote. Or they could try to change the terms of the debate! Before the Jim Crow laws were enacted in the 1890s, the Populist movement in the South had successfully forged an electoral alliance between Blacks and poor Whites – as did the Long Machine in Louisiana in the 30s and 40s and early 50s. Who can forget Paul Newman as Gov. Earl Long in the movie Blaze, declaring on the floor of the state legislature, “Black folks are people too”…

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Sheelple, the flipside of the collapse of the Reconstruction divide though is the Demos’ new competitiveness in New England – Delaware, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire etc. were as solidly Republican for as many years as the South was solidly Democratic and for the converse historical reason. Lately, they’ve been very good for the Demos.

Nick
Nick
2022 years ago

Such a massive downer…but we musn’t despair…Bush & his cohorts are falling off the edge of sanity & now owe some real hate mongers their souls & favours…bigots, racists, war-mongers, homophobes, irrationalists & lunatics who will be revealed soon enuff…you know how the media luv to take the heads off the religious/evangelical & redneck tall poppies once they become too prominent & grandiose. This sneaky, disgusting ‘values-ridden’ campaign will soon enuff be seen for what it was…all smoke & mirrors for the corporate fossil fuels & armaments machine (a part of the US I can’t abide)…the way to beat the Repugs & an analysis of the underhanded ‘values’ campaign has already been explored for 2 hours yesterday by the brill Aaron Brown on CNN…the Dems & the Left know Murdoch’s (Fox News) weakness & strategies now & will attack full bore…much damage has already been done & yet some can’t see it…by Obama (possible VP choice…later Centrist President) getting in so decisively & the Dems putting Edwards (possible Presidential Candidate) up front in one debate & the last coupla days speeches…incl. the wonderful ‘moments on the campaign trail with Edwards’ piece on Nightline a coupla weeks ago…not to mention having a ‘high profile'(& across the aisle friendship with McCain) Kerry in the Senate…the Left & Moderate Dems are setting up for a campaign that will eventually break the small farmers & rural discontents away from the Repugs…IMHO it’s all downhill now for the Bush admin….attempting to dig their hills in over the Iraq slide…but i think they’ll shrug it off & go for a big stick approach on Iran &/or Syria to keep the Fundamentalist Israelis, Corporate Machine & front pages & cable media happy…also will throw a few Right Wing zealot judges & censorship policies into the mix to get the ‘unrestrained, unpatriotic Lefties’ out on the street to show the masses how truly ‘valueless & dangerous’ the Left-Wing bomb throwers are…more divisiveness to shore up the base…the cold, civil war in the US will continue but probably become more violent…yikes! But the Centrists in the Dems are already planning on a coup…have already been planning it for years…the giant killers have awoken. With the help of the musicians (CCR/Neil Young/Bright Eyes/Will Oldham/16 Horsepower types), doco & movie filmakers, bloggers, artists & artisans & so on they will begin to infiltrate the Repug base & pull the mods & the small farmers into their camp of ‘the Right’ vs the ‘the Wrong’…just a thought or 2.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Good to see some optimism, Nick! However, I’m a touch inclined to go with this quote (unfortunately I can’t remember the source): “The future is an endless succession of Nixons and Carters, never again a Roosevelt”.

Roger Morris’ very good book on Bill and Hillary Clinton, Partners in Power, also claims that the last ‘real’ Democratic president (in the sense of having a progressive agenda for which he would fight) was LBJ. I’d settle for another LBJ (without the bellicosity and corruption)!

One of LBJ’s neat speeches was in New Orleans during the 1964 campaign, a campaign in which Goldwater took the Electoral Votes of Southern States for the GOP for the first time, and in which he campaigned in the South on issues of poverty and justice:

He described an aged southern senator who once told Sam Rayburn his wish to “go back down there and give them just one more Democratic speech. I think I have one more in me. That poor old state, they haven’t heard a Democratic speech in 30 years. All they ever hear at election time is ‘Negro, Negro, Negro.'”

Geoff
Geoff
2022 years ago

Why is it a divided country when a Republican wins but not so when a Democrat wins, by however great or small a margin?

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

I’ve long felt Goldwater’s greatest contribution to American politics [regardless of whether it was inadvertent, or good or bad] was to bring genuine politics to the Southern States. Before him, despite notable exceptions, Southern Democrats were often far worse than conservative Republicans.
It has made it tougher for Democratic Presidents to be elected; but it has helped remove one potential malignant restraint on candidates of either Party who succeed in becoming President.
On another issue, Yobbo and Dave Tiley’s coments re what I see as the patronising attitudes of many “progressives” towards those who have the temerity to support someone else, both have elements of truth in them. Yobbo is correct when he points out this problem. David, however, is correct when he suggests that many on the left do accept this is happening, and do acknowledge that the loss of our earlier support base arises from the fact that they DO understand what we’ve been saying, and that’s the problem. They won’t blindly support our candidates any longer, because they believe our allegedly progressive stands to be flawed. Nothing is gained by simply condemning them for not supinely supporting their “superiors” better judgment. It’s not their fault they’re oblivious to how much better we are than them, when it vomes to deciding what’s best for them.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Geoff, it would still have been a divided country had Kerry won narrowly.

Norman, I’d agree about Goldwater. I have a soft spot for him – a genuine libertarian with no time for the government being in people’s bedrooms. It’s true that having competitive politics in the South is a good thing as well. The comment about conservative Republicans is interesting as well – in that Northern Senators such as Everett Dirksen of Illinois were central to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Those days are gone – Nixon’s Southern Strategy put paid to the Party of Lincoln. The sad thing is that a number of moderate Republicans – for instance Winthrop Rockefeller in Arkansas and Howard Baker of Tennessee – were early winners in the Republican surge in the South. But instead the Republicans went down the Thurmond/Helms/Lott road.

I also thought David’s comments were well made. I’ve been saying for some time here and over at Backpages that the Left needs to engage with and not dismiss potential supporters. I’ve been thinking about your comments on “name-calling” in this context, Norman. One thing that the Right have done extremely well over the last couple of decades is to entirely re-shape the terms of political discourse – in the US a conscious plan of Newt Gingrich’s. The Left flails around looking at how to communicate its message in those terms – witness the post-election rush in the US Demos to start talking about values again. What is needed instead is a realisation – or a remembering – that the art of politics is fundamentally about communication in a two way sense – and that this can shift how people think about the possibilities of their lives. That’s the challenge – no mean one.

Geoff Robinson
2022 years ago

Goldwater pioneered the southern strategy in 1964 when he came out against civil rights in 1964. Liberterians make political compomises too.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Why is it a divided country when a Republican wins but not so when a Democrat wins, by however great or small a margin?

Perhaps it is more intense than usual this time round because of the war and so on, but the ‘reach out’, ‘heal the divided nation’, ‘governing for all Americans’ rhetoric has gone on after every US presidential election I’ve followed closely, no matter whoever wins. It’s pro forma, by-numbers day-or-two-after-election talk … that I wouldn’t take any serious notice of for a nano second. Or, more accurately, I’ve heard it so many times now that it always makes me think, ‘aw shit, here it comes, the full agenda [of whoever it is that wins]’.

I tend to have the same response whenever I hear Howard promising he won’t abuse his senate power. Always strikes me as the sort of thing pollies always think they better make sure they say after they’ve spent the whole day in meetings figuring out how they’re gonna try to get everything they want up: ‘Ah, very good, that’ll fix the bastards but good .. now, we better get out and tone things down and get people off the scent’.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

Geoff
The thing is, Goldwater was against federal civil rights legislation because he was on the few ‘States rights’ opponents of such legislation who genuinely believed in the States Rights objection to federalising this issue, as opposed to merely trumpeting it as a smokescreen for racist views. In his own State, Goldwater integrated the National Guard and also enforced racial integration in his family’s department stores, so he actually practiced what he preached. He didn’t compromise, he just had a different (though some might say misguided) view of achieving the same ends. By contrast it’s fair to say that a lot of the people who voted for him totally missed the subtleties of this states rights vs centralisation argument and just didn’t want to mix with ‘niggers’

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Chris, Guiliani was going on about Bush as Governor of Texas working with Democrats and “reaching out across the aisle”. The difference of course was that many Southern governors have limited executive power because of constitutions designed to promote governmental inaction, and he had a Demo Lieutenant-Governor and a Demo legislature. The day after the day after, it’s been made pretty clear that the Bushies claim a mandate to do just about whatever they want.

Nick
Nick
2022 years ago

Goldwater is an interesting case Mark…he seems to have run a fairly effective business that generally looked after its employees, paying for health care, better wages etc…& Jason you bring up a good point on the States Rights vs Federalism issue…but i’m afraid i can’t excuse the man for the fact he voted against such an important piece of legislation as ‘The Civil Right’s Act’. Nor his wholesale support for that finger pointing, dobbing, black booking, ego-maniac McCarthy…or his support for nuking Vietnam. I call a spade a spade in this instance…i’m all for crossing the aisle but when your take an anti-Civil Right’s Act posture during a Presidential campaign you give a justification for every hater & bigot to emerge from their bunker & declare they’re with the you”

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

“I think we do understand them. They understood what we were saying. They disagreed with us.”

At last. Thank you, David, FWIW.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

Stupid is an emotive word, but it’s still reasonable to ask whether people vote against their interests through ignorance and manipulation. No one hesitates to suggest these explanations when, say, filipinos elect a corrupt and narcissistic imbecile like Joseph Estrada, so it should be legitimate to do so when Americans elect Bush. It’s mostly an empirical question. If a large proportion of Americans (69 percent according to a Washington Post Survey) could be shown to have believed that Saddam was personally involved in the WTC attack, that would be not only admissable but indeed very srong evidence.

I say mostly empirical because someone will always argue that where values come into play there is no right answer. But values can be born of ignorance too. To believe that gay marriage threatens the institution of the family, when a moment’s open minded relection reveals the opposite to be the case, is just plain ignorant. And if people voted for Bush because he said that, well, the conclusion is clear.

Nick
Nick
2022 years ago

Well said James.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

James, couldn’t agree more. Although there is not the same push on for same-sex marriage in Australia among the queer community here as in the US, a moment’s sensible reflection would suggest that the desire of anyone to want to make an enduring commitment to their partner is a sign they have values! Meanwhile, Britney Spears (former poster girl for George W.’s teen abstinence campaign which received $147 mill in funding) continues to trash the institution of hetoresexual marriage!

Lloyd McDonald
Lloyd McDonald
2022 years ago

This is cool for all those feeling overwhelmed by the red tide….
http://www.princeton.edu/~rvdb/JAVA/election2004/

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Nick, there’s a neat quote from the start of Rexford G. Tugwell’s The Democratic Roosevelt:

The world seemed to go to pieces after the war. And Franklin Roosevelt was no longer around to help lay better foundations… When he died our society was measurably further forward in every respect than when he became President. He grasped leadership when we were economically paralysed and socially divided. The nation was a giant in chains of its own forging. He loosened the chains by relieving the paralysis of fear; he reduced the divisions by attacking poverty; and he began a reconstruction. His reconstructive plans had to be postponed because of first the prospect and then the fact of war. But there we clear indications… that he would have come back to them if he had lived. He did not think himself a failure; he was simply not finished.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

F.D.R. did much, Mark, but the U.S. didn’t come out of the Depression fully until the outbtrak of War put an end to sizable unemployment. My family was no less upset by his death than they were with Curtin’s, but I felt later that circumstances played a bigger role in his undoubted successes than was acknowledged at that time.
It was widely accepted by many in the immediate Postwar period that “things would have been different” had he bot died, but there’s a touch of the rose tinted glasses in Tugwell’s eulogy.