December 15, 2004
CIVIL WAR, DEPRESSION, THE '70S....:
GOP Has Lock on South, and Democrats Can't Find Key: A Times analysis shows that Bush's sweep of the region went even deeper than first appeared.
By Ronald Brownstein, December 15, 2004, LA Times)
The generation-long political retreat of Democrats across the South is disintegrating into a rout.
President Bush dominated the South so completely in last month's presidential election that he carried nearly 85% of all the counties across the region — and more than 90% of counties where whites are a majority of the population, according to a Times analysis of election results and census data.
The Times' analysis, which provides the most detailed picture yet of the vote in Southern communities, shows that Bush's victory was even more comprehensive than his sweep of the region's 13 states would suggest.
His overwhelming performance left Sen. John F. Kerry clinging to a few scattered islands of support in a region that until the 1960s provided the foundation of the Democratic coalition in presidential politics. Kerry won fewer Southern counties than any Democratic nominee since the Depression except Walter F. Mondale in 1984 and George S. McGovern in 1972, according to data assembled by The Times and Polidata, a firm that specializes in political statistics.
In Southern counties without a substantial number of African American or Latino voters, Bush virtually obliterated Kerry. Across the 11 states of the old Confederacy, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma, whites constitute a majority of the population in 1,154 counties. Kerry won 90 of them.
By contrast, Bill Clinton won 510 white-majority counties in the South eight years ago.
"We are out of business in the South," said J.W. Brannen, the Democratic Party chairman in Russell County, Ala., the only white-majority county in the state that Kerry carried. [...]
Bush romped in suburban and exurban areas, from Shelby County, Ala., to Gwinnett and Cobb counties in Georgia. He captured several of the large urban areas, like Birmingham, Ala., and Tampa, Fla., that Kerry typically won outside the South, and virtually swept the table in rural and small-town communities apart from the few Democratic holdouts in the outer South.
The breadth of Bush's success in majority-white counties spotlighted his ability to reach beyond his conservative base.
According to the election day exit polls, Kerry won white moderates only in Tennessee and Florida, and he tied Bush among them in Arkansas. In every other Southern state, Bush not only beat Kerry among white moderates but held him to 44% or less with that group. Kerry won white liberals in each state, but they represented no more than about one-sixth, and sometimes as little as one-ninth, of the white population.
Even many Democrats say the Republican surge among white moderates will force the party back to the drawing board. During the late 1990s, Democrats led by Clinton thought they had constructed a new formula for Southern success by linking African Americans and moderate white suburbanites through messages that muted social issues while emphasizing economic development and improving public education.
"But with the growth of the exurbs, the polarization of the parties and the decline in ticket-splitting, Republicans appear to have put together an overwhelming majority in the South again," Kilgore said. "They are now carrying the suburban vote and totally dominating the rural areas. The question: Can Democrats come up with a new biracial coalition?"
For the near term, at least, Rove remains confident that the answer is no. "If you accept my underlying assumption that this is the result of a trend that has gained momentum over the years and has been reinforced under President Bush, what is the act that is going to stop it and reverse it?" he asked.
"Once these things get set in motion, they require something on the landscape done by one or both parties, or events to intrude, to stop it and reverse it."
The current realignment is still in its early stages and the only thing that might stop or reverse it is an economic collapse on the scale of the Great Depression--an event that a better understanding of monetary policy, privatization of the welfare net, population growth, and globalization make unlikely at least over the next five or six decades. Posted by Orrin Judd at December 15, 2004 9:13 AM