Exploring the Most Republican Place in America: Part 1

This is the first part of two posts examining the Texas panhandle, a rock-hard Republican stronghold. I initially posted this as one entry, but I decided the second part needed a bit more work. The second part can be found here.

The Panhandle

In the Texas panhandle and the empty plains surrounding it, Democrats go to die. There is no place in the country more Republican than this rural region, where conservatism is ingrained bone-deep and from birth. Not even the most Mormon stretches of Utah, or whitest areas of the Deep South, exceed the Republicanism of this part of Texas.

Few political strategists have thought about these places as more than deep-red fly-over territory. If a region votes more than 80% Republican and looks set to continue in that pattern for as long one can forsee, one might think that there is generally little to write about.

In fact, in the vast emptiness of the Texas prairie there are a number of interesting patterns – some of which are quite strange to behold.

Yellow-dog Democrats

Believe it or not, much of the most Republican place in the nation used to be Democratic territory, voting for the blue candidate even when the rest of America did not. Now, of course, the same could be said for the entire American South, which routinely gave badly losing Democratic presidential candidates over 70% (and often 90%) of the vote. Texas was no exception to this rule; President Truman lost a grand total of eight counties during the 1948 election, for instance.

The difference with the Texas panhandle, however, was that parts of it continued to vote Democratic even as the Solid South collapsed. In 1956, for instance, President Dwight Eisenhower won re-election by a solid 15.40% and cracked the South. One such crack included Texas, which Mr. Eisenhower won by 11.28%. Mr. Eisenhower carried the state backed mainly by its Republican-leaning cities (an oxymoron nowadays), while much of rural Texas voted for Democrat Adlai Stevenson. This included almost the entire panhandle:

This Democratic-leaning trend continued for some time, even after the 1964 realignment of the South. The panhandle cast a strong ballot for Senator Hubert Humphrey and President Jimmy Carter (both times), while a number of counties voted to Governor Dukakis and even hapless Senator Walter Mondale. As late as 1996, when President Bill Clinton lost Texas by 4.93%, there still remained a flicker of yellow-dog Democratic strength:

It was one President George W. Bush who finally crushed this Democratic tradition; since his time, the panhandle has begun voting uniformly Republican. But for all its current love of Republicans, it must be noted that this phenomenon is relatively recent – although long in coming.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Exploring the Most Republican Place in America: Part 1

This is the first part of two posts examining the Texas panhandle, a rock-hard Republican stronghold. I initially posted this as one entry, but I decided the second part needed a bit more work. The second part can be found here.

The Panhandle

In the Texas panhandle and the empty plains surrounding it, Democrats go to die. There is no place in the country more Republican than this rural region, where conservatism is ingrained bone-deep and from birth. Not even the most Mormon stretches of Utah, or whitest areas of the Deep South, exceed the Republicanism of this part of Texas.

Few political strategists have thought about these places as more than deep-red fly-over territory. If a region votes more than 80% Republican and looks set to continue in that pattern for as long one can forsee, one might think that there is generally little to write about.

In fact, in the vast emptiness of the Texas prairie there are a number of interesting patterns – some of which are quite strange to behold.

Yellow-dog Democrats

Believe it or not, much of the most Republican place in the nation used to be Democratic territory, voting for the blue candidate even when the rest of America did not. Now, of course, the same could be said for the entire American South, which routinely gave badly losing Democratic presidential candidates over 70% (and often 90%) of the vote. Texas was no exception to this rule; President Truman lost a grand total of eight counties during the 1948 election, for instance.

The difference with the Texas panhandle, however, was that parts of it continued to vote Democratic even as the Solid South collapsed. In 1956, for instance, President Dwight Eisenhower won re-election by a solid 15.40% and cracked the South. One such crack included Texas, which Mr. Eisenhower won by 11.28%. Mr. Eisenhower carried the state backed mainly by its Republican-leaning cities (an oxymoron nowadays), while much of rural Texas voted for Democrat Adlai Stevenson. This included almost the entire panhandle:

This Democratic-leaning trend continued for some time, even after the 1964 realignment of the South. The panhandle cast a strong ballot for Senator Hubert Humphrey and President Jimmy Carter (both times), while a number of counties voted to Governor Dukakis and even hapless Senator Walter Mondale. As late as 1996, when President Bill Clinton lost Texas by 4.93%, there still remained a flicker of yellow-dog Democratic strength:

It was one President George W. Bush who finally crushed this Democratic tradition; since his time, the panhandle has begun voting uniformly Republican. But for all its current love of Republicans, it must be noted that this phenomenon is relatively recent – although long in coming.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

PA-12: After Murtha

With the sudden death of Rep. John Murtha following complications from gall bladder surgery, the race is to succeed him is beginning to take shape. According to Pennsylvania state law, Governor Ed Rendall must set a date for a special election within the next ten days. A likely date is May 18, when the state’s primary elections will take place. Special elections costs the state huge sums of money so it is probable that Governor Rendall will go with an already established election day in an effort to save cash in a time of tight state budgetary constraints.

While Murtha had held the seat in PA-12 since 1974, the early read is that the race will be competitive. In the 2008, the McCain-Palin ticker narrowly won the district with a 1,000 vote margin over Obama-Biden. It was the only district in the nation that voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential race that was carried by McCain four years later.

On the GOP side, there are two candidates in the race: a local business Tim Burns and the 2008 candidate William Russell who Murtha defeated comfortably 58% to 42%.

On the Democratic side, we are blessed with a true progressive with deep ties to the hard-scrabble district and with impeccable credentials who had already entered the race in a primary challenge to Murtha back in May 2009. His name is Ryan Bucchianeri.

Ryan is a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian who was born and raised in the district. He attended the US Naval Academy graduating in 1997 and later earned a degree in Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He has served his country in tours of duty in the Middle East, has worked in the private sector and can speak to issues from national security to job creation to drug trade policy to military affairs.

Here's Ryan in his own words on why he's running for Congress:

In Washington, I'll focus on issues that matter most to Western Pennsylvanians:

Job creation and economic development for the entire district. I will work to diversify our economy and bring opportunity to a region that has suffered too long from economic decline. With new opportunities, young people will stay and thrive in the region - energizing it for generations to come - instead of leaving for opportunities elsewhere.

A commitment to quality education. The quality of our education remains critical to America's prosperity at home and performance in a global economy. I will ensure we redirect the necessary focus to early childhood education, reform and invest in primary and secondary education, and enable higher education opportunities for all. I'll fight to ensure equality of opportunity in our schools, fair pay for teachers, and reduce the crippling financial burden of college tuition.

Affordable and accessible health care. While debate in Washington rages on with no clear end in sight, 60,000 of our friends and neighbors in the district remain uninsured - with nearly 1,000 having to declare bankruptcy because of medical bills last year alone. I support a strong public option and believe it is the best vehicle that will allow us to adequately address the quality, cost, and coverage challenges of our healthcare system. I'll work towards legislation that truly addresses the long-term costs of health care and fully-protects Medicare. I'll fight for coverage that is affordable, universal, portable, and covers pre-existing conditions - coverage you can't lose if you're laid off or get sick, and coverage that includes prevention, mental health, and dental care on an equal basis.

I'm running for Congress to serve the people of Western Pennsylvania - not the special interests of high-powered lobbyists who continue to maintain their power at our expense. Until we have new leadership in Washington we will continue to suffer the financial and ethical consequences of irresponsible earmarks and a power structure designed to keep incumbents in office.

I count Ryan as a personal friend. When I think of Ryan the word that comes to mind is integrity. His progressive credentials are solid: he supports a public option, he's for marriage equality and for the repeal of DADT, he strongly supports a woman's right to choose. Ryan comes from a family of public educators so he understands the importance of making America's public schools second to none. But really what sets Ryan apart is that he is a humble, hard-working guy committed to making sure all Americans have the same of freedom of opportunity that we have traditionally enjoyed in this country but that is now under assault by three decades of GOP policies that have favored the powerful over the interests of our once broad middle classes.

We have a rare opportunity to replace a mainstream Democrat with a progressive Democrat that boasts an incredible life story. He's a man who has served his country and who could go anywhere and do anything in life but who feels that he has a higher calling by returning to his Western Pennsylvania roots and serving to protect their interests.

You can learn more about Ryan by visiting his campaign website. Please join me in supporting Ryan Bucchianeri by contributing to his campaign. Getting Ryan elected to Congress is my highest priority right now. Any help you can offer is deeply appreciated. Thank you!

Skewed Sample Distorts Kos GOP Poll

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos has commissioned a poll that seeks to gauge the political views and socio-religious beliefs of the GOP base. Some of the results are quite simply stunning. Thirty-nine percent of Republicans want Barack Obama impeached, 36 percent do not believe that President Obama was born in the United States, 63 percent believe that he is a socialist, 21 percent believe that ACORN stole the 2008 Presidential election, 31 percent believe that Barack Obama is a racist who hates white people, 23 percent want their state to secede from the Union, 31 percent want all contraceptives banned, only 8 percent believe openly gay men and women should be allowed to teach in public schools, 77 percent believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

It is curious that of the nearly two score of blog stories on the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, not one looked at the sample, though to be fair to Ezra Klein, he at least did have the thought that "maybe just maybe the sample might off" cross his mind. A poll is only as good as its sample and this poll oversamples older (37.09 percent of the sample is over the age of 60), southern (42.24 percent of the sample hails from the old Confederacy plus Kentucky) men (56.16 percent of the sample are men). It is a great poll if we wanted to get insight into the views old southern men who vote Republican. While that's certainly the stereotype, the face of the GOP is broader than that.

Last May, the Gallup Organization did find that the Republican base was heavily white, conservative and religious based on a poll of 26,314 national adults, aged 18 and older, a sample size more than ten times larger than the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll.

More than 6 in 10 Republicans today are white conservatives, while most of the rest are whites with other ideological leanings; only 11% of Republicans are Hispanics, or are blacks or members of other races. By contrast, only 12% of Democrats are white conservatives, while about half are white moderates or liberals and a third are nonwhite.

The results show clearly that the Republican Party today is first and foremost a political entity dominated by white Americans. Eighty-nine percent of rank-and-file Republicans are non-Hispanic whites, leaving just 5% who are Hispanic (of any race), 2% who are black, and 4% of other races.

Further, by well over a 2-to-1 ratio, whites who identify as Republicans claim a conservative, rather than a moderate or liberal, ideology (or have no opinion when asked about their ideology).

The ethnic mix the Daily Kos/Research 2000 did get right. Their sample is divided between 89.21 percent white and 10.78 percent non-white. This is certainly a problem for the GOP. While the rest of the country is increasingly multi-racial, the GOP remains overwhelmingly white. Just under four percent of Republicans are African-Americans. A little more five percent of the GOP is Hispanic but about half of those are Cuban-Americans. And only two percent are Asian.

But the poll oversamples men by about four percentage points. While the GOP does face an overall gender gap, the composition within its own party is fairly even split. It is independents that account for the gender gap when election time rolls around. As Gallup noted in May 2009:

Women's affinity for the Democratic Party looks even stronger when independents' partisan leanings are taken into account. By this measure of party identification, Democrats currently enjoy a 22-point advantage over Republicans, with 57% of women identifying as Democrats or saying they are independent but leaning Democratic, compared with 35% who identify with or lean to the Republican Party.

But where the poll is really off the mark is in its age breakdown and its regional distribution. The Institute of Southern Studies correctly I think points to the distortion that this bias creates:

The poll has one big flaw: 42% of those polled came from Southern states -- way out of proportion with their share of Republican voters nationally.

This over-sampling of Southern Republicans (846 total) skews the national results, but it also means the data is especially rich in giving us a picture of the views held by GOP voters in the South.

And the picture is unmistakable: On almost every issue, Southern Republicans are far to the right of their national GOP brethren. In fact, GOP Southerners appear to be the driving base for some of the most extreme views circulating in the Republican Party today.

To measure this, normally we'd compare the Southern results to the national average and see what the difference is. But since the poll disproportionately surveyed Southerners to start with, instead I looked at how the Southern answers compared to the next most conservative region.

For example, here are four questions the poll asked Republicans about President Obama, with the Southern poll numbers compared to the next-highest region (in each of these cases, the Midwest):

QUESTION: Should Barack Obama be impeached, or not?
South: 42% yes
Next-highest region: 38% yes
Southern difference: +4%

QUESTION: Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States, or not?
South: 43% no
Next-highest region: 33% no
Southern difference: +10%

QUESTION: Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?
South: 67% yes
Next-highest region: 61% yes
Southern difference: +6%

QUESTION: Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?
South: 28% yes
Next-highest region: 22% yes
Southern difference: +6%

Here are the demographics used in the sample versus a more accurate picture of the composition of the GOP as compiled from various sources.

Demographic Sample Size Sample Pct. Actual
Men 1125 56.16% 52%
Women 878 43.83% 48%
White 1787 89.21% 89%
Other 216 10.78% 11%
18-29 178 8.88% 15%
30-44 418 20.86% 26%
45-59 664 33.15% 37%
60+ 743 37.09% 22%
Northeast 217 10.83% 18.60%
South 846 42.24% 36.32%
Midwest 437 21.82% 25.45%
West 503 25.11% 19.63%
Source: Daily Kos/Research 2000,
Gallup, Pew Research Trust, CNN

In short, the Daily Kos poll has a bias that oversamples Southerners who are more extreme in their views (the poll also drastically undersamples the generally more moderate Republicans in the Northeast by over eight percentage points) and thus paints the GOP as more extreme than they really are. The Daily Kos poll is an inaccurate reflection of the national GOP but likely an accurate picture of the views of its Southern base which nonetheless does account for over one third of its electoral strength nationally. And that Southern base plagues the national GOP to a degree that cannot be overstated.

 

 

 

What Party Would George Washington Support?

Imagining what the Founding Fathers would think about our nation today always constitutes an interesting exercise. America's strength and enduring democracy probably would have delighted many of them. On the other hand, its political parties and many foreign alliances might have raised an eyebrow or two.

In fact, if one reads George Washington's farewell address, its quite amazing how much of his advice was not followed. "Avoid...overgrown military establishments" (nope); "steer clear of permanent alliances" (nope); "preserving the Union" (the Civil War ruined that one); "avoiding...the accumulation of debt" (funny, that); "party dissension...is itself a frightful despotism" (stopped following that advice even before his death).

Because this is a politics blog, however, the question here is what political party Washington would have belonged to.

On the surface, things look muddled. Washington's personal beliefs don't fit one particular mold. His commitment to isolationism, for example, wouldn't have made either the Democrats or the Republicans look appealing. He supported democracy and liberty - but doing that isn't exactly a Democratic or Republican-only thing.

We know that Washington held Federalist sympathies; thus his support of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton strikes one as a modern-day big-business supporter; perhaps Washington might therefore have leaned Republican.

The truth, however, is actually fairly obvious. Demographics provide the answer. If we look not at policy but at identity, we can tell what party George Washington would have belonged to.

Think about it for a moment. George Washington was a married rich rural Southern slave-owning Protestant straight white male who in all probability would not have voted for a black man. Sounds like a Republican to me.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

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