Is China’s Economy Overheating?

Much interest – and muted apprehension – has been focused on the rapid growth of China’s economy. The Great Recession barely put a dent on the country’s continuing expansion, in stark contrast to the troubled economies of the First World.

Yet now an interesting thing is occurring; one hears murmurs about weakness in the Chinese economy, murmers which were not heard last year. Analysts are starting to advance the possibility that China’s economy is overheating. This is based upon economic indicators such as rising inflation (a classic sign of an economy running too fast).

Perhaps the most widely held view is that China faces a property bubble, whose bust would do quite a bit of damage to the economy. The New York Times, for instance, has written several articles examining excesses in China’s property boom. One article talks about a city named Ordos in northeastern China, full of recently built apartments that sit empty of residents. Such stories strongly recall tales during America’s property bubble, of empty suburban lots built around cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, founded on the confident assumption that prices would keep on rising forever.

To be fair, there is a rationale for the speculation in Ordos. Despite its economic success, China has a lot of room to grow. Per capita income in China is still below that of Jamaica, for instance. So the new houses in Ordo will be filled, eventually, as poor peasants migrate to the cities.

Another article in the Times describes the building boom in Hainan Island – something that is harder to defend as economically rational. The Chinese government is apparently hoping to make the place a tourist destination, and such plans have set up an orgy of new construction. It is not immediately apparent, however, why Hainan Island is a better tourist spot than anyplace else in the world. In ten years its numerous golf resorts may well be languishing in red ink. The Hainan Island boom constitutes a strong indication of a property bubble.

China’s government seems to be recognizing these signs; the official rhetoric has shifted to cooling down the economy. Recently China’s central bank surprisingly raised interest rates in an attempt to do just that.

What would a property bust in China look like?

Well, China has actually had a previous property boom go awry. This was in the 1990s, and it may have temporarily lowered growth rates from ~12% to ~8% (although that bust apparently had little effect on the average Chinese person). The last time China had non-Chinese growth rates was in 1989 and 1990; the last time it had negative growth was during 1976, the year Chairman Mao Zedong died.

Given the political turmoil that occurred on both dates, a bad enough property bust might spark similar unrest. On the other hand, China’s government probably has enough domestic credibility to weather even negative economic growth. Moreover, the country’s economy probably has enough steam – the percentage of GDP in investment and savings is unparalleled in modern history – to continue growing at >6% per year even were such a bust to occur. It would take quite a shock to throw the economy off from its current upsloping course.



Reading "Decision Points"

Former president George W. Bush's book "Decision Points" has recently been published. While not exactly an exciting page-turner, the book does provide some insight into the White House for much of the last decade. There are several interesting things that "Decision Points" says.

Firstly, it is fairly obvious that "Decision Points" has been ghostwritten - that is, that most of the words are that of a ghostwriter rather Mr. Bush himself. Indeed, the autobiography sometimes reads quite like former President Bill Clinton's "My Life." Again and again, Mr. Bush is "reduced to tears" or "amazed" by Event X or Person Y. Such things also happen with striking regularity to Mr. Clinton in "My Life" (in contrast, President Barack Obama only cries once - when he first hears Reverend Jeremiah Wright make a sermon - in his non-ghostwritten "Dreams from my Father").

This sometimes makes for less interesting reading. For instance, Mr. Bush - or his ghostwriter - does his best to praise Vice President Dick Cheney as a great man and a service to his country. Given the rumors of conflict between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney in the later years of his term, one wonders whether Mr. Bush really thinks this in his heart.

Despite its ghostwritten status, however, one still finds some interesting insights. Mr. Bush ordered his team to begin planning the Iraq War mere months after 9/11, for instance - something that will not endear him any to liberal critics. Also fascinating is his account of Hurrican Katrina. Mr. Bush talks at some length about the bureaucratic obstacles that prevented the federal government from taking control. Apparently the White House feared that doing this - the image of a Republican president ordering troops into a majority-black city in a state with a history of racial oppression - would create political scandal. Suffice to say that such considerations were probably the farthest from anybody's mind at the time.

The book, interestingly enough, focuses strongly on foreign affairs. "Decision Points" spends most of its time talking about Mr. Bush's wars and the aftermath of 9/11; domestic affairs are almost an afterthought. Only when a domestic crisis - stem cells, Hurricane Katrina, the financial crisis - intrudes does Mr. Bush turn his gaze away from the War on Terror. In fact, apart from foreign affairs related to the War on Terror the book is quite sparse. Mr. Bush includes a few pages on Russia and a few on China (aside from America, the two most powerful nations in the world) - but one gets the feeling that he does so only because of how bad it would look if he did not do so.

One wonders how an Obama-written "Decision Points" would be like. It would probably have an inverted concentration on foreign and domestic affairs: domestic affairs would be first, with foreign affairs an afterthought. Mr. Obama would talk about the stimulus, health care, financial reform, the Bush tax cuts (indeed, Mr. Obama probably would devote more time to the Bush tax cuts than Mr. Bush himself), and the economic recession. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would be given space only out of necessity, in stark contrast to Mr. Bush's approach.

Finally, Mr. Bush spends quite a remarkable amount of space defending himself. Again and again the former president - or his ghostwriter - talks about how he regrets how Thing A turned out, or about how he spends a lot of time thinking about whether he could have done Thing B differently (the answer is usually "no.") At points the book reads like a litany of mistakes Mr. Bush made, with Mr. Bush attempting to defend his decisions at the time.

Some will say, of course, that Mr. Bush's presidency actually was a litany of mistakes. Indeed, the majority of Americans probably endorse this view. In many ways, the reason that Mr. Bush wrote "Decision Points" was to contest this view. While not very convincing in doing so, it does provide some insight into how Mr. Bush made the mistakes that he did.




The Strange Duality of Spanish in the American Imagination

It’s quite interesting to see how America perceives Spanish. There are two quite different ways that the Spanish language is viewed in the American imagination. Indeed, in many ways these two approaches are the exact opposite.

The first way is the one more associated with American politics. This is the nativist perspective, the one which led to the defeat of the DREAM Act today. This perspective insists that America is an English-speaking country and wishes “those people” would stop speaking Spanish. Spanish is the language of illegal invaders and ought not to be used. The official language of the United States is English, not Spanish. Signs should be in English only. People who don’t know - or don’t want to – speak English should not be in this country. Unsurprisingly the Spanish language is portrayed quite negatively here.

The existence of this portrayal of Spanish is not surprising. Any large influx of immigrants almost invariably meets backlash by the native inhabitants. Reaction against the language of said immigrants is normally part of this. The nativist perspective is merely one in a long line of many anti-immigrant backlashes in many countries throughout history.

The second approach to the Spanish language, however, is more surprising. Spanish is not the only language with this connotation; French, for instance, has it at well. This is the Casanova perspective, the one in which Spanish is viewed as a “sexy” language. It is the perspective of romantic literature, in which a dark-tanned, suave foreigner - whispering about “mi amor” -sweeps a willing women off her feet. Sometimes the man is from Spain; sometimes from Columbia; sometimes from Argentina; sometimes from Cuba. Whatever the case, Spanish is viewed as a beautiful, romantic language.

The contrast between these two perspectives could not be more striking. On the one hand Spanish is viewed as the language of invasion and illegal, border-jumping wetbacks; on the other it is viewed as the language of sexy, smooth-talking foreigners. The irony is that these two people are one and the same. The dark, handsome Columbian is also the dark, illegal Columbian.

How the latter trope came into existence is a bit of a mystery, at least to this poster. Most American women probably do not see Spanish-speaking immigrants as suave, sexy hunks. Yet somehow the perception of Spanish as a romantic language continues to coexist with the perception of Spanish as quite the opposite.



The Madness of Proposition 26

In November 2010, the California electorate approved Proposition 26, a little-known and little-followed proposal, in a close vote.

Proposition 26 was one of those propositions written to be intentionally confusing and difficult to understand. It requires a two-thirds majority to approve certain fees instead of a normal majority. Most people probably thought of these fees as something like sales taxes or property taxes. In fact, the fees generally constitute taxes on business activities which harm society, such as alcohol retailers or businesses that use hazardous waste. In other words, most people thought of Proposition 26 as involving tax cuts, when in reality it’s about environmental regulation.

Proposition 26 has also added several billion dollars to the state budget deficit, something that an informed voter could only know by digging deep into the legislative analysis (the relevant text is at the end of the third-to-last paragraph). It constitutes one of those complex matters which should have been decided by the legislature, not the ballot box.

There is one final problem with Proposition 26 and with the proposition system generally. 52.5% of Californians voted for Proposition 26, while 47.5% voted against. Proposition 26 requires a 67% supermajority to pass certain fees. In other words, a bare majority of voters – half of whom probably had no idea what they were even voting for – was able to require 67% legislative approval for a policy to be enacted.

This is not just bad policy, it is rather undemocratic. 52.5% of voters should not be able to create a 67% supermajority requirement. A 67% supermajority requirement ought to require 67% approval of voters, not 50.1% – which is the current system in California.

In the 2008 presidential election 52.9% of Americans voted for President Barack Obama. Say, for instance, that those 52.9% of Americans also amended the constitution to require 67% of Americans to vote against Obama for him to lose re-election. Everybody would call that an undemocratic violation of American principles. Yet that is effectively how California’s proposition system currently works.

Here is a proposed reform: the next proposition that creates a supermajority requirement will need supermajority approval as well. 50.1% of Californians should not be able to set a 67% bar for policies to pass. It is practically impossible to get two-thirds legislative support in any Western democracy. Changing the law to create such a barrier should be just as difficult as well.


A Good Decade for Africa

Africa is in the news these days, and not in a positive way. Events in Cote’ d Ivoire, where the incumbent president refuses to step down after losing a presidential election, once again add to the stereotype of Africa as a continent of failed states, dictatorships and coups, and economic backwardness.

Yet despite the news in Cote’ d Ivoire, Africa hasn’t been doing too shabby in the 21st century. The past decade constituted a comparatively good one for Africa.

Things were best economically. Africa grew faster than the West – for the first time in many decades – especially in light of the Great Recession. Much of this was due to the influence of China. It’s vast appetite for commodities boosted economies throughout the continent, as did its foreign investment in infrastructure. Many complain that China built roads for dictators without regard to human rights, but from an economic perspective a road in Sudan is the same as a road in Ghana.

Politically Africa did not do as well. Even today there are precious few true multiparty competitive democracies in the region. Ghana is one, as are Botswana and Senegal. Many countries in Africa nowadays hold elections, but very few are free or fair. The Cote’ d Ivoire election is more the norm than the exception.

Yet things are still better than before. Compare the 2000s with the 1990s. In the 90s there was the Rwandan genocide, war in Congo, Islamist-fueled civil war in Algeria and Somalia, blood diamond civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and other civil wars in Angola and Sudan. These events led to millions of deaths.

Most of these conflicts were ended – or damped down – by the early 2000s. Since then, few events have approached the bloodshed of the 90s. Even the Darfur genocide is far less violent than the civil war that preceded it.

All in all, the recent decade constituted one of the better decades in Africa’s recent history. One wonders what this new decade will bring.



Race and Modern-Day Political Advertising

In the world of campaign commercials, race seems to be invoked in an increasingly and worryingly explicit way.

Let's take a look at some old commercials and compare them to contemporary ones.

Here, for instance, is the famous "Willie Horton" commercial, which doomed Governor Mike Dukakis's campaign for president.

This commercial is often the first thing people think about when talking about "racist" political ads. The story goes that the "death penalty" constituted a code word for race-baiting, and that the use of Willie Horton - a black man - was intended to arouse racial fears of black violence.

Let's compare this old ad with a more modern one.

Here is a 2010 ad on undocumented immigrants.

This ad was shown by Republican Senator David Vitter in his 2010 re-election campaign. Mr. Vitter won an easy re-election, campaigning in a conservative state (Louisiana) in a conservative year.

With Mr. Bush's ad, one has to look pretty hard to see the supposed racism. Only two pictures of a black man are used, and each image is fairly race-neutral by itself.

Mr. Vitter's ad, on the other hand, is much more explicit. The ad shows endless hordes of brown people breaking through fences, while an announcer spits out "illegals" like a curse word. It's pretty clear that all the "illegals" are Latino, and that all the victims are white.

On the score of which ad is more racist, Mr. Vitter's ad - the more modern one - wins hands down.

This is true for other ads as well. Here is an ad on welfare by President Richard Nixon.

Mr. Nixon was accused of running an undercover "racist" campaign, using code words like "welfare" and "law-and-order" to appeal to racial resentments.

Yet out of all four ads, this one is probably the least racist by far. One has to really stretch to "find" racism in this ad (e.g. the construction worker is in the inner-city, which is full of minorities, and so the ad could theoretically be pointing out that inner-city minorities will benefit from welfare).

Now compare this to another contemporary ad.

This ad was run by Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln against her primary opponent, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. Ms. Lincoln went on to barely win the primary, only to lose by a landslide in the general election.

Once again, the more modern ad is much more obvious than Mr. Nixon's ad in the use of race. Indian foreigners speaking accented English thank Mr. Halter for outsourcing jobs, while "Indian" music plays and stereotypic images of India play in the background.

The political equivalent in 1972 would have been to show black people in the ghetto thanking Democrats for welfare in "ghetto" English.

In 1972 politicians did not dare do this. Yet in 2010 they are more than willing to show Indians and Latinos in quite racist ads.

All in all, Americans - or, more accurately, humans in general - like to think that things are always getting better. Technology is always improving, people are always living longer, and freedom and democracy are always on the rise.

This applies with race relations as well. The dominant narrative is that America's treatment of its minorities is in a continuous progression upwards, from the low beginnings of slavery to the first black president and onwards. America's minorities have never been treated as well as they are now, in this view.

Everything that is said above is mostly true - indeed the world is healthier, freer, and more technologically advanced than ever before. And America's minorities do have more opportunities than ever before.

Nevertheless, in at least one aspect of race relations, America portrays minorities worse than it did two generations ago.



Examining Turn-Out by Race in California

California constitutes one of the most diverse states in the United States. Here is how the Census estimates its population composition:

California’s Ethnic Composition :

Asian 12.7%

Black 6.6%

Hispanic 37.0%

Mixed 2.6%

Native American 1.2%

Pacific Islander 0.4%

White 41.7%

(Note that the numbers do not add up to 100, due to the way the Census tracks ethnicity.)

The people who actually vote in California, however, do not reflect this composition. California’s electorate in the 2008 presidential election is quite different from its actual ethnic composition:

2008 Electorate: Exit Polls

Asian 6%

Black 10%

Hispanic 18%

Other 3%

White 63%

These numbers were taken from exit polls – and one should be warned that exit polls are very, very inaccurate. The numbers above should not be taken for the truth, but rather as a rough approximation of it.

Nevertheless, one can take something out of the exit polls: blacks and whites punched far above their demographic weight, while Asians and Hispanics punched far below theirs. This pattern isn’t so much a racial one as much as an immigrant versus non-immigrant one.

Since blacks and whites are mainly non-immigrant communities, they vote more often than immigrant communities. Blacks and whites thus are overrepresented in the electorate. There was little racial divide between black and white turn-out, which is quite remarkable, given the lower socioeconomic status of blacks. All in all the percentage of California’s 2008 electorate was about 50% more black and white than California’s overall population.

Hispanics are the ones hurt most by this. The difference between the Hispanic portion of the electorate and the Hispanic portion of the overall population is quite striking: the electorate is just half as Hispanic as the population. Most of this is attributable to the legal status of many Hispanic immigrants, the relative youth of the Hispanic population, the lower socioeconomic status of Hispanics, and the immigrant-heavy nature Hispanic community (this is different from the first factor in that immigrants are inherently less likely to vote even if they are citizens).

It is not Hispanics, however, who are least likely to vote: it is Asians. There are several similarities and differences between the two groups. Unlike Hispanics, the Asian population is not skewed downwards, and Asians generally have a high socioeconomic status. On the other hand, Asians are much more of an immigrant community than Hispanics: a remarkable four out of five adult Asians in California constituted immigrants, according to a 2002 study. Only 59% of adult Asians were citizens (who can vote), according to the study.

The low voting rates of Hispanics and Asians naturally reduce their political power. Hispanics, at around one-fifth of the California electorate, are influential – but imagine how much more influential the Hispanic vote would be if they voted their numbers. As for Asians, their low turn-out makes their community almost a non-factor in California politics.

This will probably change, of course. A century ago one could have written the exact same words about another immigrant-heavy group that did not vote: Irish-Americans.




Solving a Mystery in Philadelphia Voting Patterns

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

A long time ago, I posted a series of posts analyzing the swing state Pennsylvania. One section of this series focused specifically on the city of Philadelphia. This section analyzed Philadelphia’s vote by precinct results and mapped out the results of several previous elections.

Of particular interest was the difference between the results of the 2008 presidential election and the 2008 Democratic primary, which illustrated a political divide not seen in presidential elections: between Democratic-leaning white Catholics in the northeast and Democratic-voting blacks in the west.

Here is Philadelphia in the 2008 Democratic primary. Take a note at the region the question mark points to, which this post will discuss:

Map of Philadelphia, 2008 Democratic Primary

(Note: Both images are taken from a website which maps historical Philadelphia election results.)

Here is Philadelphia in the 2008 presidential election:

Map of Philadelphia, 2008 Presidential Election

Most of the different voting patterns between these two elections is fairly easy to explain: blacks in west Philadelphia voted for  Barack Obama both times, while white Catholics in the northeast voted for strongly Hillary Clinton in the primary and then lukewarmly Barack Obama in the general election. There is generally a scaling relationship between the two groups: as an area gets more white and less black, its support for Mr. Obama decreases in both elections.

There was, however, a group of precincts in Philadelphia which did not follow this model. These precincts are marked by the question mark in both maps.

Rather, this group behaved quite strangely. It gave incredibly strong support to Ms. Clinton in the primary and then even stronger support to Mr. Obama in the general election. In the map of the 2008 primary, a number of these precincts cast more than 70% of their ballot to Ms. Clinton. All of them then vote for more than 90% Democratic in the general election.

This behavior was quite puzzling, and something that the model did not explain. Initially this author hypothesized that these voters were white liberals in gentrifying areas of Philadelphia and then eventually forgot about the mystery.

The answer, as it turns out, was not white liberals. Here it is:

Map of Philadelphia by Ethnicity

The mysterious precincts were Hispanic!

The above image was created using Daves Redistricting Application. Due to the tremendous efforts of David  Bradlee, one can map the ethnic composition of every state in incredibly detail.

This provides some interesting insight into the behavior of Hispanics in inner-cities. If what holds for Philadelphia also holds for other cities (which is not a 100% certainty), inner-city Hispanics strongly supported both Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama.

It is an insight provided by Daves Application which can be extended to many other areas and groups.



Don’t Overestimate Rahm Emanuel

In several months, the great city of Chicago will select its next mayor. Following the retirement of Mayor Richard Daley, the field is wide open.

Enter Rahm Emanuel. A powerful Democrat and President Barack Obama’s former chief-of-staff, Mr. Emanuel currently looks like the front-runner for the office. With many strong candidates declining to run and his potential opposition divided, things look good for Mr. Emanuel.

And yet one shouldn’t overestimate Mr. Emanuel’s chances as media-anointed front-runner. Mr. Emanuel has a number of hidden weaknesses that may combine to badly damage his campaign.

A strong attack, for instance, could be levied against Mr. Emanuel as a Washington insider who doesn’t care for the little man. This attack is all the more damaging because its first portion is completely true: it is hard to find a politician more immersed in Washington than Mr. Emanuel.

There are other variations on this theme. There is the geography version: Mr. Emanuel is a carpet-bagger who hasn’t lived in Chicago and doesn’t care about it. There is the populist version: the Washington elite may have already declared Mr. Emanuel the winner, but Chicago doesn’t have to listen to what the elite say. There is the class version: Mr. Emanuel is one of the rich elite who don’t understand the concerns of the working-class. There is the race version: Mr. Emanuel is one of the white elite who don’t understand the concerns of Chicago’s minorities.

None of this possibilities has yet been tried out, or turned into a coherent critique of Mr. Emanuel. It is too early in the game for that. But already there are signs that Mr. Emanuel has limited appeal amongst Chicago’s poor and its minorities (who compose a majority of the city’s population).

Mr. Emanuel does have a lot of things going for him, more than for any other single candidate. He has the support of most of Chicago’s machine, the business community, the politically influential North Side, and probably President Barack Obama (although most pundits probably overrate the importance of an Obama endorsement). Other candidates would probably love to be in his position.

On the other hand, Harold Washington had all this interests aligned against him when he campaigned for mayor. Yet Mr. Washington – the first and to date only black mayor of Chicago – still won consecutive elections on the back of minority support.

Chicago has a run-off system, in which if nobody gets more than 50% of the vote, then the first two winners go on to a second-round.  Most experts expect Mr. Emanuel to get in the somewhere in the 40s, if not an outright majority of the vote.

But it’s also quite conceivable that Mr. Emanuel polls in the low 30s come election day, if he fails to attract the working-class and minority votes that he needs to win in a place like Chicago.



The Great Realignment: The 1928 Presidential Election, Part 2

This is the second part of two posts analyzing in more detail the 1928 presidential election.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The Great Realignment

The previous post noted that:

In 1928, the Democratic Party nominated Governor Al Smith of New York. Mr. Smith was nominated as a Catholic Irish-American New Yorker who directly represented Democratic-voting white ethnics. Mr. Smith’s Catholicism, however, constituted an affront to Democratic-voting white Southerners, who at the time were the most important part of the party’s base.

The 1928 presidential election thus saw a mass movement of white Southerners away from the Democrats, corresponding with a mass movement of white ethnics towards the Democrats. This was the beginning of the great realignment of the South to the Republican Party and the Northeast to the Democratic Party.

This change can be illustrated with a map detailing the state-by-state shift from the 1924 presidential election to the 1928 presidential election:

Link to Map of Shift From 1924 to 1928 Presidential Election

There are a number of things that stand out with this map. The first, as has been previously noted, is the degree to which the shift replicates the current electoral map.

This is not all, however. Two other things are very, very out-of-whack here. To get a hint at what these are, it is useful to compare the 1924 to 1928 state-by-state voting shift to that of different elections.

One example is the change from 2004 to 2008.

In 2008 President Barack Obama improved by 9.7% from the performance of the previous Democratic candidate, Senator John Kerry. In 1928 Governor Al Smith improved by 7.8% from the performance of Democratic candidate John Davis. The shift from 1924 to 1928 is therefore roughly comparable to the shift from 2004 to 2008.

Here is a map of that shift:

Link to Map of Shift From 2004 to 2008 Presidential Election

Although both Democratic candidates improved by roughly the same percentage from the previous election, where and how they improved look completely different.

In 2008, Mr. Obama generally improved everywhere. In only five states does he do worse than Mr. Kerry. This is the famous Appalachian corridor with which Mr. Obama was so weak.

Moreover, the degree of movement is generally modest. Only two states – Hawaii and Indiana – have more than a 20-point shift from how they voted in 2004. No state shifts more than 40 points (although Hawaii certainly comes close, going from a 8.7% Democratic margin to a 45.3% Democratic margin).

These two patterns: uniform and moderate movement (i.e. when a candidate does better in the popular vote, said candidate does better in almost every state, and states generally do not have wild swings from how they voted from the previous election) are not just confined to 2008. Here is the shift from 2000 to 2004, when President George W. Bush improved by 2.9% from his performance four years earlier:

Link to Map of Shift From 2000 to 2004 Presidential Election

One again we see that the national shift right brought most of the states with them, and that only three states shifted more than 10% from 2000.

Let’s take another look at 1928 to finish:

Link to Map of Shift From 1924 to 1928 Presidential Election

Here neither pattern is present. In 1928, the country moved 7.8% more Democratic from 1924. Despite this, Democratic candidate Al Smith did worse in 23 out of 48 states. Three states – Florida, Georgia, and Texas – voted more than 40% more Republican than they did in the previous election. In Texas, Republicans went from 19.8% of the vote in 1924 to 51.8% of the vote in 1928. Fifteen states voted more than 10% more Republican than they did in 1924.

In comparison, in 2008 only one state – Arkansas – voted more than 10% more Republican than it did in 2004 (and it did so by the barest of margins: 10.1%). This was despite Mr. Obama’s improvement from 2004 being roughly equivalent to Mr. Smith’s improvement from 1924.

A lot of interest has gone into Mr. Obama’s weakness in Appalachia. But Mr. Smith’s Southern problem in 1928 (i.e. the fact that he was a Catholic) makes Mr. Obama’s Appalachian problem look puny.

If Mr. Smith improved by 7.8% from the performance of his Democratic predecessor with so much weakness in the South, the shift in the states that voted more Democratic must have been huge. And indeed, the New Yorker gained more than 20-point shifts in nine states. In Massachusetts, Democrats went from 24.9% of the vote in 1924 to 50.2% in 1928.

All in all, the 1928 presidential election was the scene of some enormous movement on a state-by-state basis. In 2008 only two states shifted more than 20 points from 2004, as Mr. Obama did 9.7% better than Mr. Kerry. In 1928, on the other hand, sixteen states shifted more than 20 points from 1928, as Mr. Smith did 7.8% better than the previous Democratic candidate.

This is what a realigning election looks like – extreme movement on from one state to the next, enormous differences by region, and a powerful correlation between which states shift Democratic and which states are voting Democratic almost a century later.





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