What Conventional Wisdom Doesn't Tell You

Several days after the 2008 presidential election, the New York Times produced a famous map of voting shifts since 2004.  Most politics buffs have seen this map; according to it, Appalachia “voted more Republican, while the rest of the nation shifted more Democratic.”

There is something else occurring here, however, which the map hides – and which almost nobody has perceived. This trend goes strongly, strongly against conventional wisdom.

To unearth this trend, let’s move back one election – to former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 tie with former President George W. Bush. Here are the states he performed best relative to President Barack Obama. In all these, Mr. Gore did at least five percent better than Mr. Obama.

By and large, these states are what one would expect. All are located in the midst of Appalachia or the Deep South, regions rapidly trending Republican. All were fairly unenthused by Obama’s themes sounding change and hope.

Here are the remaining states in which Gore improved upon Obama:

This result is something quite different. Arizona – Senator John McCain’s home state – is not surprising, nor is Appalachian Kentucky.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, on the other hand – these constitute core Democratic strongholds. The vast majority of pundits would characterize them as becoming more Democratic, if anything at all. Indeed, there has been much ballyhoo about the Northeast’s Democratic shift – how Republicanism is dead in the region, how every single New England congressman is a Democrat, how Obama lost only a single county in New England.

That Al Gore performed more strongly than Barack Obama in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey runs strongly against this hypothesis. Remember, too, that Obama won the popular vote by 7.3% while Gore did so by only 0.5%. If the two had ran evenly, this trend would have been far more pronounced. The state in which Obama improved least upon Gore, for instance, was not Alaska or Mississippi – but New York, where Gore did only 1.88% worse than Obama. The map below indicates this:

Much of the movement derives from the Republican candidates in 2000 and 2008. George Bush was a terrible fit for northeastern voters, with his lack of intellectual depth and cowboy persona. John McCain, on the other hand, was a man many northeasterners admired – he had a strong brand of independence and moderation, which the campaign tarnished but did not destroy. McCain was a person New England Republicans could feel comfortable voting for – and they did. (Fortunately for Democrats, there are not too many Republicans left in the Northeast.)

All in all, the Northeast’s relative movement right constitutes a very surprising trend. Few people would anticipate that Al Gore did better than Barack Obama in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. It defies conventional wisdom and the common red-blue state dynamic, which holds that the northeast is permanently Democratic. Finally, given increasing political polarization, this relative trend the other way probably is a good thing for the country.

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



Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Conclusions

This is the last part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Pennsylvania. The previous parts can be found here.


For many decades, Pennsylvania constituted model of Democratic strength based upon working-class votes. Today that is changing, especially in the southwest. For the moment, nevertheless, the swing state Pennsylvania remains Democratic-leaning. This is more because of an unusually strong Democratic machine than any natural liberalism in Pennsylvania.

In 2008 Democrats won Pennsylvania by double-digits, amassing a coalition based upon poor blacks in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, rich whites in the Philadelphia suburbs, and working-class votes outside Appalachia. It is a strange-looking combination, but it works.

Republicans built their strength upon small towns and exurban communities in “the T,” along with working-class votes in the southwest.

For decades, Republicans have been strengthening in western Pennsylvania, while weakening in eastern Pennsylvania. This map indicates these changes.

Although it doesn’t look like it, the 2008 Democratic candidate (who won by 10.32%) actually did better than the 1992 candidate (who won by 9.02%).

From all this, the best news for Democrats would be the blue shift Philadelphia’s suburbs have undergone. Republicans will take heart in the Appalachan southwest’s even stronger movement right.

I have previously opined that these changes benefit Democrats on the whole. Indeed, this whole series of posts has inclined toward a theory of continuing Democratic strength in Pennsylvania. I will conclude this chain of posts, therefore, with a map Republicans will like – the 2008 Pennsylvania results by municipality. This illustrates how President George W. Bush almost won Pennsylvania in 2004.

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


The Importance (Or Lack Thereof) of State of the Union Addresses

President Barack Obama gave a solid speech two nights ago, carefully explaining his policies and proposing new plans for helping the middle class.

The trouble is that nobody will remember it in a month.

Presidential speeches come in two types: those few that are enduring, and those many that do little more than fill a news cycle. The enduring ones have several things in common: they are generally made in a time of crisis, and they outline themes that constitute a hallmark of the presidency. For instance, in March 1947 President Harry Truman summarized the strategy of containment against the Soviet Union, which would guide U.S. policy for decades to come.

State of the Union addresses almost never fit either condition. One exception was in 2002, when President George W. Bush coined the term “Axis of Evil” – which for better or worse came to symbolize his administration’s policies. But other than that lone exception, not a single address (out of the hundreds given) has made any impression upon history.

Mr. Obama’s speech was not particularly memorable, either. It was not meant to be. The speech focused primarily on domestic issues like jobs and education; stuff like this a great speech does not make. There are probably at least five speeches the president has made which overshadow this one (funny how most of them were written by Obama himself). Indeed, I doubt that half the people at my college even knew that there was the State of the Union address yesterday.

Like last year’s address, this year’s will probably be quickly overshadowed by other news. Its likely that even the most politically passionate can’t recall a word of the 2009 quasi-State of the Union. And as for the 2008 address – most people probably don’t even remember Mr. Bush making it.

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

Analyzing Swing States: Pennsylvania, Part 5

This is the fifth part of an analysis of the swing state Pennsylvania. It focuses on the traditionally Republican region between the Democratic strongholds in the southeast and southwest. The last part can be found here.


Outside the Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia metropolis, Pennsylvania is a very different place. Political analysts often label this area "the T," while others call it Pennsyltucky.

Popular culture mythologizes Pennsyltucky as red-neck capital - a rural region dominated by NASCAR-loving red-necks. Politically, James Carville compared Pennsyltucky to Alabama without the blacks.

In fact, this stereotype is inaccurate on two accounts.

More below.

There's more...

Anti-Americanism in Pakistan

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

The New York Times recently posted a disturbing video on Pakistan. The report addresses the topic of anti-Americanism in the country, specifically with regards to its westernized, well-educated musicians:

While Pakistani journalists, playwrights and even moderate Islamic clerics have boldly condemned the Taliban, the nation’s pop music stars have yet to sing out against the group, which continues to claim responsibility for daily bombings.

This summary doesn’t do justice to the report. One really needs to watch the video – to hear the musicians themselves speak – to get a sense of their anti-Americanism.

This anti-American sentiment is deeply, deeply imbued. These musicians are simply angry at the United States; their voices, their faces reflect profound outrage. They hate the United States for a litany of offenses familiar to most in the Muslim world: Guantanamo Bay, Abu Gharib, the Iraq War, the drone attacks today.

More below.

There's more...

Electoral Polarization

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

In my previous post, I noted that almost all the counties President Barack Obama won have become more Democratic since 1992, while almost all the counties Senator John McCain won have become more Republican since 1992.

In fact, comparing maps of the 2008 presidential election and the county changes from 1992 indicates a striking correlation.

Here is the 2008 presidential election:

Here are the changes from the 1992 presidential election:

More below.

There's more...

What to Look For in the Massachusetts Special Election

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

Results are soon pending in the special election to replace Senator Ted Kennedy. Once a guaranteed Democratic victory, the race has become surprisingly competitive due to a bad national environment and a lackluster campaign run by Democrat Martha Coakley. In fact, several polls have put Republican Scott Brown in the lead, striking panic amongst the Democratic establishment.

Interpreting incomplete results can be difficult if one is not familiar with how different areas in a state vote. Senator John McCain, for instance, led the vote in Virginia during much of election night; this was because deep-red rural Virginia reported first. After Democratic strongholds in Northern Virginia began posting, Barack Obama quickly pulled away (he ultimately won by 6.30%). Because Massachusetts is rarely competitive outside of gubernatorial elections, geographic unfamiliarity probably extends to even most politically active folk.

I have therefore created a map indicating what a tied election would probably look like: More below.

There's more...

How Do I Post Images on Diaries?

I've been a very regular poster at mydd.com, and my diaries are very heavy on images and maps.

The problem is that ever since the update I've been unable to post this images; I've had to use links, which strongly dilutes the effect of the images. I've tried a lot of things: the normal route to insert images doesn't work, the copy-paste method doesn't work, the html method doesn't work whether it's via wordpress html or photobucket html, and the edit post + then add image method doesn't work. It's become quite frustrating, which is why I'm putting out this plea for help.

Sorry if this is the wrong place for asking these types of questions, but I don't know what else to do. Otherwise it appears I'll just have to post links, which I strongly would prefer not to.


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

What Is This Map?

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

This map is not what you think it is. Take a moment to guess what it represents.

The answer below the fold.

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Barry Goldwater, the Daisy Ad, and Nuclear War

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


Many Americans have heard of the Daisy Ad.

Most politics buffs probably watched this ad at one time or another. And after it was over, they may have wondered – how in the world was the daisy ad so effective?

By modern standards, it seems both outdated and completely transparent. The implication is most unsubtle: voting for Senator Barry Goldwater will bring nuclear war. Today’s viewer might find it somewhat ridiculous, even laughable. It would be as if Senator Barack Obama cut an ad implying that Senator John McCain would start World War Three.

Yet the Daisy Ad worked. Mr. Goldwater went on to lose the election by a landslide, partly as a result of said ad. This was because in 1964, believe it or not, many Americans actually worried that Mr. Goldwater might use nuclear weapons.

More below.

There's more...


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