The Movie Lagaan and British Colonization

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

I recently had the pleasure of watching my first Bollywood movie, a title called Lagaan: Once upon a time in India. The movie’s plot was fairly conventional yet unconventional at the same time. India is straining under the rule of the evil British Empire. A rebellious young man with striking green eyes attempts to defy the British. How? By beating them in a cricket match! The local village quickly forms a cricket team, the British team is defeated, and the local village’s crushing tax burden is reduced for the next several years.

There were some fairly interesting things about this movie (with respect to politics). The movie, for all its dislike of the evil British Empire, still seemed to have some yearning that the British respect India. Perhaps the most obvious example of this occurred when the main British generals praised the skill of the Indian cricket team.

The movie also had a strong message about equality of castes, an issue that continues to plague India. The main character adds an untouchable onto his team for the untouchable’s skill at throwing the ball, despite the very strong resistance of the rest of the team. Unfortunately, the untouchable (Kachra) didn’t seem to play that well. Somehow, despite his skill at throwing the ball the British were able to always hit it; also at the end of the movie, he apparently failed to hit the ball when a lot was riding on his ability to do so. (A note of caution: apparently Wikipedia says that he was more of a service to the team than my recollection of the movie).

In any case, it seemed that despite the movie’s vocal advocacy of equality of castes, the person of lowest caste was still treated somewhat poorly. This is especially true given that an upper-caste person advocates for Kachra; why didn’t the untouchable advocate for himself? Or why wasn’t Kachra a main character rather than a mere side character? One guesses that having an untouchable as a protagonist in a Bollywood movie would be like having an Asian as a protagonist in a Hollywood movie; unheard of!

It was also interesting to see the United Kingdom portrayed as the bad guys. Most Americans are used to seeing the British as those tea-drinking people with funny accents. A lot of the scenes in which the British generals abuse the Indian farmers in Lagaan are not meant to be humorous. But for me, at least, (with the influence of American culture) it was sometimes hard to fully square the fact that British people with their funny accents could be evil. I say this with lightheartedness, but it does reflect the strength of American perceptions of the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, there was one fact that did bother me: seeing the British flag fly over places where it definitely should not have been flying. To see a battalion of soldiers march into an Indian village, proudly flying the British flag, was quite disconcerting. So was seeing a British general with no knowledge of India talk proudly of India being Britain’s. What in the world was Great Britain doing there? How did what was happening in India have anything to do with Great Britain? To have the British flag over so many places where it had no business being seemed quite unnatural. It brought home the fact that Great Britain should not have ruled over so many peoples that it had no connection to nor empathy with.

 

 

Watching Gaddafi’s Madness

 

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

It’s said that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi presents an excellent example of this tendency. One could illustrate this fact through the usual means: by talking about how Gaddafi started out not half-bad and ended up a maniac. How he initially ensured the oil wealth of Libya went to the people of Libya, and how he ended up being overthrown by those same people.

But a picture is worth a thousand words.

This is young Gaddafi, back when he just took over control of Libya.

The man here is very different from the image of Gaddafi that the world is used to seeing. Gaddafi actually looks quite compelling here. He is charismatic and undeniably handsome, probably more handsome than a good majority of human males. This was before Gaddafi had been in power for a while.

Compare this to the Gaddafi we all knew and loved.

Not so handsome anymore.

One can see the effect of decades of absolute power just by looking at Gaddafi’s face. There is a peculiar effect that holding power has on the way people look (one can see it on the faces of many American politicians).  Gaddafi has the look of a man unused to being disobeyed or questioned. There is an air of manic about his eyes. It’s the look of a man who has held absolute, unquestioned power for too long.

One hopes that the next leader of Libya will not have that look.

 

 

Gaddafi’s Fateful Speech

 

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

In February of 2011, Libya was convulsing with revolution against autocrat Muammar Gaddafi. Many Westerners were certain that Gaddafi would fall within days.

He did not. Rather, with the help of African mercenaries and loyalists, Gaddafi retook control of the streets of Tripoli. Rebel offensives in the east petered out, and Gaddafi’s armed forces began advancing towards the rebel capital Benghazi. Then the West intervened, and the rest is history.

It did have not to be this way, in fact. One main – and frequently underestimated – thing that caused Western intervention was Gaddafi’s rhetoric.

Specifically, on February 22 Gaddafi gave a speech to the Libyan people addressing the unrest in his country. This speech included such gems as:

Get out of your homes, to the streets, secure the streets, take the rats, the greasy rats out of the streets…

Now, Gaddafi had frequently given such speeches in the past; this was nothing new to those familiar with him. Libyans used to Gaddafi’s eccentricities were probably not that surprised by the rhetoric. Indeed, most people familiar with Gaddafi generally had tended to ignore his speeches.

Except on February 22nd things were different. This time the whole world was watching Gaddafi. On February 22nd, even the American cable networks (notoriously uninterested in world affairs) interrupted regular programming to hear him speak.

Most people probably expected Gaddafi to offer some concessions. Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak, for instance, dismissed his cabinet during one such speech and promised to address the lack of jobs available for Egypt’s youth. People probably expected Gaddafi to sound like a reasonable person, like Mubarak.

Instead, they heard this:

So tonight, the youth, all the youths, not those rats who’ve taken the pills, all the youths tomorrow form security committees from tonight, they put green with red writing secure the cities, to bring back security to the cities.

When the Western elite heard Gaddafi say things like this (probably the first time many of them heard him speak at all), they were utterly shocked. Eventually they concluded two things. First, Gaddafi was a madman. Second, there would be a massacre if he ever took back the rebelling eastern regions.

Newspapers wrote articles with titles such as “Gaddafi: ‘I will not give up’, ‘we will chase the cockroaches’ .” They published his most inflammatory rhetoric; one Times article quoted him:

“We are coming tonight,” Colonel Qaddafi said. “You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets.”

There are hints of the effect the rhetoric had on Western officials. For instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Gaddafi:

a ruthless dictator that has no conscience and will destroy anyone or anything in his way…That is just his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.

This is quite undiplomatic language, and it probably reveals a lot about what Clinton actually thought about Gaddafi. Later on she became a very influential advocate for American intervention to stop Gaddafi (indeed, it may have been Clinton that convinced Obama to intervene). It’s probable that Clinton watched Gaddafi speak on February 22nd, and that her impression of Gaddafi – as a “creature” – was formed in part by hearing his rhetoric.

In this sense Gaddafi made a great strategic mistake when he spoke on February 22nd. For decades Gaddafi had spoke in a similar mad style, and for decades he’d gotten away with it. When he spoke on February 22nd, he was probably addressing a domestic audience and trying to frighten the opposition. But not just the opposition was listening; so was the world.

 

 

Impressions of Elizabeth Warren

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

In 2012, Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts will face a challenge from Massachusetts resident and Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Warren is somebody who has sparked liberal passion unseen since Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. However, people who arouse liberal passions do not always translate well to the wider electorate.

Out of curiosity, I decided to watch a few videos Elizabeth Warren and see for myself how good a politician she is.

The first thing that one notices is how overwhelmingly passionate Warren is about regulating the financial industry. Passion like that cannot be faked. Unlike people such as Mitt Romney, it’s very clear that Warren truly and deeply believes in what she says. You see it in the emotion with which Warren talks about Wall Street. This is not actually that surprising. After all, Warren wants to be a senator not as an end to advance her political career, but as a means to fight Wall Street. Fortunately for Warren, most Americans share her passion.

The main problem with this is that Warren sometimes appears quite angry in the videos, especially those before her campaign began. Anger is something that Americans do not like politicians to show, especially those who happen to be female. This might turn-off a few voters. Warren herself, on the other hand, is probably aware of this potential problem.

Another thing of note is that Warren lacks the feel that comes with most politicians. There’s something very much politician-unlike that comes when she talks. It’s pretty clear that she’s not been a politician all her life. This was actually pretty refreshing for me, and it’s an advantage Warren will have. Ironically, the fact that Warren doesn’t sound like a  politician actually makes her a better politician.

In addition, Warren’s had to work for what she has. Unlike people such as George W. Bush or Mitt Romney, Warren was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. For me, at least, that’s a plus.

Finally, Warren has a way of skillfully articulating a point. In her most famous video Warren talks about how the roads a government builds and the safety it provides are necessary for a factory-owner to succeed. This is a point that liberals often make, but Warren puts it in a really understandable way. I’ve don’t think I’ve ever seen a liberal make this argument with the clarity that Warren does in the video.

All in all, Warren does seem to have some pretty decent political skills. At the very least, she’ll give Republican Scott Brown a much more powerful challenge than any of the other Democratic politicians-for-life in Massachusetts.

 

 

Brazil and America

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

One of the more fascinating television features produced is the PBS series “Black in Latin America.” This series, produced by Professor Robert Gates, explores (perhaps unsurprisingly) the experience of people of African descent in America.

An especially interesting episode is titled Brazil: A Racial Paradise? Professor Gates explores the experience of “blacks” in Brazil, a country with second-largest population of African descent in the world (including Africa).

Now, before viewing this series I’d been very aware that Brazil is not in fact a racial paradise. There is a very clean correlation between the color of one’s skin and one’s economic status. The rich and the elite of Brazil are all white; the poor and working class of Brazil are all black.

Unsurprisingly, Gates finds something very similar in Brazil. He states that:

When I landed in Brazil, I first went to Bahia. And I thought this Brazil is the land of the brown people. But when I go to hotels, restaurants, look at magazines, there’s no black people. [laughter] Me, I’m the only black person when I go to the hotels I look like.

You, because of your social standing, because of the places you are able to visit in Bahia, there will be many places where you will be the only black man, and you could still be badly treated.

Gates visits a Brazilian favelas – The City of God. There, talking with a resident of the favela, the following conversation occurs:

When you look around the wealthier parts of Rio, you can’t help but wonder if anything really has changed. Very few black faces here…

You feel the presence of Afro-Brazilians most in the poorest neighborhoods of Rio…

Up to the point that Gates said this, I had been feeling somewhat superior. The United States certainly has racism, but it isn’t as bad as Brazil. There is, for instance, a strong black presence in America’s political system – something which Brazil lacks.

But these words provided something of an epiphany. We have this in America too! When you look at the wealthier parts of the United States, you see very few black and Hispanic faces. You feel the presence of African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans most in the poorest neighborhoods of America.

The vast majority of heavily black and Hispanic communities in America are poor. In fact, you can count on one hand the number of zip codes which are middle-class and heavily black. Middle-class whites actually feel scared when they go to a place in which the majority of people are black or Hispanic.

Something really terrible must have happened in a country in which this is true. Something is fundamentally crooked in a country like that.

 

 

The Winds of Change in Georgia, Part 2

This is the second part of two posts describing a fascinating election in Georgia: the 1980 Senate election, in which Republican Mack Mattingly beat scandal-ridden Democrat Herman Talmadge. This was the first time that a Republican Senator was elected in Georgia for more than a century. Even more interestingly, the areas that the Democratic candidate won tend to vote strongly Republican today, and vice versa.

(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 Black Vote in 1980

The previous post ended by bringing up the role of the black vote:

In 1980 Republican candidate Mack Mattingly won areas with substantial black populations, most notably the heavily-black city of Atlanta itself. Surely Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge’s dedicated support to segregation wouldn’t have appealed to the black vote.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

Well, let's take a look at the 1980 Georgia Senate election.

This map puts the election in more detail than the maps in the previous post. It’s pretty difficult to determine how any group voted knowing only whether a party won or lost a county, but not by how much they lost the county. This map is more useful.

Here we see a Georgia in which Republican strength in the cities just barely overwhelms Democratic rural strength. Again, this runs strongly against the usual pattern today, in which Democratic urban strength is pitted against Republican rural strength. (For instances of the latter, see these elections in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia).

Now let's take a look at the black population of Georgia:

Source: The Social Explorer

This is a map of the black population in each county of Georgia, according to the 1980 Census. It’s taken from The Social Explorer.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a link. The rural black areas vote strongly Democratic, and so do the rural white areas. Urban black Atlanta votes strongly Republican, and so do the urban non-black parts of Atlanta.

This is actually somewhat disappointing; I expected a stronger correlation before making these maps.

The Black Vote in 2008

Here, for instance, is a map in which the black vote certainly does have a relationship with how well one party does.

This was the 2008 presidential election. Note how the map is almost the opposite of the 1980 Senate election.

Even though the 1980 Census data is more than a generation out-of-date, there’s still a very strong link between how black a county was in 1980 and the percent of the vote the Democratic candidate won in 2008. The discrepancies can largely be explained by demographic changes (for instance, Clayton County – the county directly below the dot indicating Atlanta – voted strongly for Obama not because white people there really really liked him, but because it has become 65% black today).

Conclusions

There are several possibilities why we don’t see any such correlation in the 1980 Senate election. Perhaps black turn-out was still very far below white turn-out in 1980 (only 15 years after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act). If this is true, then the black vote would have been overwhelmed by higher turn-out amongst whites.

It’s also possible that running a regression analysis could provide more insight into the black vote. The results, however, would probably differ greatly one whether one adjusts for the amount of people living in each county. And they might not be statistically significant.

All in all, it is possible to tell how blacks voted in 1980; one just needs more detailed data. You need to look at precinct data (data detailed enough to show how groups of several hundred people voted) and then look at how the precincts with the highest black percentages voted. This, unfortunately, is data that is extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to gather.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

Until we have more information, the answer is: we don’t know.

--inoljt

 

 

The Winds of Change in Georgia, Part 1

This is the first part of two posts describing a fascinating election in Georgia. The second part can be found here.

Georgia is a red state. It votes reliably Republican; the Republican Party controls every level of Georgia’s state government. It would be miraculous for Barack Obama to win the state in 2012.

However, Georgia used to be a very blue state. It belonged to the Solid South, a Democratic stronghold for generations. As early as 1948, however, the first signs of change came. Backlash against the Civil Rights movement and the growth of Republican suburbia eventually destroyed the Democratic Party in Georgia.

(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 1980 Georgia Senate Election

I have come across a very interesting election which illustrates this shift. To the best of my knowledge there is not any election similar to what happened in the 1980 Georgia Senate election:

This election posed incumbent Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge against Republican challenger Mack Mattingly.

At this time Georgia was definitely beginning to shift Republican, like its fellow southern states. At the same time, however, Democrats continued to hold great strength in the rural areas. Local Democrats consistently outperformed their presidential candidates (indeed, it would take until the late 1990s for Republicans to begin consistently winning statewide elections).

Democratic Senator Talmadge is a very interesting figure. He was one of the last of the old-style Southern Democrats. This meant that he was an economic liberal, dedicated to improving the lot of the white rural Georgian farmer through government programs. It also meant that he was strongly conservative in most other things, including race. Like all old-style Southern Democrats, Senator Talmadge was a strong proponent of segregation.

Talmadge would probably have won in normal circumstances (Georgia was still pretty Democratic at a local level in 1980). However, he had the misfortune to be caught up in a finance scandal.  This, along with a tough primary challenge and Georgia’s slowly reddening trend, led to his historic loss. Republican Mack Mattingly thus became the second Republican Senator in Georgia, ever. The previous Republican Senator had held office more than a century before Mattingly.

Let's compare Mattingly's coalition with Senator John McCain's coalition in the 2008 presidential election.

Republicans in 2008

McCain won Georgia, unsurprisingly. His coalition is a very typical Republican coalition today; he won and lost the same areas that Republicans usually win and lose today.

Notice the vast difference between McCain’s coalition of 2008 and Mattingly’s coalition of 1980. Republicans nowadays in Georgia generally win based on a coalition of rural whites and suburban whites living north of Atlanta. The city of Atlanta itself, heavily minority, is a Democratic stronghold. But suburban Republican strength north of Atlanta severely diminishes Democratic margins coming out of the city. In good elections, Republicans can even win the metropolitan area entirely. In closer elections, such as 2008, they can rely on the ever-more Republican rural white vote to do the rest of the job.

It should be noted that suburban Atlanta is well on its way to becoming minority-majority. Nevertheless, Republicans are at the moment still able to get good margins out of it.

Republicans in 1980

In 1980, the Republican coalition was almost the exact opposite of this. Republican Senator Mattingly’s greatest strength came out of the Atlanta metropolis. He actually won the heavily-minority counties in Atlanta itself, something unheard of for any Republican today. On the other hand, Mattingly performed extremely poorly with rural whites, who strongly preferred his Democratic opponent. Today it would be unheard of for any Republican to do as poorly as Mattingly did in rural Georgia.

Another fascinating difference: compare how the cities voted in the two elections. In 2008 Barack Obama won every single county home to a city listed in the map above. In 1980, Democrat Herman Talmadge lost all of these places except for Macon. It wasn’t just Atlanta that voted Republican in that election; so did all the smaller cities outside of it. Today all of these places vote Democratic.

There are two constants between these two elections. In both 1980 and 2008, Republicans were able to win Atlanta’s northern suburbs and rural northern Georgia. In 1980 Republicans did better in the suburbs; in 2008 they did better in rural northern Georgia. Both times these two areas proved key for the Republican victory.

The Black Vote

There is one final concern which has not been touched upon: the role of Georgia’s black population in all this. African-Americans compose almost one-third of Georgia’s population, and their presence was a key influence (or perhaps “the” key influence) in Georgia’s Republican shift.

In 1980 Republican candidate Mack Mattingly won areas with substantial black populations, most notably the heavily-black city of Atlanta itself. Surely Democratic Senator Herman Talmadge’s dedicated support to segregation wouldn’t have appealed to the black vote.

So did Republicans win the black vote in this 1980 election?

This is in fact the reason that I decided to write this analysis in the first place, and the next post will examine this question.

--inoljt

 

 

Watching Herman Cain

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

Presidential candidate Herman Cain has enlivened the Republican field. Known for running a pizza company and his catchy 9-9-9 tax plan, Cain has caught much attention. He briefly held a polling lead, only to see some support lost amidst accusations of sexual harassment.

Herman Cain is widely referred to as one of the better and more polished candidates in front of the camera; when Cain does an interview, he comes out as supposedly more likeable.

Several weeks ago, I had my first opportunity to watch Cain actually speak (on the television, of course). It wasn’t a very special speech, merely another normal interview. This one was on the Hannity Show.

Indeed, Cain did seem well-spoken in the interview. The media often refers to him as folksy but lacking seriousness; to me, however, he seemed very serious (a lot more serious and less prone to joking than I’d previously anticipated given his media image). Nothing, in fact, differentiated him from any other serious Republican candidate. He didn’t make a joke.

The media also states that Cain is very prone to talking about his 9-9-9 tax plan; every time Cain answers a question, he supposedly is able to magically switch the topic to 9-9-9. However, I didn’t hear Cain mention 9-9-9 once in the interview.

Finally, the media states that Cain has a talent for dodging questions, or rather a skill in transforming a ridiculous assertion into a perfectly reasonable-sounding point. I got to see Cain do this in action when Hannity questioned him about why he was visiting Tennessee rather than another more important early primary state. The implication was that Cain wasn’t really campaigning seriously for president. In response, Cain went on a very convincing deflection about the importance of southern states in the early primaries. I would have been perfectly convinced myself if I had known less about the primary process.

All-in-all, watching Cain was a very interesting experience. Seeing him talk on television for the first time was a lot different from the expectation of what he’d be like that I’d  created from the media.

 

 

The Problem With the “Occupy” Movement

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

The Occupy Wall Street movement, a group of events protesting rising income inequality and arguing in favor of the “99%,” has recently started shaking American politics. It has become the subject of many conversations, including at my college.

In the two particular conversations that I recall, the tone was somewhat critical of Occupy Wall Street. One person stated that it seemed that the movement didn’t really have a set goal, and just seemed to be protesting for the sake of protesting. Another group of students was also skeptical of the movement; my memory is somewhat hazy on this matter, but they seemed to criticize the protesters as not really representing the working-class.

These anecdotal critiques may seem of little significance to most people, but they actually point to a very big problem with the Occupy movement. These people who were critiquing the Occupy movement were not conservatives by any stretch; they hold very liberal views. By all rights, the individuals I talked with ought to have been strong supporters of Occupy Wall Street; in fact, they should have formed the core of support for the movement. College students are some of the most liberal people in America; the typical college student is one of the most likely demographics in the country to support a protest on social inequality.

The problem with Occupy Wall Street is not really the goal of the protests but rather its tone. It just seems too hippie for most of America. I cringe when I read the “About Us” section of its unofficial website, which uses words like ”people’s assembly.” There is a very negative connotation that most of America holds when it hears a phrase like that.

This is very sad, because most Americans would agree with the aims of Occupy Wall Street. It’s just that the tactics of the movement will eventually alienate the typical swing voter.

If Occupy Wall Street can’t even win students at my college, how is it going to win Middle America?

 

 

Analyzing the 2010 Utah Senate and Gubernatorial Elections

This is a part of a series of posts analyzing the 2010 midterm elections. This post will analyze some interesting tidbits of the 2010 Utah Senate and Gubernatorial elections. Specifically it will look at some hints of increasing Democratic strength in this blood-red state.

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

Salt Lake County, 2004

Utah is commonly considered as one of the most conservative states in America, and for good reason; Democrats are essentially nonexistent in the state. Some Southern states will occasionally vote (or used to occasionally vote) for a conservative Democrat. Not Utah; its Republicans are rock-hard Republicans.

Here is how Utah looked like in the 2004 presidential election:

President George W. Bush dominated the state; he got almost three times as many votes as Senator John Kerry did. Bush did quite well in the mountainous west of the United States; normally Utah is still very Republican, but not quite this much.

Take a look at Salt Lake County, the most populous part of the state. Almost four in ten voters in 2004 lived in Salt Lake County.

Bush got a pretty powerful number of votes from the area, taking 59.4% of the vote. The margin wasn’t quite as good as elsewhere in the state (where he won more than 71.4% of the vote); the rest of Utah was much more conservative than Salt Lake County in 2004. Nevertheless, Bush had no reason to complain; getting three-fifths of the vote in a major metropolitan area is something Republicans rarely do.

Salt Lake County, 2008

In 2008 Senator Barack Obama did much better than Senator John Kerry in 2004. Naturally he also did better in Utah. Indeed, Utah moved quite a bit more to the left in 2008 than the rest of the nation.

Nevertheless, Republican Senator John McCain still won a very comfortable victory in this very conservative state:

Nevertheless, Republican Senator John McCain still won a very comfortable victory in this very conservative state:

The most noticeable difference here is what happened to Salt Lake County; the county turned from a Republican fortress into Obama territory. Republicans fell from 59.4% of the vote to 48.1% of the vote. Salt Lake County’s enormous shift Democratic accounted for much of Obama’s improvement in Utah.

Salt Lake County, 2010

It’s the 2010 midterm elections where things get really interesting. 2010 was the best Republican year in a generation; Republicans won up and down the map. Democratic areas turned Republican; Republican areas turned blood-red.

In a situation such as this, one would expect Salt Lake County to revert back to its strongly Republican voting patterns in 2004 (or vote even more Republican, given that 2010 was a more Republican year than 2004).

In fact, this is very much what didn’t happen. Let’s take a look at the two most important statewide Utah elections in 2010.

Here is the 2010 Utah gubernatorial election:

Republican candidate Gary Herbert took a bare majority – 51.0% of the vote – of Salt Lake County.

Republicans did even worse in the statewide senate election:

Republican candidate Mike Lee got 49.0% of the vote in the county; he failed to win a majority of voters.

All in all, it seems that things are moving the Democrat’s way in the most populous county of Utah.

There is also something else very interesting about Utah: the state moved very little to the right in 2010, despite the huge Republican wave. Republican candidates didn’t win more than 70% of the vote in 2010, unlike Bush in 2004. Their performance was very similar to that of McCain’s. The Senate race is particularly remarkable; Senator Mike Lee only improved 0.8% upon McCain’s performance, despite a double-digit shift in the national vote towards the Republican Party.

Conclusions

It’s always hard-to-say that a particular area is trending one way or another. Salt Lake County moved strongly leftwards in 2008, and resisted the 2010 Republican wave. One the other hand, Republicans have lost Salt Lake County in the past (although very rarely while winning more than 60% of the vote). One could argue that this phenomenon is not anything really new, although I am less than convinced.

The evidence is less strong that Utah as a whole is shifting Democratic. While the state as a whole also resisted the 2010 Republican wave, one could argue that Bush overperformed. Republicans have often in the past won Utah with around 60-65% of the vote; on the other hand, they have relatively rarely taken more than 70% of the vote in the state. The evidence is more mixed that Utah as a whole is trending Democratic, compared to the evidence that Salt Lake County is trending Democratic.

What does this all mean?

Probably very little. Even if Democrats regularly won Salt Lake County by double-digits, Utah would still be a solidly Republican state. Democrats would still lose statewide elections. They might regularly be guaranteed a Democratic congressman from Utah coming from Salt Lake City, but on the other hand Republicans could still fairly easily gerrymander the state so that they controlled all the seats. And Democrats already improbably hold a seat in Utah, so in real life they would actually gain no seats in Utah.

All in all, a Utah in which Republicans went from winning by 30 points to winning by 15 points would still be pretty impossible for Democrats do win.

But it does say something about the state of American politics when Republicans are having trouble winning an urban city in the most conservative part of America.

--inoljt

 

 

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