Monday, October 29, 2012

The Confederacy Gambit: senseless geography on the Left

On ABC News' This Week, a roundtable discussion on race and the Election featured a short "debate" between Andrew Sullivan and George Will. Sullivan argues that if Romney wins Florida and Virginia, the electoral map will very much be a recreation of the Confederacy. He supposes that--by and large--those white voters who had supported Obama in 2008 but are now supporting Romney are in those two States. Will notes Sullivan's statement is "empirically false" because it is. Indeed, the other members of the panel--when Sullivan offers the hypothesis--say the same as Will, "that's not true," "I don't think so," etc. Watch the clip:

What Sullivan specifically said:
I'm just pointing out the fact that the white people who have changed their minds happen to be in Virginia and Florida...It's the Southernization of the Republican Party.
George Will's actual response:
Andrew made an empirical statement which is checkable and false, which is that the people--or the white people--moving away are in those two States. 
Will is absolutely correct, of course. Obama's loss of support among white voters is not limited to Virginia and Florida in the least. If it were, there wouldn't be any talk of Ohio, Wisconsin, and other States being in play. Sullivan's statement is sheer idiocy. But true to form, Sullivan isn't willing to admit it. After the show, he tossed up a piece at the Daily Beast to argue his point further. And he begins by immediately misrepresenting the conversation with Will:
I made a point on ABC News' This Week this morning that George Will described as "empirically false"...
I made the following claim: that if Virginia and Florida and North Carolina flip back to the GOP from Obama this November, as now looks likely, Romney will have won every state in the Confederacy.

Obviously, as I have just shown, that's not the claim Will said was false. And I think Sullivan knows it. He is just disingenuously using the argument as a basis for his big reveal: how the current electoral map mirrors a map of the Confederacy. He concludes by returning to his initial point from the show, and in so doing demonstrates his profound ignorance, when it comes to geography and politics:
I think America is currently in a Cold Civil War. The parties, of course, have switched sides since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The party of the Union and Lincoln is now the Democratic party. The party of the Confederacy is now the GOP. And racial polarization is at record levels, with whites entirely responsible for reversing Obama's 2008 inroads into the old Confederacy in three Southern states.
Those three States are Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. Sullivan's contention is that--essentially--these three States were in the process of turning "blue" (meaning Democratic), but racism is reversing this trend. And that contention is based on an assumption: that blue States really are blue (and that red States really are red). With that in mind, let's take a look at the 2008 Presidential Election results by county:

What this map shows is exactly what most people with a clue already know: voters in heavily populated areas--particularly those that have been heavily populated for a long time--are more likely to vote Democrat. Look at Ohio. It went for Obama in 2008, yet the vast majority of individual counties in the State favored McCain. Sullivan's thesis is based on a wrong-headed assumption: that an overall victory for a particular party in a State translates to support for that party throughout the State. Nothing  could be further from the truth. The "inroads" made by Democrats in 2008 into Southern States like Virginia were reflective of greater turnout in regions of these States that already showed strong support for Democrats.

The four years of the Obama Presidency have had real consequences. Ohio appears to still be in Obama's column because of Federal spending--via the bailout of GM--that has sustained the economy somewhat in that State. Even then, the support for Obama in Ohio is not what it was in 2008. In many other regions--like Florida and North Carolina--Obama's policies have failed to improve the economic outlook for the typical citizen. Thus, Obama's support is waning. At the same time, things like Benghazi are driving independents towards Romney, not just in these "Confederate" States, but across the nation. Economic and foreign policy failures aren't mitigated by State lines.

And again, it's this geography that escapes Sullivan, that he doesn't seem to get. Or maybe he does get it, but is more interested in stirring up racial animus, as a means of helping the President win reelection. Either way, be prepared for a new flurry of racially-driven hit pieces from the mainstream media. Because a good graphic is worth ten thousand words, even when the graphic is a lie.

Cheers, all.

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