Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thesis: Conservatives will lose the Great Plains next

It's already happened in the Northeast, and the Pacific Coast. The process is well under way in the Great Lakes region, the mid-Atlantic region, and the Mountain West (excluding the Mormon Belt) . . . yep, except for the South, Americans are turning against conservative values like homophobia, intolerance, and racism in huge numbers, as the overwhelming majorities that Democrats have won in 2006 & 2008, and the overwhelming popularity of President Obama show.

I submit to you that there is area of the US which has only just begun to change though - and that would be the Great Plains states - North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas - as well as Montana, which I'm including in this analysis. It's already been widely reported here, here and elsewhere that RepubliCon strength is overwhelmingly over-represented in the South - defined as the 11 states of the confederacy plus Oklahoma and Kentucky in the first hyperlink from the National Journal. DailyKos blogger Steve Singiser notes in that second link that:
At the Congressional level, the disparities are, if possible, even more stark. In the United States Senate, Republicans control 19 of the 26 seats in the South. Outside the South, Democrats control 53 seats. The GOP controls just 21 seats outside of the South.

What this means, in a nutshell, is that outside of the South, Democrats come very close to controlling three-quarters of the seats in the United States Senate.
The other major area of RepubliCon strength is the Mormon Belt:



Nonetheless, if you look at the Election Map from 2008, you'll see that Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas, all areas well outside the West's Mormon Belt, STILL went for John McCain at the Presidential level. Nebraska and Kansas lead the charge, going for McCain by 57% & 56%, respectively, and Montana served as the rear - going to McCain by just 49% to 47%. My main point here is that like the Great Lakes states, the Great Plains states (and Montana) are beginning to change their tune as well.

Although only two of these five states have Democratic governors, and they've been reliably Republican at the Presidential level for quite some time, the senate Representation of these five states is 60% Democratic. I'd submit that these states have a lot more in common with reliably Democratic states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, than they do with places like Oklahoma, Wyoming, Mississippi, and Utah.

South Dakota, for example, voted down an abortion ban by 55%-44% in both 2006 AND 2008. Meanwhile Kansas RepubliCons endured a rash of party-defections over the last few years, as the remaining moderate conservatives found that they had less and less of a home in the screamingly insane Republican Party. Current Governor Mark Parkinson, who took over after the wildly popular Governor Kathleen Sebelius accepted the top spot at the Dept. of Health and Human Services, is a former Chairman of the Kansas GOP, and was quoted as saying:
“I decided I’d rather spend time building great universities than wondering if Charles Darwin was right.”
Amen brother.

Check that electoral map again, and take a look at Nebraska. See that little blue blip? Yep. That's an electoral vote. Nebraska's electoral votes are generated proportionally, not in a winner take all system. Obama's victory there was the first time in 44 years than a Democrat had won ANY of Nebraska's electoral votes. In 2008, North Dakota unfortunately passed a gay marriage ban by over 70%, but a similar measure in South Dakota squeaked by with just 52% of the vote. Using the slogan "Good neighbors don't discriminate," backers of marriage equality were able to mount a serious opposition to banning gay marriage. As Daily Kos's Steve Singiser notes in this awesome article:
The political trinity that seems to define Republican social conservatism is "God, guns, and gays." Somewhere along the line, the Republican Party grew convinced that social conservatism along those lines was the ticket not only to locking down the South, but winning over middle-class voters elsewhere.

It worked in the South, where even Democratic candidates at the federal level feel the need to toe the line on the trinity listed above. But, nationally, their decision to put social issues at the top of the list in terms of issue-based talking points has been disastrous.

It is not that America necessarily is in solid dissent with the GOP on these issues. Indeed, on issues like gun rights, gay rights, and abortion, the GOP position could either be classified as the narrow majority position or a significant minority position.
Finally, you can take a look at Montana. Montana has a popular Democratic governor and two Democratic Senators. Governor Schweitzer, a former rancher, has been widely hailed as the model of a new type of Western progressive. I'm willing to predict that Montana will go for Obama in 2012, barring some huge political earthquake, which could very well happen.

The point here is that the RepubliCons have already lost the Northeast and the Pacific Coast, much of the Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic regions, and the non-Mormon Belt sections of the Mountain West. I think it's safe to suggest that the Great Plains states and Montana may well be the next dominoes to fall. There are encouraging trends that show that rock-rigid conservative values will not play well in these areas, in the long haul. And that's good for the country. Obviously these states are small and rural, but put together, the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska and Montana amount to 20 electoral votes in a Presidential contest - the equivalent of the state of Ohio, and more than Michigan. If Democrats can start to seriously contest these states, we may be well on our way to further marginalizing the regional base of the RepubliCon Party to the South, and the Mormon Belt.

The even better news is that, particularly in the South, there are states where the Dems have been chipping away with some success as well . . . . Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida - all parts of the Confederacy - went for Obama of course, and both North Carolina and Virginia elected Democratic Senators. And all of Arkansas' statewide office-holders are Democrats.

We can quibble over whether or not the Democrats are ever going to be enable to enact a truly progressive agenda or not in the long term . . . I think the jury is still terrifically "out" on that question. But I'll bet we can agree that the RepubliCons certainly WON'T be enacting a truly progressive agenda in any way shape or form, so watching them commence to flopping about like a proverbial fish on land in the Great Plains, as well as in all of these other swaths of America, is both fun and edifying.

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