South racially polarized along political lines | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 24, 2014

South racially polarized along political lines

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 6:40 AM

click to enlarge NY TIMES/UPSHOT
  • NY Times/Upshot

More from the New York Times' Upshot blog on racial politics in the South and the deep disaffection here for President Obama.

White preference for Republicans in the South is so dominant that it overcomes the national coalition that Obama seemed to build for an ongoing Democratic majority.

While white Southerners have been voting Republican for decades, the hugeness of the gap was new. Mr. Obama often lost more than 40 percent of Al Gore’s support among white voters south of the historically significant line of the Missouri Compromise. Two centuries later, Southern politics are deeply polarized along racial lines. It is no exaggeration to suggest that in these states the Democrats have become the party of African Americans and that the Republicans are the party of whites.

The collapse in Democratic support among white Southerners has been obscured by the rise of the Obama coalition. Higher black turnout allowed the Democrats to win nearly 44 percent of the vote in states like Mississippi, where 37 percent of voters were black. But the white shift is nearly as important to contemporary electoral politics as the Obama coalition. It represents an end, at least temporarily, to the South’s assimilation into the American political and cultural mainstream.

Well, that's a cheery note, isn't it? And not exactly a revelation. Democrats retain a bit more white backing in Arkansas than in, say, Mississippi, but the trend is clear. That's why 2014 is so important. Election of statewide Democratic candidates Mike Ross and Mark Pryor — both running as conservatively as they dare — would be an important fire break.

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