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Southern Demographics

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I found this Douglas Blackmon piece at the Post interesting for a couple of reasons. Exploring changing demographics in the South, he notes that Republicans have far from safe majorities along the entire Atlantic coast. Growing Latino and black populations in Virginia and North Carolina have turned those states into Florida, meaning Republicans have to fight for more states they used to count on for easy wins. But more alarming if I were a Republican is shrinking victory margins in Georgia and even South Carolina.

What blew me away though was just how strong racial identity still matters in the mid-South.

The results show a region cleaving apart along new electoral fault lines. In the region’s center, clustered along the Mississippi River — where Bill Clinton polled most strongly — the GOP remains largely unchallenged and the voting divide between blacks and whites is deepening. Nearly nine of 10 of white voters in Mississippi, for instance, went for Republican nominee Mitt Romney this year, according to exit polls. About 96 percent of black voters in the state supported Obama.

I’ve often attacked blanket denunciations of the South. When people say that we should have let the South secede, it irritates me, not only because it erases the millions of black people who only live lives of anything approaching equality because of federal intervention but also because of the liberal whites I have known from the South. But 90% for Romney among Mississippi whites? That’s amazing and disturbing. I understand why 96% of blacks would vote for the Democrats–the Republicans are a party of institutionalized racism. But that 90% of Mississippi whites would essentially accept that racism and identify with the white man’s party (understanding that not every Mississippi Republican voter is a racist, we can also assume that a whole lot are) suggests that it wasn’t just a few white yahoos rioting at the University of Mississippi on election night. Rather, it was endemic of the feelings of most Mississippi whites.

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