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Southern Demographics

[ 81 ] November 26, 2012 |

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.

Comments (81)

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  1. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Disturbing, indeed. But things change. If not necessarily racial attitudes, then their partisan electoral effects. As the piece notes, it was in those middle states that Clinton was most competitive in the South. And Carter won Mississippi in ’76.

    • Lee says:

      I’m usually a bit quesy about books like American Nations of Albion’s Seed, that try to trace political differences about freedom and government back to the differences between the colonies and the original population. At the same time, the persistent issues of race in South does show that their might be some merit in these arguments.

      • Patrick says:

        Well the political differences that lead to race being even more central in the South than in the North is, unlike difference in original colonial government, part of living memory. Jim Crow ended in the 1960s. Differences in colonial structure between say, New York and Massachusetts just had less enduring institutional reality.

      • Going back to the colonial period is interesting and useful if one wants a complete understanding. But it isn’t necessary.

        It’s simple. A society and economy based on slavery required a theory of white supremacy to support it. The Civil War war destroyed formal slavery, but did nothing to eradicate the theory of white supremacy. The result was the failure of Reconstruction and the institution of Jim Crow. The institutions, government & churches, continued to promote the theory of white supremacy.

        The Civil Rights movement and the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Fair Housing Act, etc., again destroyed the formal but left the theory intact. We are not so far removed in time from the Civil Rights Era that we should expect the theory to be eradicated by experience.

        We are not rid of this social & political disease, but we are moving away from it.

  2. SN says:

    Rather than letting the South secede, which would have perpetuated slavery, it would have been better to execute (for the crime of treason) every officer in the Confederate army and promote a more robust version of the Freedman’s bureau for both Blacks and Whites. Not enough Confederates died in the American Civil War.

    • Lee says:

      Yes. IMO, the Republicans made a terrible mistake by only defranchising Confederate officers and officials. What really should have happened was trials for treason for at least all the important ones. It would have been perfectly constitutional and the Confederate officers and officials did commit treason by sucession. There should have also been major land reform and break up of planations into smaller farms like Thadeus Steven wanted.

      The main problem with trying Confederate leadership for treason is that the majority of white Southerners would get even more defensive and feel more like they were being “oppressed” by the Federal Government. Mass land reform was against the pervailing ideology of the time since while giving away federal and Indian land was fine, taking away privately held land was not.

      • John says:

        Jefferson Davis was charged with treason, although it was later dropped. At any rate, I’m not sure how treason trials of major leaders would have done much good. Very few of the major leaders participated in politics again. The primary leaders of “Redemption” were ex-Whigs who had opposed secession.

        • BJN says:

          Well while many were denied the ability to return to federal office, the same planter elites came back to running things after reconstruction ended, which was why they were called the Bourbons. Carpetbagger and scalawag are not typically used as compliments.

          Mississippi repeatedly chose Jefferson Davis to serve as their Senator in his late life, even though he wasn’t allowed to serve and this meant leaving the seat vacant.

          • John says:

            Yes, but the Bourbon leaders were largely ex-Whigs (most of the old planter class had been Whigs) who had opposed secession. Some had been outright unionist.

            The basic problem was that virtually no white people in the South actually supported rights for black people, and that the majority of white people in the north either opposed such rights themselves or didn’t care enough about them to take the measures necessary to insure their enforcement. Killing more Confederate officials and officers wouldn’t have changed this.

            • witless chum says:

              Enough whites supported Republicans that when free elections were held in the South, Republicans mostly won by getting all the black votes and a minority of white votes.

              I haven’t read enough about Reconstruction to know much about who those white voters were, but I know they existed. But the Klan and the redeemers weren’t shy about using violence against whites for voted the wrong way, either.

    • John says:

      Don’t you think this might have caused different problems? And do you really think there was the political will to do such a thing? Even with the supposedly restrained steps actually taken during Radical Reconstruction, Horatio Seymour came surprisingly close to winning the election of 1868. Don’t you think that your proposal would clearly result in him winning?

      • Brett Turner says:

        This. Also, even if Seymour doesn’t beat Grant, mass treason trials runs a very real risk of turning the south into Northern Ireland, with a prolonged guerilla war against military occupation costing thousands of lives, northern and southern both, for a period of decades.

        Reconstruction could have been handled much better that it was, but imprisoning Confederate officers for treason would have caused more problems than it solved.

  3. Pinko Punko says:

    When Fox is on in every business and people listen to Xtian radio that is essentially a more polite sounding version of Rush, it just becomes second nature, even if the policies are either irrational of have horrible outcomes. Dog whistles are for some people, but others probably don’t really hear them even if we do- they just buy the generic anger and frustration. They are the ones falling for the scam, the ones being baited.

  4. ploeg says:

    …and that these areas have scads of older people who depend upon federal government programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) for basic survival. And yes, “older people” includes white older people.

    • FMguru says:

      No, you see, they’re just getting back what they paid into the system by their hard work. It’s those other people who are leeching, mooching lazybones dependent on government handouts.

  5. I’ve been pointing out the divergence between the Atlantic South and the Interior South for a while. South Carolina, once one of the most reliably Republican states in the union and still the most Republican state on the Atlantic Coast, gave Obama a higher vote % than any state in the Interior South.

    The old division between Deep South and Upper South is dead. Once upon a time, Tennessee was Upper South and North Carolina was the Deep South. Now, North Carolina is a swing state with a major high tech industry, and Tennessee might as well be Alabama for political purposes.

    • John says:

      North Carolina was never the Deep South. It voted for Al Smith in 1928 and Nixon in 1968, and didn’t secede until after Fort Sumter. It had a solid 30-40% voting Republican in basically every post-Reconstruction Solid South presidential election.

      • Warren Terra says:

        North Carolina didn’t “vote for Al Smith” in 1928, it voted for the Democrat – that is, it voted against the Republican, against the party of Lincoln and US Grant. The difference matters when trying to assess their ideological leanings.

        • John says:

          Oh, sorry. It voted against Al Smith in 1928 – for Hoover.

          The Deep South states stayed loyal to the Democrats, while the non-Deep South states wouldn’t vote for the Catholic

          • I’m not saying you’re wrong about North Carolina’s identity, but that a Southern state voted against the first Catholic candidate for President is not a terribly compelling argument against the claim that it was a deep-south state.

    • Barbara says:

      I spent a lot of time in Charleston, and some close friends live in Greenville SC. All the things that SC has been trying to do, to bring in manufacturing and skilled or even high tech industries makes it less and less reliably Republican. It also has a lot of coastal development including an influx of retirees that make it a mini-Florida in some respects. At one point, SC was the state that had the highest percentage of residents who had been born in the state. I doubt if that is true any longer. As people move in, they lose their allegiance to existing political alliances. Don’t expect it to be voting Democratic any time soon, but it is trending in NC’s direction every day.

  6. timb says:

    Don’t be surprised….

    This story is from 2012.

    On Monday, polling firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) revealed that 29 percent of likely GOP voters surveyed in Mississippi believe that interracial marriage should be illegal. Fifty-four percent said intermarriage should remain legal, and the rest responded that they weren’t sure. The survey also found that 21 percent of likely GOP voters polled in Alabama believe that interracial marriage should be illegal.

  7. mpowell says:

    This doesn’t mean a whole lot for national elections. Most of this effect is just people moving around. They’re coming from somewhere and the Democrats already have a small electoral college advantage. They’re not going to sustain more than 1% for long. The real story is how the partisan balance responds to shifting demographics. Will more white people shift towards the right. Will any minorities?

    • L2P says:

      Why do you think the changes being driven by movement isn’t going to affect national elections?

      If 100,000 rednecks move from North Carolina to California and vote for Palin 2016, Clinton 2016 still wins California in a landslide despite the 100,000 non-white voters who moved to North Carolina. But Clinton 2016 is now a serious contender to win North Carolina.

      And if 100,000 rednecks move to New York, and 100,000 non-white voters move to North Carolina? We’re looking at a Palin 2016 being in serious trouble in North Carolina.

      That’s the demographic problem for the Republicans. The Democrats have huge majorities in states with huge populations, and the Republicans have small majorities in states where the demographics are in flux.

      • agorabum says:

        Sure, but that’s why Mississippi was such an outlier. No one else is saying “let’s all move to Mississippi!” It has a very undesirable connotation and is generally unattractive to intra-American immigrants. It probably collects people from the neighboring states ok, but only the folks who are comfortable with the deep south mentality. Just because it gets a racist from Louisiana or Tennessee (who finds the Nashville suburbs too cosmopolitan now), it won’t change.
        North Carolina will do ok, though.

        • Barbara says:

          I also spent some time in Mississippi (work does that to me, sending me to all kinds of non-typical tourist destinations), and I will never forget two things. The first is that a local colleague took me aside and said that I had to understand that everything in Mississippi was about race. Everything. Even when it didn’t seem to be or shouldn’t be. Okay then. The second was that when I watched the 6:00 news it was as sensationalistic as anything I had ever seen — it practically oozed fear and loathing.

    • Most of this effect is just people moving around.

      Why is this unimportant? Look at the political development of Florida since the invention of air conditioning.

      • mpowell says:

        I believe it is unimportant because I think it is extremely unlikely that the Democrats can sustain an electoral college advantage of greater than 1% (which about what the already seem to enjoy). After that it’s just a question of the national political balance, not how many white liberal happen to move to North Carolina.

        • That’s not actually an answer to the question “why.”

          I know what you believe; what I’m asking is, why do you believe this? Look at Florida – the influx of out-of-staters dramatically changed its political orientation, which greatly benefited the Democrats.

  8. thusbloggedanderson says:

    Yep. I’m a “Mississipi white” (sounds like a fish) myself, tho of the 10% kind.

    The vote against Obama was a bit higher than the vote against Kerry, IIRC, but in general, white Miss. folks are convinced that the federal gov’t has ruined itself by handouts to the undeserving poor, where “poor” is consciously or unconsciously code for “black.”

    It’s not all racism; this is also the Bible Belt, hence the anti-abortion belt. Those with nothing better to do can read the lengthy cut-and-paste below from my post-election blogging:

    Lively text-messaging with a Republican friend this morning, for whom “it’s all about the babies.” Against my argument that a party that really cared about stopping abortion would be throwing $$ like crazy at Scandinavian-style maternal benefits, not to mention contraception, she says it’s not about money or government, but instilling personal values of responsibility, higher morality, etc.

    That bears mention because it shows how conservatism in America has gone astray. Conservatism was founded as a reaction to 1789 and the leftist radicals’ notions that human nature was up for grabs, could be socially engineered — a notion, now that I think about it, that in different ways fueled Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia (Nazism as a radical reaction to the left, not leftist, natch). Burke and his heirs taught that human nature is what it is. Men aren’t angels, wrote Madison, and can’t be governed as if they were.

    But under the influence, I guess, of fundamentalist, millenial Christianity, which has permeated the consciousnesses even of those who are neither fundamentalist nor millenial, we now have radicals of the right who think that human nature is no less subject to being molded. I find abortion disagreeable, at best, and would support policies to make it “safe, legal, and rare.” But instead, we’re somehow supposed to turn back the clock to a mythical patriarchy where people didn’t have sex outside marriage, etc. I say mythical because my impression of the historical research is that people have been screwing around forever, and that children outside wedlock, and even abortion, have always been prevalent. Building the new Jerusalem is not a plausible social policy; it’s Robespierre with a Bible in his hand.

    • Karen says:

      I’m a Texan, from the east part of the state, aka Mississippi West. (Literally. My great-grandparents were all born in Corinth, MI, right after the Civil War). My parents adored, and still do adore, President Clinton, but are convinced that the current President is out to destroy the country.

      • howard says:

        that is about the strangest set of political choices i can imagine, karen: how do your parents justify their position, especially given that, you know, bill clinton endorsed obama and hilary clinton is his sec of state?

    • mpowell says:

      It’s either about the babies or it’s about instilling personal values of responsibility, higher morality, etc. Those are different things. If you consider the typical political preferences of the anti-abortion crowd, it is pretty much always the latter: punishing the woman for having sex. That’s why pro-life is not an accurate description of the movement.

    • mds says:

      Building the new Jerusalem is not a plausible social policy; it’s Robespierre with a Bible in his hand.

      +Harumph.

    • Barbara says:

      An astute analysis of how the notion of what it means to be “conservative” is an inversion of what the term originally meant. Basically, today’s Republicans are not conservative in the classical sense, but radical in the mold of Jacobins.

  9. AcademicLurker says:

    Rather, it was endemic of the feelings of most Mississippi whites.

    And in other news, water remains wet…

  10. DrDick says:

    Anyone who thinks racism is dead in America has not spent nearly enough time around working class whites or rich people. It is not just in the South, either, the white working class across the country suffers heavily from this.

    On the other hand, this situation is somewhat complicated. Not all of the whites expressing racial solidarity are explicitly racist (though they clearly hold many racist stereotype). The Republican Party and conservative business interests have been very successful in pitting working class whites and minorities against each other and blaming the latter for the declining fortunes of the former. The fact that Democrats have not enthusiastically embraced an economic justice platform has aided and abetted this effort.

    This pattern manifests itself most strongly in the South partly owing to lingering racism, but also owing to the dire economic conditions. The prevailing low wages and lack of unions, as well as corporate dominated state and local governments, has left the white working classes there worse off and more insecure than elsewhere, and thus more susceptible to the siren call of racial scapegoating.

    • John says:

      If you want to see how racism is alive and well outside the south, just read the comments section for any major American newspaper.

      • L2P says:

        That’s true, but 95% of the racism I find is the “those people” sort of racism.

        As in “those people” are eating up MY social security. And “those people” are always committing welfare fraud. “Those people” just don’t know how to save money. “Those people” just don’t know how to raise their kids right.

        The people I know talking about “those people” are always white, and the “those people” they’re talking about are never white. If you challenge them about who “those people” are you’ll get a lot of talk about how their best friends are black or Mexican or whatever. And they are dead set against anything blatantly “racist. But still, those worries about “those people” drive them to vote Republican.

        • wtm says:

          “Those people”are occasionally white if you are in a state/region/county that is overwhelmingly white. Of course the makers seperate “those people” out as white trash. Minorities may be viewed negatively but local animus is directed at the trailer parks/wrong side of town.

      • DrDick says:

        I spent 12 years in Chicago and was consistently surprised by the amount and ferocity of the racism I encountered there (as well as how open people were about it), even though I had grown up in Oklahoma under Jim Crow and segregation in the 1950s and 19660s.

  11. Major Kong says:

    I spent 4 years of my Air Force career in Mississippi.

    It’s a very strange place.

  12. LosGatosCA says:

    Society in the Deep South seems just like a prison to me. I have been inside a few prisons as a visiting entertainer and the racial divide has always amazed me. As an all white basketball team playing against an all black prison team one time all the whites sat on one side and rooted for us and all the blacks sat on the other side and rooted for the prison team. It was unnerving to say the least.

    In any case, the Deep South has reminded me of that broadly ignorant, under educated, deeply flawed, abusing and abused prison population many, many times. I’m not unsympathetic to their plight but I realize the menace they represent to progressive society.

  13. Thers says:

    90% of Mississippi white voters went for Romney? That suggests that some precincts may have gone almost %100 for Romney, which is, of course, statistically impossible. Dictators don’t get %90!

    The obvious conclusion is massive fraud. Voting laws need immediate reform. The grand Southern tradition of free and fair elections for all is under threat!

  14. JL says:

    What sort of numbers do you get when you look at Mississippi whites by age?

    To my irritation, I haven’t been able to find it, but I remember a fivethirtyeight post from years ago showing (among many other things) that 18-29s (or possibly 18-25s) in Mississippi were more likely to support same-sex marriage than 65+s in Massachusetts. Which makes me think there’s hope for the future everywhere.

    • howard says:

      it’s not 538, but here’s a graph of the data you are referencing, jl, and it’s quite stunning (i i bookmarked this when i first read it): as an example of what you’re talking about, in alabama, which has the lowest support for same-sex marriage in the 18-29 demographic, nonetheless the percentage is higher than the 65+ support for same-sex marriage in massachusetts, which is the highest level of 65+ support in the country.

      that said, the mammoth white support for romney in the south suggests that there’s probably not nearly the same age stratification.

  15. NMissC says:

    I’m almost certain the 90% figure for Whites in Mississippi is from 2008; I have read (sorry can’t find the link) that there were no exit polls in Miss, and a check around shows no sign of them. The NYTimes exit poll lists a number of states but not Miss.

    I’m in the 10% and really wondered if the number was as low as reported in 2008. As I wrote at the time, my initial reaction was that if it was as low as that, I must personally know every single white voters for Obama in the state.

    In reply to JL, I think demographics hold out more hope than age in Mississippi, unfortunately, although it may be that the presence of a large, conservative, white student body in my home town (Oxford, the byline of the linked article) may skew my point of view.

  16. Richard says:

    Yeah, there is still a lot of racism in the South. But the change has been remarkable. I am a born and bred West Coaster but, since high school, have been fascinated by the music of the South. So I have been to every Southern state, been to Louisiana fifteen or so times, driven Highway 61 from New Orleans to Memphis, followed Hank Williams’ footsteps in Montgomery and Elvis’ footsteps in Tupelo, been to Nashville a half dozen times, explored the bayous and the delta, etc. When I first went to the South in 1969, segregation, while theoretically illegal, was still the way the South was and you NEVER saw interracial couples. Now, when you go to Nashville, or Atlanta or New Orleans or even Oxford or Clarksdale or Shreveport or Montgomery, interracial couples are common and the interaction between whites and blacks is dramatically different from what you would have seen thirty years ago. We probably still have another 100 years to be rid of the legacy of slavery but things have changed

    • catclub says:

      I agree. things have changed, and more than we might give credit for. You have to remember that not long ago, the world would end if people of different colors were in the same swimming pool. Now, interracial couples do exist, in even the smallest communities.

      I also am part of the 10%

    • howard says:

      i have a fair amount of experience in the south myself, including (importantly in this context) several years working in birmingham on the development of the birmingham civil rights institute and my sense is that what has changed the most is the public side: overt racism is no longer acceptable.

      but in private, i’m far from convinced that the changes equal those in public.

      • Richard says:

        No way of proving anything one way or the other but I think private conduct has changed as much as public conduct (given the extent of the racism in the pre civil rights era). Not to say that there is no racism anymore or that we don’t have a long way to go but we are talking about change from a truly hideous past.

        • howard says:

          richard, i’m not saying no private change, just that it’s stronger in public, and as bobs rightly cottoned onto, the fact that white folks gave obama a majority in the northeast, and 45% of the their votes outside of the confederate states, but only around 20% of their votes in the confederate states is indicative.

          and i think it’s impossible to look at the makers/takers rhetoric, the insane level of affordable care act opposition, polling data about attitudes towards inter-racial marriages in the south and elsewhere, the protection of the confederate flag, and the easy rhetorical change from “the n word” to “they” in describing african-americans without concluding that racism retains a stronger private hold in the south than anywhere else in the country even if it’s not the old-fashioned kind.

          • Richard says:

            I dont think we disagree that much. The South still lives in the shadow of slavery and the Confederacy and Jim Crow. But I’ve seen an incredible amount of public change in the forty years that I’ve been going there and a significant amount of private change (mixed race gatherings at private homes, interracial dating and marriage).

            I’m certainly agree that private racism is much more prevalent in the South than other parts of the country but even that has changed appreciably.

      • BobS says:

        Like the privacy of a voting booth for instance.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Secession isn’t possible. But I advocate some sort of Psy-op program to to get the YECs and anti Einstein types to voluntarily remove themselves from society, sorta like the Amish and Mennonites do. There’s nothing about anti-biotics or blood transfusions in the bible. Nothing about electrical machinery either.

    If I won the power-ball I’d set up an Op to make it happen. start up Calvin 2.0. Theorize ultimate literal Biblical authority and make it plane that any deviations from living like the characters in the bible is sin. There are already smaller groups following this road. Portray modern medicine as the work of the devil because it may recast doctors as gods, taking and giving life. if your property gets destroyed by a storm or drought it’s on you for not being a proper believing christian. There are already major prod religious figures that say this. They just need a bigger ad budget to get out in front of the pack.

    Ad-campaign a belief that any deviation from Calvinist theology will be a vote for the devil. Solidify the upfront acceptance of T.U.L.I.P

    Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
    Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful.

    Unconditional Election
    God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual. He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will (Eph. 1:4-8; Rom. 9:11) without any consideration of merit within the individual. Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him. Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not (Rom. 9:15, 21).

    Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
    Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many’;

    Irresistible Grace
    When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted

    Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)
    You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure

    So if you accept this dogma your saved, even if you’re an asshole in all other ways just believing as the calvinist prods do gets you into heaven.

    Jack Chick has a tract that describes 2 people, a Pfc. who is atheist and does good works and is a “stand up guy’. The other is a Sgt. who cheats on his wife, during poker games, etc; just an al around scum-bucket. They both die in an accident and its the Sgt. that goes to heaven because he would stand up in church and proclaim JC as his lord and savior, even he though he has been dirtbag his entire life.

    Just get all those pre-saved souls onto a reservation sans meds and education and leave the rest of us alone

  18. The Pale Scot says:

    The Anonymous was thou

  19. Observer says:

    But 90% for Romney among Mississippi whites? That’s amazing and disturbing. I understand why 96% of blacks would vote for the Democrats…

    In any other country, we would call this “Tribalism” and denounce it.

    It’s as if Blacks, Hispanics, Women, Homosexuals and all of the other political identities don’t have a common stake in the economy, foreign policy and tax policy.

  20. JazzBumpa says:

    Gotta run, so no time to read the comments yet. If anyone else has made this point, please bear with me.

    It’s not just the South. Look at Ohio and Michigan. Romney carried huge majorities in rural counties – which I take to be largely, if not totally, white.

    Obama won the cities, even in the deep South.

    We are a nation ripped apart at the seams.

    http://www.angrybearblog.com/2012/11/one-nation-divisible.html

    JzB

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