Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 11, 2008
POLITICS: The evidence doesn't warrant the charge
Posted by Ricky West

Going to the wayback machine.  I posted a similar item on my site back in 2003, but the html was screwed up & it's not legible at this time, so why not an update? 

A lot has been said about the inability of national/federal Democrats to win elections in the south.  Much of what I’ve seen has disproportionately been little more than excuses disguised as rationale, such as the "Nixon southern strategy", "God, gays and guns", or the ever present "confederate culture" (read: racists).  This sort of rhetoric is usually revisited every two years, as elections need to be won & villains need to be found.  However, is this actually the case?  Are southerners actually hostile to Democrats?

Well, I did some research on just what the political makeup of the region was as recently as 1996.  I chose the "big" four offices for each state, Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General, along with the respective chambers of their legislatures.  Each state will have different avenues of choosing their officers so I won’t go that deep in the analysis but thought that a quick reminder would shed some much-needed light on the scenario.  Democratic margins are in bold while Republican margins are in italics.  Here is how things stood in mid-1996 in the south, and by that I mean the "south" where Maryland, Missouri or Oklahoma are fine states but not of the southern brand:

Governor - Fob James, Jr. (R)
Lt. Governor - Don Siegelman (D)
Sec. of State - Jim Bennett (D)
Atty. Gen - Jeff Sessions (R)
Senate - Dem., 22; Rep., 12 (1 vacancy)
House - Dem., 83; Rep., 22
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Governor - Mike Huckabee (R)
Lt. Governor - Vacant
Sec. of State - Sharon Priest (D)
Atty. Gen - Winston Bryant (D)
Senate - Dem., 28; Rep., 7
House - Dem., 89; Rep., 11
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 5)
Governor - Lawton Chiles (D)
Lt. Governor - Kenneth McKay (D)
Sec. of State - Sandra Mortham (R)
Atty. Gen - Robert Butterworth (D)
Senate - Dem., 18; Rep., 22
House - Dem., 63; Rep., 57
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Governor - Zell Miller (D)
Lt. Governor - Pierre Howard (D)
Sec. of State - Lewis Massey (D)
Atty. Gen - Michael Bowers (R)
Senate - Dem., 35; Rep., 21
House - Dem., 112; Rep., 68
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
Governor - Paul Patton (D)
Lt. Governor - Steve Henry (D)
Sec. of State - John Brown (D)
Atty. Gen - A.B. Chandler (D)
Senate - Dem., 20; Rep., 17 (1 vacancy)
House - Dem., 63; Rep., 36 (1 vacancy)
Advantage: Democrats (6 of 6)
Governor - Mike Foster (R)
Lt. Governor - Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D)
Sec. of State - W. Fox McKeithen (R)
Atty. Gen - Richard Ieyoub (D)
Senate - Dem., 24; Rep., 14 (1 vacancy)
House - Dem., 77; Rep., 27 (1 vacancy)
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
Governor - Kirk Fordice (R)
Lt. Governor - Ronnie Musgrove (D)
Sec. of State - Eric Clark (D)
Atty. Gen - Mike Moore (D)
Senate - Dem., 35; Rep., 17
House - Dem., 85; Rep., 34; 3 Ind.
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
North Carolina
Governor - James Hunt (D)
Lt. Governor - Dennis Wicker (D)
Sec. of State - Janice Faulkner (D)
Atty. Gen - Mike Easley (D)
Senate - Dem., 26; Rep., 24
House - Dem., 52; Rep., 68
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
South Carolina
Governor - David Beasley (R)
Lt. Governor - Robert Peeler (R)
Sec. of State - Jim Miles (R)
Atty. Gen - Charles Condon (R)
Senate - Dem., 25; Rep., 20
House - Dem., 62; Rep., 54; 4 Ind.; 4 Vac.
Advantage: Republicans (4 of 6)
Governor - Don Sundquist (R)
Lt. Governor - John Wilder (D)
Sec. of State - Riley Darnell (D)
Atty. Gen - Charles Burson (D)
Senate - Dem., 16; Rep., 17
House - Dem., 59; Rep., 40
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Governor - George W. Bush (R)
Lt. Governor - Bob Bullock (D)
Sec. of State - Antonio Garza (R)
Atty. Gen - Dan Morales (D)
Senate - Dem., 17; Rep., 14
House - Dem., 88; Rep., 62
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
West Virginia
Governor - Gaston Caperton (D)
Lt. Governor - None
Sec. of State - Ken Hechler (D)
Atty. Gen - Darrell McGraw (D)
Senate - Dem., 32; Rep., 2
House - Dem., 79; Rep., 21
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 5)

 (source: World Almanac and Book of Facts)

Republicans hold 7 of 12 Governor seats.
Democrats hold 90% of the Lt. Governor seats.
Democrats hold 2/3 of the Secretary of State offices.
Democrats hold 3/4 of the Attorney General offices.
Democrats control 21 of 24 chambers (senate or house), some with staggering majorities:
The total state house representation within the south: Democrats, 912; Republicans, 500; Independent, 7
The total state senate representation within the south: Democrats, 298; Republicans, 127
Wow, look at those legislative majorities. 
Take a look at that table again.  Remind yourself that it’s not representative of 1946 but 1996.  So, instead of the celebrated excuses listed at the beginning, couldn’t a more prudent conclusion could be the conventional wisdom that has been put forth from so many: the south is more conservative than the national Democratic party?
As the Obama campaign moves forward after the convention & some poll numbers come out which shows conservative regions less willing to accept the Messiah's platform that the various forms of the media have been bombarding us with of late (in case you hadn't heard, he transcends politics and is post racial.  What?  You don't agree?  Well, you're a racist) keep in mind that this has always been the case for the last generation, at least.  Democrats have long ruled the south.

Liberals, or their newfound attempt at branding, 'progressives'?  Not so much.


[note: Why did I choose 1996?  Because I was clearing a bookshelf and the 1997 Almanac was there and I started reading it and thought the data was interesting.]



Posted by Ricky West at 3:05 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)


"A lot has been said about the inability of national/federal Democrats to win elections in the south. "

The data you cited are for elected positions in state government. I wonder what the breakdown is for those states for the federal positions in the House and Senate. In other words, are southerners willing to vote dems in at the state level but not the federal?

In my state, Connecticut, we've had a string of Republican governors, but CT is usually a "blue state" on the national level.

Posted by: MVH at August 11, 2008 3:30 PM
I wonder what the breakdown is for those states for the federal positions in the House and Senate.
An excellent point.

For the most part, I think it would pertain to the ideologies of the folks running for office. Georgia elected Zell Miller in a landslide, but his successor was a Republican. Conversely, George Allen was ousted by a Democrat, albeit a pro-military Democrat who doesn't fit the liberal mode as, say, Barbara Boxer, would.

As recently as 15 years ago, it was an anathema, almost, to run as a Republican in the south. Things changed in the mid-90s, and now it's tougher for rural Dems to get the nod. Well, like I said, it's tough for liberal Dems to get the nod.

In my state, Connecticut, we've had a string of Republican governors, but CT is usually a "blue state" on the national level.
Right, but those governors are not of the southern GOP governor mold. I'd guess that the CT Republican governors are to the left of the Democratic governors of TN or NC, or at least very close.

The lynchpin to the entire post was that the "red" or "blue" state allocations are generally meant only for presidential elections. Well, anyone who remembers the Reagan years, when he won 49 states, can attest that many of those states that went for the Gipper had almost every other major office filled by a Democrat.

In my case, Georgia, was run by Democrats from the time of reconstruction straight through until 2002. That meant >130 years of no GOP governors, no GOP house, no GOP senate in the state, and most of the time the senators & congressmen were Democrats. It began to change in the 90s, but Georgia has long been considered a 'red state' (quotes intentional because in years past the media would switch the colors, so sometimes blue meant GOP, so now I guess 'red state' means 'votes Republican') even though you'd have been hard pressed to find a registered Republican on the census for most of my lifetime.

Georgia isn't anti-Democrat as much as it's anti-leftist (for lack of a better term). In your case, Connecticut isn't very likely to vote for conservative candidates. My guess is that Jim Martin, soon to have his rear handed to him by Saxby Chambliss, would be considered conservative in your state.

Thus, you have my condolences. :)

Posted by: RW at August 11, 2008 3:53 PM

"The lynchpin to the entire post was that the "red" or "blue" state allocations are generally meant only for presidential elections."

I'd go along with that. I'd also agree that a Georgian Republicans and Democrats are different than the Connecticut variety. Off the top of my head, I'd say, to the extent that Connecticut is more liberal, at the very least it is more socially liberal, but other than that I'm not sure how far I'd go. Fiscal conservatives can do fairly well in CT. Our current Republican governor, Jodi Rell, has been fiscally conservative, but she's also pro-choice.

Our national representation has been a mixed bag. We have Lieberman, who is technically an independent, but really a moderate to conservative Democrat (supported Iraq war). Dodd is a Democrat, as are most of our national House reps (3 of 4). However, we sent Nancy Johnson, Republican, to the Senate for years. We have a nuclear sub base in Groton, so there is a contingent who will vote for anyone who is in favor of more nuclear subs, and no CT Dem or Rep national candidate hoping to go to Washington will oppose that group.

Posted by: MVH at August 11, 2008 4:28 PM

Obviously, the Democratic party has a long history of political success in the South if you look at the big picture, and at the local level, it's still quite viable. It's in Preisdential and Senatorial races where the "values" issues tend to loom largest, and where the national Democratic brand becomes something of a millstone.

Posted by: Jerry at August 11, 2008 5:00 PM

I really don't think it's a measure of party trends as much as national party strategy. The national Democratic Party has, for many years, been woefully and terribly managed. Basically, they are a reflection of both Jimmy Carter and then Bill Clinton. One was sort of organized, but totally lacking in any common sense whatsoever, the latter celebrating a lack of organization, but possessing huge amounts of street smarts.

The RNC is, without a doubt, the opposite. You can see it this primary season: once McCain was getting the nomination and Romney left the campaign. "Jon McCain is our nominee.John McCain has always been our nominee." And Oceania was always at war with Eastasia. As opposed to Hillary Clinton sticking it out beyond the bitter end. She was probably the one candidate (well Bill too) whom Schumer could not control, and I'll bet he won't forget for a long time.

Republicans win because their organization lets them. Hey, it's not an insult, it's a pragmatic compliment. Since so many of the local offices depends more on the personal touch, keeping the national committees out of it, it becomes more of either a personality or message campaign. So it matters little who runs the White House or the Senate then.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at August 11, 2008 6:29 PM

This discussion more of less fits one of my Big Theories, namely, that the voters tend to want more government money spent in their own districts, but not elsewhere. It leads them to vote for legislators who will advance spending programs at home, but vote for executors who, hopefully, will curb spending elsewhere.

It's a fundamentally dishonest practice, of course, and it vastly overstates the spending differences between representatives of the two parties, but I think it goes far to explain why we so frequently see Republican execs in states with Democratic legislative bodies.

Posted by: dd at August 11, 2008 7:12 PM
Republicans win because their organization lets them.
Daryk, would you mind going into more detail as to what you mean by that? I'm not arguing, per se, because I want to get your entire context. I know the old saw about how Democrats are always unorganized (basically, that would be due to it being comprised of a lot of different groups instead of one set of ideas, IMO) but I don't know how the GOP's organization would result in votes. Primary season, yeah, I sill remember it being "Bob Dole's turn" and everyone else stayed on the sidelines, for the most part. Still gotta get the votes, though. Posted by: RW at August 11, 2008 7:49 PM

Labels mean nothing, you have to look at the facts of positions and where the individuals stand on the issues. For example,

"Imagine that Bush is a Democrat (not that hard when you consider his fiscal record). Now imagine that a Democratic president had presided over the worst attack on American soil in history, a far stronger Iran on the brink of nukes, and a resurgent, aggressive Russia, willing and able to invade and terrorize a neighboring country in part because the president long believed that its president was a good man, and had looked into his soul.

I think they would have impeached him a few years ago, no? He would be viewed as the Carter to end all Carters. But they are actually arguing that the man who has held no executive power these last seven years is responsible for the triumph of America's rivals around the world. And they describe everyone who is dismayed at Bush's Carter impersonation as leftist."

H/T Daily Dish

Posted by: Magrooder at August 11, 2008 11:14 PM

Andrew Sullivan?


Personally, I liked him better when he was telling me how much more Madonna personified catholicism than the pope.

* Not that he's prone to overwrought heartache & hyperbole on the scale of a middle-school girl lamenting her favorite boy band member getting married, or anything. And, I went ahead and denounced myself for being a homophobic bigot, by the way.

Posted by: RW at August 12, 2008 9:20 AM

Well, your Texas figures, although interesting, reflect some of the leftovers from the bygone era of southern Democrats prior to the 1964 Voting Rights Act. Bob Bullock is dead, Dan Morales is in jail, and the Democratic Party in Texas doesn't hold a single statewide office. I think many of these 1996 numbers just don't hold up to today. I agree the national party was much more open to discuss race relations and openly embrace African Americans than the local party was, to its detriment in the south in national elections. Basically, local Democratic politicians through the 90s (most were defeated in 94) were able to play the dog whistle politics well, and held on to the tradition of being a Democrat (which prior to 1964 meant to most southerners "anti-reconstruction"). After Johnson there was a fundamental re-alignment around race and it was unmistakeable. Same reason Delay targeted white Democrats in Texas for realignment...they wanted the Democratic party to be the party of uppity women and negroes.

Posted by: AstrosFan at August 12, 2008 10:26 AM

"After Johnson there was a fundamental re-alignment around race and it was unmistakeable."

And just 30 short years later that "unmistakeable" re-alignment to took hold?

Posted by: RW at August 12, 2008 11:10 AM


The ad hominem argument is a reliable crutch when you have nothing substantive available as a retort.

Posted by: Magrooder at August 12, 2008 5:33 PM

Well, Magrooder, I guess I made the mistake of not accepting the quote you provided as a parody. Thus, I guess I'm due to offer some apologies. I read the entry as Sullivan replying to one person (Andrew McCarthy) and projecting his response towards the entire US congress (the only 'they' who could impeach) because he had the ability to mind-meld with them on certain topics and surely would be able to read the tea leaves into the future and predict what someone would do - and, wouldn't you know it, it would be something that St. Andrew would deem vile, enough to gobsmack a person and put him and his boy in his favorite position: aggrieved victim.

I thought Sullivan was the one arguing against the person (those evil 'Christianist' Republicans, who are against gay marriage, by the way) instead of the argument itself, which, I guess the argument in this case is what Andrew McCarthy said....well, that didn't pertain to congress impeaching anyone, so it's an argument that Sullivan created in order to besmirch McCarthy personally and align him with non-existent people who would impeach a non-existent person that Sullivan created for the sake of his own argument, head hurts.

In short, I took the words written as though they were serious. Apparently, they were in jest. Imagine my embarrassment. Well, mea culpa.

Posted by: RW at August 13, 2008 7:46 AM

The bitter (bet you love THAT label) incoherent set of positions that pass for current conservatism admits of no gray or doubt. If Bush/Cheney did it/though it/conceived it/are responsible for it, the light of god (lack of capitalization intentional) shines down on it.

You -- the collective you -- have been in power for the past 8 years (complete power for the first 6) and during that time, the moral and legal positions on which our country was founded and operated for over 200 years were sytematically dismantled. McCain and his increasingly manic response to foreign policy developments would be a continuation of a lawless adventure in foreign policy extremism.

It is time to clean house and let those responsible stand and be held accountable for what they've done.

Posted by: Magrooder at August 13, 2008 9:56 AM


"[T]he moral and legal positions on which our country was founded and operated for over 200 years were sytematically dismantled."

Wow . . . are you sure you want to take it that far? You make it sound like we no longer have a democratic form of government!

Posted by: MVH at August 13, 2008 11:28 AM

A wise man once said that the ad hominem argument is a reliable crutch when you have nothing substantive available as a retort.


Couldn't resist.

Jokes aside, that was a prime example of what folks like Sullivan constantly do, projecting their own assumptions about what their opponents think, which is why so many have stopped taking him seriously (which, again, was my mistake). You'll go far and long before you find people who voted for Bush who would even consider the notion of doing it again were he to be eligible. You don't get to the upper 20s in support and that be the result of your base staying & the middle & left being the only source of disapproval. Bush has lost the conservatives, too.

I assume it makes Sullivan feel better to belabor the point that the only true conservative is one that supported Kerry & Obama, but, again, he's in the distinct minority. He should feel comfortable there, though, since that's been his location for most of his life.

Posted by: RW at August 13, 2008 12:02 PM
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