As a Southern, I was massively perplexed by the 2012 election.
Here the South was, cheering on Mitt Romney … a wealthy Northeasterner with absolutely no understanding of Southern tradition or culture.
Sure, Romney tried to pretend like he was “Southern.” He was a NASCAR-loving regular Joe, remember? His exact quote, of course, was "I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners."
Then remember in March when Mitt Romney turned his Southern charm way up, even talking like regular folk?
Romney could have said or done whatever he wanted — worn a Yankees hat to a Braves game, drank unsweet tea, asked a Waffle House employee where the nearest IHOP was — for whatever reason Southerners rode the Romney train unconditionally. The South holds powerful conservative views, of course. But here they were rooting for a candidate that had *absolutely* nothing in common with them.
- He was a Northerner
- An über rich Northerner
- A moderate Republican
- A Northerner
Romney was expected to win big in the South. There is, after all, a huge Republican presence in the region. Democrats are more or less rare breeds, and the ones who do exist in the region are know as Blug Dogs — conservatives who are only really Democratic in name. Currently, there are only two Democratic governors in the South — Mike Bebee of Arkansas and Steve Beshear of Kentucky. Those are also the only two Southern states in which Democrats control one or both of the state legislatures. The rest of the South, politically, is as red as Crimson Tide — the Alabama football variety.
Or is it?
The absolutely shocking things we learned from the 2012 election are that 1) Romney probably lost because he lost the South and 2) Republicans can’t count on the South to deliver wins anymore.
Barack Obama in his route to re-election won Virginia and Florida … and narrowly missed victory in North Carolina. This is, by the way, the massively-socially conservative ultrasound abortion law Virginia and anti-gay marriage North Carolina, btw.
As Douglas Blackmon wrote in the Washington Post, Obama “polled as well in Georgia as any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, grabbing 44% of the vote in deep-red South Carolina and just under that in Mississippi — despite doing no substantive campaigning in any of those states."
Blackmon notes that the five states that hug the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Florida together hold 82 of the South's 160 electoral votes. "A combination of a growing black population, urban expansion, oceanfront development and in-migration from other regions has opened up increasing opportunities for Democrats in those states."
As the Daily Beast put it colorfully: The red flag for the GOP — black growth turning coastal South purple.
County-level election results from November 6 show a South that isn’t as red as many politicians and pundits believe, showing a strikingly purple region. In some places, like central Mississippi, central Alabama, central Georgia, central South Carolina, and well into North Carolina … there is more blue than there is red.
The images are striking. Here is a map of U.S. counties, colored red and blue to indicate Republican and Democratic majorities respectively:
Sure we learned that the Latino population in election 2012 was more critical than we thought, swinging the election for Obama. We learned that young people — who were berated as lazy and unenthusiastic before the election — came up big for Obama.
And we learned that the South isn’t the Republican stronghold we thought it was — and may even swing Democrat in the next big elections in 2014 and 2016.
Imagine: the next Republican presidential candidate could realistically lose Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia in 2016.
"Georgia is an achievable target for Democrats in 2016," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a frequent Obama surrogate during the campaign.
It makes total sense for the South to go Dem.
I mean, the South gets massive amounts of federal money and benefits hugely from federal social programs. As AddictingInfo.org reported in September, red states are the biggest welfare states. “Contrary to popular belief, those who make the most noise noise complaining about Federal spending and the programs said spending support, are in fact the same people who collect those Federal dollars and who coincidentally don’t want to give up the programs. “
Then there is the military … there are significant U.S. military installations throughout the South, including South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky. The Obama administration has been a huge proponent of the military in recent years (especially among veterans) — more so than the cut, cut, cut Republicans.
Drink this little tidbit up: "In every Southern state except Louisiana, the population of African Americans grew substantially faster than that of whites over the past decade. The growth is fueled by black retirees from the north and rising numbers of young, well-educated blacks in prosperous cities such as Atlanta, Norfolk, Charlotte, and Charleston, S.C."
The changing demographics of the South — from surge in Latinos to African Americans — is changing politics as usual in America.
Republicans may not be able to count on this region for unconditional support moving forward.