Do whites in the Deep South vote Republican more often because they are racists?
A recent article in The New Republic entitled "Why does the GOP control the South? In a word, racism" (November 29, 2006) by Rick Perlstein [email him] claimed, "the South votes Republican because the Republicans have perfected their appeal to Southern racism …"
A quick historical reality check reveals an obvious problem with this theory: back during Jim Crow days, the Solid South voted Democratic—but the more decades that have passed since the end of segregation, the more Republican the South has become.
Perlstein attempts to justify his theory by citing a study published in the American Journal of Political Science by political scientists Nicholas Valentino and David Sears, "Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South." They show that in the South, white voters' views on blacks are more salient to how they vote in national elections than in other parts of the country.
Race is more relevant in the voting booth in direct proportion to the racial diversity of the electorate. In elections in the South today, race is the single biggest factor determining who votes for whom, black or white, Republican or Democrat, precisely because there is a very large black voting bloc that votes uniformly Democratic (96-3 for Gore over Bush in the 2000 election). Both races vote to advance their own interests. If whites in the South didn't vote almost as much as a bloc as blacks do, they'd lose.
That's how elections work in racially diverse polities.
In contrast, in liberal Vermont, the whitest state in the Union, race is not salient because blacks have virtually no political power. Instead, what drives voting behavior in Vermont is in large part intra-white competition. Many Vermonters pride themselves on their moral and cultural superiority over those horrible racist white Southerners. Of course, the white Southerners choose, oddly enough, to live around large numbers of blacks—unlike Vermonters, many of whom moved to Vermont from New York City and other big cities. Fleeing to monocultural Vermont helps the Ben & Jerry types maintain the purity of their liberal faith in multiculturalism.
Of course, there are large black populations in Northern cities. But the big voting difference between Republican whites in the South and Democratic whites in big cities is that the Southern whites are less hypocritical. They vote Republican at all levels. In contrast, northern urban white Democrats, especially those with children, will frequently vote along racial lines in local elections to keep their police department out of black hands, just like whites in Mississippi do. But then the Northern whites will indulge their feelings of ethical superiority over those horrible, racist Southerners by voting Democratic at the national level, where racial issues are more symbolic.
In New York City, just one term of a black mayor way back in 1989-1993 has caused white New Yorkers, those paragons of liberalism at the national level, to elect Republican candidates mayor in four straight elections!
"Then mayor David Dinkins was criticized for his poor handling of the events, and the turmoil proved to be a key issue in the next New York City mayoral election, contested in 1993 as a rematch between incumbent David Dinkins and Rudolph Giuliani, whom Dinkins had narrowly defeated four years earlier. On June 16, 1993, a huge rally was held outside City Hall in downtown Manhattan, the primary focus of which was out-of-control criminal violence in general (which the Dinkins administration was viewed by the rally's attendees as being indifferent towards) and continued bitterness over the events in Crown Heights from two years earlier in particular; and several speakers at the rally, including mayoral candidate Giuliani and a Brooklyn-based Caribbean-American community activist, Roy Innis, even went so far as to label the Crown Heights episode a pogrom. Giuliani won the election, and subsequent polls showed that a significant shift in the Jewish vote from 1989 was a contributing factor in his victory."This does not, however, mean that New Yorkers started voting Republican at the national level. Heavens no! That would be racist! (John Kerry won 82 percent in 2004 in Manhattan.)
Similarly, in Chicago, the GOP candidate for mayor normally got less than 10% of the vote ... when running against a white Democrat, that is. In 1983, however, black ex-con Harold Washington slipped through the three-way Democratic primary against two Irish candidates, the incumbent Jane Byrne and the not-yet ready crown prince Richie Daley, son of the long-time mayor Richard J. Daley. So, in the general election, an absolutely unknown GOP candidate, Bernie Epton, a moody gent who had done a couple of stints in a mental hospital, won over 80 percent of the white vote—just missing the 85 percent he needed to become a Republican mayor in the home of the most fabled Democratic machine.
Following Washington's death, whites retook control of the Democratic Party. Daley has been elected Mayor five times in a row.
In Los Angeles, where blacks always made up a much smaller fraction of the electorate, Tom Bradley, a moderate, responsible black, won five straight mayoral elections from 1973-1989, back when the city was more Republican-voting at the national level than it is now. Yet, after the vast black riot of 1992, the now highly-liberal city gave two strong mandates to Republican Richard Riordan in the 1993 and 1997 elections.
In Washington D.C., blacks have an overwhelming majority, which allows the election of prize political specimens like Mayor/Crack Hound Marion Barry. White residents respond by not raising families there. The lifetime total fertility rate for white women in D.C. is just 1.1 babies, and many of those new mothers move to Virginia or Maryland when their child is old enough to enter school.
"The city of Detroit has a very strange, wild appearance, in some parts like a city of ruins many years older than it actually is, where nature reasserts itself in vegetation that spreads over the city's crumbling structures. Detroit is far greener than most major cities, as seen in the runaway vines swarming old mansions in Brush Park, trees sprouting from the rooftops of skyscrapers, tallgrass fields encircling the lone house still standing on a residential block, and abandoned homes swallowed by shrubs thriving unchecked."I look forward to Perlstein declaring that Democrats shouldn't pursue the votes of all those white racist Democrats in the North who vote Republican in the elections that actually count!
Here's the lesson for immigration policy: if you don't want to exacerbate voting along racial lines, then don't increase racial diversity through immigration.