Virginia’s leftward trend in a national context.

Here are two interesting nuggets from political articles that I’ve read recently. First, from last week’s New Yorker, comes this bit about Gary Hart’s belief that Democrats need to woo western voters, not southern voters:

If we brought the mountain states into the Democratic Party for the next twenty, thirty, forty years, it would make the Party younger. It would make the Party more environmentally concerned and attentive. It would certainly move energy-related issues to the forefront,” he said. “And you will find people here more technologically sophisticated. It would be much more new economy versus old economy. This is not an industrial area. This is small business and cutting-edge technologies. We’re about where California was twenty-five, thirty years ago.”

If you find that interesting, I recommend reading Ryan Lizza’s whole article. Based only on what Lizza presented in the article, I think there’s a good case to be made for the national party to largely abandon Virginia, etc., to focus their resources elsewhere.

The second interesting quote comes from David Frum’s piece in Friday’s New York Times, “The Vanishing Republican Voter“:

As a general rule, the more unequal a place is, the more Democratic; the more equal, the more Republican. The gap between rich and poor in Washington is nearly twice as great as in strongly Republican Charlotte, N.C.; and more than twice as great as in Republican-leaning Phoenix, Fort Worth, Indianapolis and Anaheim…. As America becomes more unequal, it also becomes less Republican. The trends we have dismissed are ending by devouring us.

Frum goes on to cite Fairfax as a prime example of inequity resulting in Democratic victories, and forecasts that the reliably-conservative Prince William will fall for the same reasons. Most troubling to him is that the more uneducated a populace, the more likely they are to be Republicans, while the converse is likewise true. As goes upstate Virginia, so goes the nation.

It’s ironic that Republican leadership has tended to result in inequality (I’d argue that it’s an inevitable result of the Republican philosophy), if that is indeed the cause of Democratic victories. Apparently the political market is self-correcting.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

8 replies on “Virginia’s leftward trend in a national context.”

  1. It’s ironic that Republican leadership has tended to result in inequality

    You’ve got it backwards, as Frum’s own observations demonstrate. How long has Washington, D.C., been strongly Democrat-controlled? (Answer: decades, at least.) If Democrat leadership leads to equality, D.C. should be the most economically balanced city in the U.S…. but it’s not, is it? D.C. is a great example of how Democrats in local government perpetuate rich-poor disparities.

    On the flip side, Charlotte has been “strongly Republican” for quite a long time, and it has a much smaller rich-poor gap. Fairfax is a good example of this. NOVA began “turning blue” during the late 80s, and its economic disparity has been growing ever since.

  2. Actually, DC’s an incredibly poor example, Publius. DC has been run by Congress, for the most part. This city full of Democrats has had to beg congressional Republicans like Bob Barr and Lauch Faircloth for approval on any number of basic matters. Even the Home Rule Act of 1973 reserves two city council seats for non-Democrats (essentially Republican electoral welfare – got that in any other city?).

    DC can be used as an example for lots of things, but not as the result of long term Democratic control and policies. (Not that I’m giving an ounce of credit to Congressional Democrats, who have failed to do anything about DC when they had the chance. The best friend the District had in Congress in recent memory was Tom Davis.)

  3. MB – Would Detroit be a better example then? Not trying to be snarky, but it’s one of the first cities that come to mind as being run by Democrats forever and still seeing disparity, perhaps on a greater level than ever. Though part of that is economic issues that may go beyond the city.

  4. Maybe Detroit would be, Jason. I don’t know. The full extent of my knowledge about Detroit is that it used to have something to do with cars (in a galaxy far far away) and their mayor is a (_)@*#!)* idiot who should have been kicked out of office long ago.

    I would, as a general rule, shy away from extracting too many macro performance conclusions from the microlabs that are municipalities. Arlington is solidly Dem, and so is Atlanta proper. Very very very different policies implemented. I mean, there are useful illustrative examples we could pull out, but I sure wouldn’t consider them as heavily indicative on their own.

  5. Frum’s thesis seems to be the classic error that correlation does not equal causality. (If there’s even a correlation; Frum notably doesn’t provide any reference that income inequality is generally correlated with Democratic strength, just a few anecdotes.)

    Frum leads off his description of present-day Fairfax with:
    “The county’s new wealth and diversity have created important new social problems. The schools are stressed. The roads are choked. Land use is more contentious.”

    and then, apparently oblivious to the idea that any of these could be the related to the shift in politics, he immediately declares income inequality is the cause.

    It seems far more likely that the shift is due to the increasing population density and urbanization. From the time when Fairfax was horse country to the time when shopping malls were outposts, low taxes and lax business regulation ruled the day, and people voted Republican. As it grew more dense, it had more that required an effective government to maintain quality of life, and it grew more Democratic. (Not to mention that the population didn’t just grow in place; the new people were increasingly people who had chosen to live in a suburban Fairfax, whereas the ones of the earlier era were more likely to be people whose families had lived there before them.)

  6. I think the Virginia polls are even. Wilder’s election showed that a 3% lead in a race the week before can evaporate on election date. But if turn out is big then Barrack should do VERY well. But McCain’s navy background has got to make tidewater tough for Barrack.

    Anyone calling this race is just guessing right now.

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