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Currently viewing the tag: "West Virginia"

Matt Yglesias ponders the changing politics of West Virginia:

Which is just to say that in the very recent past, West Virginia was a considerably more-Democratic-than-average state. We’re not talking about the distant past or Harry Truman Democrats or whatever. Even post-civil rights, post-Roe, post-Reagan, post-”wedge issues,” post everything Michael Dukakis Democrats were more popular in West Virginia than they were in the country at large. By contrast, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama have all been less popular in WV than they are nationwide. And increasingly so.

And while I’m sure on some level this is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon, on another level it’s not. In recent electoral cycles the Republican Party has been willing to pretend that there are no important negative externalities associated with mining and burning coal, whereas on a national level the Democratic Party has been inclined to acknowledge reality. And in West Virginia coal is seen as a key pillar of the economy.

I think this argument can explain things to some extent. But I have one that fits the facts better, one that I’ve elaborated before. For a long time in the South and elsewhere, you had older voters who still loved the Democratic Party and still had great memories of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, but who had also drifted to the right. The DLC/New Democrat/Blue Dog movement was helpful in keeping them in the party for a time, an attempt really to let these folks have their cake and eat it too. And it did, for a while. But, eventually, the Dem-friendly Greatest Generationers were replaced by younger generations whose formative memories were of the Eisenhower Era or later, and who simply did not have the same allegiance the Democratic Party.

What backs up my (admittedly speculative but fact-fitting) theory is that the inflection point in Democratic support in West Virginia looks to be around 1994. Someone who came of age right during the middle of our involvement in WWII–lets say someone who was 18 in 1943–would have been 69 in 1994. Pushing very close to typical life expectancy, basically. That Dem support started dropping rapidly right afterward, under my theory, would merely have been an actuarial certainty. The coal explanation is undoubtedly part of it, and has probably led to the Democrats’ even worse drop in the past few years (Obama’s current rating in the 30s, namely), but I don’t recall the Democrats calling for an end to coal in 1996.

Vote Gap

West Virginia Vote Gap

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