Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

02 March 2016

Bernie and Hillary: It Ain’t Over Yet

Maybe it’s the chronic fatigue occasioned by our 24-7-365 news cycle. Maybe it’s the shock of watching one of our once-great political parties self-destruct before their eyes. But once again our news media—even PBS—appear oblivious to some fairly obvious facts, in this case about the Super Tuesday results.

On the GOP side, there was much hand-wringing about Trump’s big wins last night. But no journalist I saw or read remarked upon a simple, arithmetic fact. In none of Trump’s various victories—not one!—did he pass the fifty-percent mark. The closest he got was in Massachusetts, at 49%. But Massachusetts is a liberal state that no GOP politician, let alone Trump, can ever hope to win in a general election.

Does this mean that Trump can’t win the GOP nomination? Of course not. What it means is that in the South—the most conservative and often crazy culture in our nation—he still can’t garner more than half of GOP votes. That means he’s very likely, if the nominee, to lose the general election.

It may not be “politically correct” to say it. But the South is a unique part of the United States, with a unique culture built on bossism and racism. (See also this post for a comparison of Southern with Western and New-England cultures.) It has been rabidly anti-union for decades, long before Scott Walker’s Wisconsin. Its pols consistently bow to Wall Street, even when Wall Street phones its domination of Southern finance in from Manhattan. It seems to like bosses of any kind, and Trump is nothing if not a “take charge” sort of guy.

But the bossism entrenched in the South’s culture is important not just for Donald Trump. It’s also vital in the contest between Bernie and Hillary. Bernie is a self-confessed (peaceful) revolutionary. Hillary is the “establishment” candidate. Is it any great surprise that the establishment candidate won decisively in the South?

Except for Massachusetts, where Clinton was ahead by all of 1% when I published this post (with 97% of precincts reporting), Bernie won every state outside the South. He won Colorado by 17%, Minnesota by 20%, and Vermont by 72%! He even won Oklahoma, a border state that sometimes out-Texases Texas, by 10%. (Oklahoma is the state of Republican Senator James Inhofe, the most rabid global-warming denier in our Senate.)

Does this mean that Hillary won’t win the nomination? Of course not. Her string of wins in the South gave her a lot of delegates.

But let’s not hold her coronation quite yet. The South is a unique region with a unique culture. It’s been at odds with the rest of the country since our Founding, and it started our most horrible war. Notwithstanding its attempt to borrow the aura of Boston and our Founding, the so-called “Tea Party” is a Southern phenomenon. No Democrat can win the presidency by counting primarily on the South.

So let’s not count Bernie out and Hillary in until a few more Western and Northern states have spoken, shall we? The South is not our nation; it’s only about one-third of it. And since Nixon’s vile “Southern strategy,” based on racism and regional resentment, it hasn’t exactly been a major force in putting Democrats in the White House.

In fact, the South put Richard Nixon in the White House when racist Alabama Governor George Wallace split the Democratic vote by running as a third-party candidate. Today—irony of ironies—the South might split the GOP vote and put a Democrat—perhaps even a peaceful revolutionary!—in the White House.

But if the South does so this time, it won’t be by voting for the Democrat, or by picking the Democratic nominee. It’ll be by splitting the opposition and smoothing the path of any Democrat to victory.

Endnote on source: The electoral figures cited in this post are drawn from the Washinton Post’s online front page as of 1:30 am EST today. I can’t link the figures because (1) they change as new precincts report and (2) the Post’s URL does not change when you click on the numerical election results, whether for the GOP or for Dems.

Note on Change: The last paragraph has been added to an earlier version of this post.



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