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Grape of wrath
July 12, 2012 5:36 PM   Subscribe

What’s eating Appalachia? 'Democrats in the region seem to hate their president. Keith Judd, a convict serving a 17-year sentence for extortion in a Texan jail' 'won 58% of the vote in Hardy County to Barack Obama’s 42%. Mr Judd’s victory was not a freak result: Democrats in a further nine counties in West Virginia judged a resident of the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana a better standard-bearer for their party than the current occupant of the White House.'

'Neil Gillies, chairman of the Democratic Party in Hardy County, agrees that bureaucratic interference and cultural affronts have sapped the president’s popularity. But he sees Mr Obama chiefly as the victim of demographic trends of longer standing. West Virginia (like most of the rest of Appalachia) is older, whiter, less educated, more religious and more rural than most of America—attributes that correlate with voting Republican. As a result, the Democrats’ grip on the state has gradually been slackening. West Virginia has voted Republican at the presidential level since 2000. Its congressional delegation is tending that way, too. And Democrats have survived in state government only by disavowing the national party, as Messrs Manchin and Tomblin have.'

'Mike Teets, the only Republican on the Hardy County Commission, denies that race has anything to do with local antipathy towards Mr Obama. But he is concerned that the president may be a Muslim, secretly in cahoots with Osama bin Laden, whose killing he could have faked. He also wonders whether the president might be gay. Wild accusations like these, Mr Obama’s supporters maintain, stem from sublimated racism.'

'Jim Webb, a senator from neighbouring Virginia, has noted that much of the population of Appalachia is of Scots-Irish descent. Such voters, he says, often feel snubbed by Democrats who set little store by their “guns and religion”, as Mr Obama once memorably put it. (This may help to explain the president’s poor showing in primaries in Arkansas and Oklahoma, which also have big Scots-Irish populations.) Mr Obama’s recent embrace of gay marriage, says Mr Wade, was reason enough in itself for many in West Virginia to sour on him.'

'Voters with similar sensibilities inhabit the fringes of many states he hopes to carry, including North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Moreover, West Virginia is seen as a proving ground for candidates with white working-class voters. They were never very keen on Mr Obama in the first place, preferring John McCain by 13 points in 2008. Now, as the litany of complaints from West Virginia shows, they have many more reasons to reject the president. Or to look at it another way, if Mr Judd can bring almost half of these Democrats along, how many can Mitt Romney muster?'
posted by VikingSword (76 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm just spitballing here, but I'm guessing it might have to do with the fact that he's black.
posted by percor at 5:38 PM on July 12, 2012 [96 favorites]


No need to paste half the article here. We can read the article online?
posted by lampshade at 5:45 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


pecor, we now live in a post-racial America and it's untoward of you to suggest such a thing.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 5:46 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Or to look at it another way, if Mr Judd can bring almost half of these Democrats along, how many can Mitt Romney muster?

I don't know. Do you think they'll vote for a Mormon?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:47 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd wager that most of the people who come out to vote in a presidential primary for an incumbent's second term are people who don't like the incumbent for whatever reason.
posted by turaho at 5:49 PM on July 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Do you think they'll vote for a Mormon?
Maybe. Is this Mormon white?
posted by Flunkie at 5:50 PM on July 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


They can
vote for Obamacare, or for RomneyDoesnot
posted by growabrain at 5:50 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mike Teets, the only Republican on the Hardy County Commission, denies that race has anything to do with local antipathy towards Mr Obama.

Mike Teets is lying.

The "What's wrong with WV?" here isn't "Why are all these nice Democrats opposed to Obama," it's just "Why did white racists in WV stick with the Democratic Party after the Voting Rights Act?"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:51 PM on July 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


we now live in a post-racial America

Has anyone ever said this except to mock the idea?
posted by fatbird at 5:52 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was nice of The Economist to dip a toe in the complexity of the issue.
posted by tallthinone at 5:53 PM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


"we now live in a post-racial America

Has anyone ever said this except to mock the idea?"

I know some Internet libertarians who 100% believe that and have started saying it very loudly since Obama got elected. It's also the implicit message of pretty much anyone who's against affirmative action.
posted by Copronymus at 5:55 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing's clear, at least - it can't possibly have anything to do with where anyone in question actually stands on any policy issue whatsoever.
posted by SMPA at 5:57 PM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Once, availble in Library, war.
Ideals clashed, death, fire.
Never again, says the philospher.
Uatu watches.
posted by Mblue at 5:57 PM on July 12, 2012


I thought I'd seen something like this -- WV is by one measure the most racist state in the US.

Seth Stevens-Davidowitz used google search tools to find how frequently people search for the terms "nigger" or "niggers" (as distinct from "nigga" or "niggas"). Turns out... the highest use rate (after correcting for blah whatever I can't be bothered to read) was WV.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:58 PM on July 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I heard this same story on NPR last week. They blamed this on the President not supporting coal, or rather supporting "clean" coal, which in the locals minds means the death of the coal industry in the area and their livelyhoods.
posted by Windopaene at 5:59 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am reminded of this guy.
posted by box at 6:02 PM on July 12, 2012


Mike Teets, the only Republican on the Hardy County Commission, denies that race has anything to do with local antipathy towards Mr Obama.

Mike Teets is lying.


Is he?

In 2008, McCain received 55.7% of the vote while Obama received 42.6%.

In 2004, Bush received 56.1% of the vote to Kerry's 43.2%.

The leanings are better explained by most West Virginians disagreeing with the policies of Democrats relative to their impact on the local economy/way of life. (Or at least how those policies are portrayed by the dominant influence in the region--the coal industry.)
posted by tallthinone at 6:05 PM on July 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


They blamed this on the President not supporting coal, or rather supporting "clean" coal, which in the locals minds means the death of the coal industry in the area and their livelihoods.

It is in the local people's minds because their media and landscape is saturated with it, because the out-of-state corporations who are methodically stripping and exploiting the state find it to be in their interest to convince the people there of that fact.

There are enormous billboards all over the state linking the possible loss of coal jobs to the president along with talk radio and local television reinforcing the same message. There are no other industries of note, particularly in southern West Virginia.
posted by winna at 6:06 PM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wait, let's consider this a little more. This guy, as president, could make Escape from New York a reality!
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:06 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought I'd seen something like this -- WV is by one measure the most racist state in the US.

Seth Stevens-Davidowitz used google search tools to find how frequently people search for the terms "nigger" or "niggers" (as distinct from "nigga" or "niggas"). Turns out... the highest use rate (after correcting for blah whatever I can't be bothered to read) was WV.


I grew up in WV, but haven't lived there in 15+ years. But at my high school, there were so few minorities they blended and dated with the rest of the population. I still remember my shock at college in the South watching people gather in racial clumps. 15 asians go by, 10 African americans walk by my window, black fraternities and sororities, Jewish fraternities, anti-gay sentiment, nasty drunk comments at 2 am. I'm still disappointed that the world is not as color-blind as my pocket of WV growing up.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 6:09 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's clear that the libertarian Brits at the Economist really would love this to be about environmental regulation or some other issue, but they don't know diddlyjacksquat about American racism. I grew up in southern Pennsylvania, which was neither far geographically nor culturally from West Virginia, and I know that racism is involved. People try to look "enlightened" or "contrarian" by arguing that something more complex than racism is involved, but they're engaging in argumentative gymnastics that turn Occam's Razor into a joke.
posted by jonp72 at 6:11 PM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Mike Teets, the only Republican on the Hardy County Commission, denies that race has anything to do with local antipathy towards Mr Obama.
Mike Teets is lying.
Is he?
Yes.

According to the article, Mike Teets "is concerned that the president may be a Muslim, secretly in cahoots with Osama bin Laden, whose killing he could have faked. He also wonders whether the president might be gay." But race? Oh, no, heaven forfend, certainly Mike Teets is not a racist, that's obviously got absolutely nothing to do with it.

Also of note from the article: "According to exit polls at the state’s Democratic primary in 2008, race was an important factor for a fifth of white voters. Of those, 84% plumped for Mrs Clinton. It seems safe to assume that not everyone who felt that way confessed as much to the pollsters." And what do you think the rate might be among West Virginians other than Democrats?
posted by Flunkie at 6:12 PM on July 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


The New York Times ran an okay op-ed piece on the argument over coal in West Virginia not too long ago.

The biggest source of lost mining jobs isn't the federal government, but the coal companies themselves. In turning to mountain top removal mining, they need far less miners, as well the implementation of more advance mining equipment has also reduced the need for miners. At the same time, the mining companies are turning West Virginians on each other, as the mining is leading to both the destruction of physical health and nature; helped along by the wonderful Bush administration that essentially handed over the environment to the mining companies as soon as Bush v. Gore was settled.

As for the article, I think as someone mentioned above, it's great that the Economist opted to "dip a toe" into the matter. Incidentally, my white 80+ year old great aunt, registered Republican who lives in Abingdon, Virginia, voted for Obama. It's not all just cut and dry.
posted by Atreides at 6:13 PM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Some people say that Obama is a gay Muslim conspiring with Undead Bin Laden to implement Sharia law in a gunless America. Mike Teets doesn't know, he's just asking questions. Why won't the president respond to these allegations?
posted by Blue Meanie at 6:16 PM on July 12, 2012 [22 favorites]


I'm still disappointed that the world is not as color-blind as my pocket of WV growing up.
I wonder if you ever asked the persons of colour in your "color-blind pocket" if they're as disappointed as you.
posted by Catchfire at 6:21 PM on July 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'd wager that most of the people who come out to vote in a presidential primary for an incumbent's second term are people who don't like the incumbent for whatever reason.

I do it because the nice senior citizens who run my polling station would probably hunt me down if they ever found out I missed an election. They're always so thrilled to see young people like myself turn up for every single election, and they always make it a point to congratulate me for being so civic-minded. Plus they know my name and my address.

I hope they never find out that I cast a write-in votes for "Leslie Knope" and "April Ludgate" in last year's uncontested city council election.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:22 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


This really isn't even about Obama. When a county votes an imprisoned extortionist over not just Obama, but in the end, over every possible other human being (I think rodents are disqualified) it's about just how sick the system is there and perhaps how sick it's getting everywhere as the saprophytes come out to feast on the decaying remains of the system.
posted by INFOHAZARD at 6:24 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


According to the article, Mike Teets "is concerned that the president may be a Muslim, secretly in cahoots with Osama bin Laden, whose killing he could have faked. He also wonders whether the president might be gay." But race? Oh, no, heaven forfend, certainly Mike Teets is not a racist, that's obviously got absolutely nothing to do with it.

Mike Teets' personal feelings aside, a blanket statement of "racists" doesn't fully account for the antipathy of West Virginians toward Obama and national Democrats, as evidenced by similar numbers from the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.

Also of note from the article: "According to exit polls at the state’s Democratic primary in 2008, race was an important factor for a fifth of white voters."


For context, what was it nationally?
posted by tallthinone at 6:26 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


WV is 93% white with a strong aversion to anyone who is not. It may be partially that, but there seems to be bit of economic distaste thrown in as well.

WV 2011 Census Quick Facts
WV Official Primary Results

On an interesting note, Obama did carry a good percentage of the state in the general election though.

WV 2008 General Election Results

This NYT article, In West Virginia, Coal Means More, Party Less - (Jul 3, 2012), seems to explain a bit more. Interesting to note that the coal industry culture may also be a driver of the anti Obama feelings, but it does not really explain why Hillary was given such high marks in the 2008 primary. However, Al Gore really struggled with WV in 2000 and lost 51.9%-45.6% and that falls in line with his green oriented views vs coal culture..

Finally, while Jon Stewart is not the most un-biased reporter (he is in it for laughs after all), this segment does point up some of the issue including the primary results of that year (Obama/Clinton). Basically, it sees they are firmly in the Anybody-But-Obama camp. Daily Show: Indecision 2008 - West Virginia (May 14, 2008)

My read - it's a bit because he is black, a bit because he is progressive and a bit because there is a large coal contingent that thinks Romney is more in their corner. The win by that prisoner was a a signal that people in WV are not going to embrace too much change.
posted by lampshade at 6:35 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate to spoil the great chance for a fun lolhillbillies post, but I think the open primary after the republican race was set might have something to do with it.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:39 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


That was nice of The Economist to dip a toe in the complexity of the issue.
posted by tallthinone at 5:53 PM on July 12 [5 favorites +] [!]


Every Economist article is done on more or less this kind of scale, by design (a main selling point of the Economist), with the exceptions of special reports and Christmas issue special topic articles. This particular piece is not an ordinary reportage piece but a Lexington column, a regular column by one person on US politics that usually expresses an individual opinion beyond just reportage (another quirk of The Economist is that for most pieces, there is no byline and a house voice is used in the writing. The regular columnists usually have more of an individual voice and a special identity but are semi-anonymous too). The Economist's usual Lexington columnist and Washington bureau chief died in a car crash in May - not sure who's filling in for him here or if they found a replacement yet
posted by Bwithh at 6:47 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


For context, what was it nationally?
Nationally* it was 14% "important", with 70% of the people saying it was important voting against him. West Virginia, 22% with 81%.

That is, nationally, about 10% of the white voters in Democratic primaries said that race was important and voted against him. In the WV Democratic primary, about 18%. Nearly double.

States that were above average on this list: Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Missouri.

source

*: Well, not really "nationally"; rather, of the 31 states that the question was asked in.
posted by Flunkie at 6:55 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know some Internet libertarians who 100% believe that and have started saying it very loudly since Obama got elected. It's also the implicit message of pretty much anyone who's against affirmative action.

It's pretty much "you can't call us racists anymore because the black guy won". It doesn't change how they feel.

I mean, there is a nugget of truth in the "post racial America" meme. The US broke through a barrier by electing Obama. We are a little less racist than we were prior to that. But that doesn't mean racism doesn't exist any more. It just means the racists are a little further on the fringes.
posted by gjc at 7:05 PM on July 12, 2012


I'm still disappointed that the world is not as color-blind as my pocket of WV growing up.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons


I didn't realize :so racially segregated that minorities are marginalized into non-existence" was the same as "color-blind".
posted by schroedinger at 7:14 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was another thread started about Appalachia only 30 minutes before this one.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:17 PM on July 12, 2012


"....older, whiter, less educated, more religious..."

There you go.
posted by wrapper at 7:18 PM on July 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tallthinone: you wouldn't expect Obama to pull the same proportion of votes as Kerry. In the absence of any intervening forces you would expect Obama to receive substantially more votes, as he did in most states.

The fact that Obama couldn't outperform Kerry when the economy was in free-fall and Republican approval was in the toilet is evidence for racist attitudes driving votes in WV, not against it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:20 PM on July 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


percor: "I'm just spitballing here, but I'm guessing it might have to do with the fact that he's black."

Tim Wise breaks it down.
posted by symbioid at 7:27 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Eric Andre brings another little twist. (Ok, this isn't Appalachia, but still damn funny as shit).
posted by symbioid at 7:31 PM on July 12, 2012


there were so few minorities they blended and dated with the rest of the population.

I didn't realize :so racially segregated that minorities are marginalized into non-existence" was the same as "color-blind".


Catchfire's skepticism is perfectly reasonable, but you just read the comment backwards or something.
posted by Winnemac at 7:40 PM on July 12, 2012


we now live in a post-racial America

So, the election of an African-American president has not cast us into a sunlit utopian "post-racial" society? "No, not at all, instead the whole thing uncovered" he pauses in sorrow or anger, "plenty of maggots still squirming around there under the stone."
posted by homunculus at 8:15 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Democrats in the region seem to hate their president."

2000: George W. Bush: 5 Electoral Votes 53/46 (1 other)
2004: George W. Bush: 5 Electoral Votes 56/44
2008: John S. McCain: 5 Electoral Votes 44/56

Exactly when in the last decade plus has the "democrat" vote mattered in the election?

Exactly none.

Fuck you, The Economist concern troll. Fuck. You.
posted by eriko at 8:31 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


huh huh huh. He said "teets". huh huh huh.
posted by telstar at 8:33 PM on July 12, 2012


One thing's clear, at least - it can't possibly have anything to do with where anyone in question actually stands on any policy issue whatsoever.

Does the average American care about policy, really? Does the average West Virginian?
posted by scratch at 8:34 PM on July 12, 2012


When America collapses into multiple nations and the US ceases to exist as we grew up understanding it, mountains full of old, uneducated, religious racists a continent away will be one of the things I miss the least here on the West Coast
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:34 PM on July 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


tallthinone: Mike Teets' personal feelings aside, a blanket statement of "racists" doesn't fully account for the antipathy of West Virginians toward Obama and national Democrats, as evidenced by similar numbers from the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections.

Obama lost the 2008 primary in West Virginia to Hillary Clinton by 40 points. Racism may not "fully account" for the antipathy, but it sure as hell isn't just an ancillary factor.

lampshade: My read - it's a bit because he is black, a bit because he is progressive and a bit because there is a large coal contingent that thinks Romney is more in their corner.

How is it possible that it's only "a bit" because he's black if it's also true that, as you opine in your first graph, "WV is 93% white with a strong aversion to anyone who is not"?
posted by blucevalo at 8:57 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a minority kid who used to live in one of those nearly all-white, color-blind pockets, I found that the whole harmonious melting-pot thing worked really well, as long as the non-whites knew their place and didn't get uppity.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:22 PM on July 12, 2012 [23 favorites]


I was recently attending a bit of traffic school in southern WV where the old dude teaching the class admitted to voting for Keith Judd. His only excuse was that he didn't know he was an inmate. The reasoning he gave, as well as several others in the class, was that it was a protest vote against healthcare reform and President Obama's desire to destroy the coal industry(a commonly believed bit of silliness around here). I couldn't take him too seriously, however. He also expressed his belief that "music and technology are the Antichrist".

As a native West Virginian, it's frustrating to see how "conservative" this state has become over the past few years. The WV coal industry wields vast amounts of power and political power, and they use it quite brutally to battle government regulation in any way. Match that with a Tea Party approved brand of Christianity and a Fox News watching populace, and these ridiculous things happen. It brings me down. At family dinners, I just keep my lips sealed and seethe.
posted by gincrazed at 9:35 PM on July 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Damn, why are dems so racist? Sure seems like the dems have a race problem to me.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:37 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Republicans "freed" the slaves. This is why the South was a bastion for Democrats up until LBJ and Civil Rights came along gradually the South switched to the Republican party when the Christian Evangelicals began to dominate the Republican party.
posted by pdxpogo at 9:47 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


A great deal of these anti-Obama "Democratic" primary voters are just Republicans trying to vote in closed primaries. Legacy Democrats still own local offices in many of these states. If there's a closed primary, and the guy that wins the Democratic primary for Sheriff is going to win no matter what...you're going to register as a Democrat and then vote for Romney in November.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:53 PM on July 12, 2012


So we're all agreed that West Virginians are a bunch of stupid filthy racist bigots, then? Glad we've got that established. Let's close this up.

Damn people, if I were from West Virginia this thread would be making me feel pretty bad about myself.
posted by Scientist at 10:06 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


So we're all agreed that West Virginians are a bunch of stupid filthy racist bigots, then?

As someone who grew up in a culturally similar area (rural Western PA), it's naive to think that race isn't the primary consideration when they go to vote. You can pretend that there are other issues, but those other issues ultimately go right back to race. They are against welfare because lazy black people steal welfare from the taxpayers. They are against healthcare reform because lazy black people steal healthcare from the taxpayers. They are against Obama because he's a secret Muslim, and being black, he only got as far as he did (and he only got elected) because he's black. My grandfather got some pretty big laughs with his joke: "What's Obama's Chinese name? Coon Die Soon!"). You should hear the ugly shit my aunt says about Michelle Obama in particular. My family isn't abnormal in my experience. Before 2008, I called them Limbaugh Democrats, because they opposed most things Democrats were ostensibly for, but "if you don't make more than $100,000, you are stupid for voting Republican." I think the election of Barack Obama was for racist northern Democrats what the Civil Rights Act was for racist southern Democrats.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:18 PM on July 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


Is Virginia's red fever passing? Rachel Maddow describes the radical social conservatism that overtook Virginia politics in 2010 when previous trends had shown Democratic gains, and talks with Democratic strategist Mudcat Saunders about why he sees vulnerability in Republicans, particularly House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, whose opponent he advises.
posted by homunculus at 11:33 PM on July 12, 2012


But at my high school, there were so few minorities they blended and dated with the rest of the population. I still remember my shock at college in the South watching people gather in racial clumps.

I had a similar experience while in the Air Force. I had been stationed at a place with very few minorities, and we all socialized regardless of race. Then a bunch of us were transferred to a base in the south, and after a period of time i'd see less and less of my black friends. i jokingly asked a friend i hadn't seen in awhile why he didn't invite me to a party, he said "you wouldn't have been comfortable, it was all black people".

i don't know, maybe there is something about human nature, or just american society, where once you reach a critical mass people want to socialize with their race/creed/etc. more than with others. i suppose if i were living overseas and there was an enclave of americans i'd tend to relate to them moreso than with the local populace.
posted by camdan at 11:36 PM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


> This is why the South was a bastion for Democrats up until LBJ and Civil Rights came along gradually the South switched to the Republican party when the Christian Evangelicals began to dominate the Republican party.

The article is about West Virginia, not Virginia. Plantation agriculture was a feature of lowland regions of the South, not Appalachia, The state of West Virginia exists because when Virginia seceded from the Union, the Western counties seceded from the state and rejoined the Union.


A couple random comments:

I doubt if Obama is seen as more anti-coal than other Democrats, so a lot of antipathy to Obama in particular is probably based on race.

I doubt if white people in WV are more racist than white people in other Southern states. Big chunks of VA and NC (which Obama carried in 2008) have majority black populations. The demographics are a bit different.

I'm really skeptical about the idea that people from WV are 'more religious' (at least compared to people from VA). My anecdata says the opposite. I also don't think this is relevant.

It was really bizarre that article brought up that a lot of people from WV and other parts of Appalachia are descended from settlers from Scotland and Ireland. Genetic voting patterns? People from VA can have some pretty nasty stereotypes about West Virginians. Senator Webb may have been repeating some here.

(Disclaimer: I'm from VA. I live near the boarder with WV, though I'm originally from another part of the state.)
posted by nangar at 12:00 AM on July 13, 2012


How is it possible that it's only "a bit" because he's black if it's also true that, as you opine in your first graph, "WV is 93% white with a strong aversion to anyone who is not"?

Well, I didn't opine the first graph. I put forth a fact. As for the "a bit" bit, that where I was "opining" based on the fact that it is quite possible, based on what I read, that there is a racial element to the voting. As there is in any election. In any state. Probably in any country.

Vague? Yes. But I am not going label an entire state as a racist cesspool if there is no fact to back it up. WV may, based on what I read, have a certain preponderance of racially motivated voting, but there are no poll results (for what they would be worth anyway) to back that up.

The WV 93% white statistic is a statement of real numbers of the population in that state based on published fact. It does not assume that if a person is white, that person must not vote for blacks or maybe even hate blacks. It is just a percentage based on the pigmentation of the skin of the people who were counted.

'k?
posted by lampshade at 1:21 AM on July 13, 2012


"WV is 93% white with a strong aversion to anyone who is not"?

Ok...I see what you are talking about. Yeah, that was dumb to put that in there. Mea culpa.
posted by lampshade at 2:11 AM on July 13, 2012


It was really bizarre that article brought up that a lot of people from WV and other parts of Appalachia are descended from settlers from Scotland and Ireland. Genetic voting patterns? People from VA can have some pretty nasty stereotypes about West Virginians. Senator Webb may have been repeating some here.

Senator Webb (of Scots-Irish descent himself) wrote this book, "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America". From the Amazon book description:
"Born Fighting is the first book to chronicle the full journey of this remarkable cultural group, and the profound, but unrecognized, role it has played in the shaping of America. (...) Scots-Irishman James Webb, Vietnam combat veteran and former Naval Secretary, traces the history of his people, beginning nearly two thousand years ago at Hadrian’s Wall, when the nation of Scotland was formed north of the Wall through armed conflict in contrast to England’s formation to the south through commerce and trade. (...) And it explores how the Scots-Irish culture of isolation, hard luck, stubbornness, and mistrust of the nation’s elite formed and still dominates blue-collar America, the military services, the Bible Belt, and country music."

Political strategist Dave "Mudcat" Saunders wrote: "I was thinking she [unnamed sitting U.S. Senator] might possibly gain some understanding that dismissing the power of the Scots-Irish culture is the Democrats' "glass jaw" in electoral outcomes. There are, after all, huge Scots-Irish voting blocs throughout the South and much of rural America."
posted by iviken at 4:13 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Jacksonian Tradition by Walter Russell Mead...
posted by jim in austin at 4:28 AM on July 13, 2012


Thanks for that bit of background, iviken.
posted by nangar at 4:58 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Republicans "freed" the slaves. This is why the South was a bastion for Democrats up until LBJ and Civil Rights came along gradually the South switched to the Republican party when the Christian Evangelicals began to dominate the Republican party.

This is too simplistic. The Atwater Southern Strategy wasn't a result of evangelicals dominating the party; the strategy was a bald, opportunistic power grab predicated on racism, and evangelicals have simply become a useful tool.
posted by Miko at 5:30 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Link fail

Southern Strategy
posted by Miko at 5:30 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn people, if I were from West Virginia this thread would be making me feel pretty bad about myself.

It isn't making me feel bad about myself, but it is making me a little sad: partly because it's a kind of microcosm of what everyone seems to think about the state (they're totally all hillbilly racists!) and partly because there is an element of truth to the worst criticisms. (I'm from WV, but haven't lived there for a while. Most of my family is still there, though.)

There's a lot to unpack here. Yes, some of the population is racist; like someone else said upthread, though, I am a little skeptical that the average poor, white person in WV is demonstrably more motivated by racial prejudice than the average poor, white person in most other states. It's naive to ignore the racism, as someone mentioned, but it's imho equally naive to ignore all the other stuff, too. As noted, Kerry lost badly in the state, too, and all the trends are (from a Democratic perspective) bad: i.e., what was once one of the most solidly Democratic places in the country (it voted for Carter in 1980, was one of only 10 states to go for Dukakis in 1988, voted for Clinton both times) now seems increasingly unlikely to go Democratic in the presidential elections anytime soon.

Coal is one factor, as mentioned in the article, in the NYT article, and elsewhere here. Even though it's a declining part of the state's actual economy, it still exerts an enormous hold on people's perceptions of the state's economy, and almost everyone (or everyone I knew back home, anyway) had someone in their family who worked or used to work in the mines. But its influence on politics is a little complicated, in ways that I don't think were captured well here. On the one hand you have all the advertising and sentiment that seems to give people the idea that the EPA/Democrats are going to SHUT DOWN THE MINES OMG. On the other, though, you also have a strong tradition of organized labor in the mines and steel-working plants, which still resonates through some of the election results.

By way of demonstration, here's a quiz: which of these counties in WV do you think went for Obama in the 2008 election? Was it a) Kanawha county, the most populous county in WV, home to the state capital, with a median household income of $43,000 year, 7.4% African-American population, and 25% of the population holding Bachelor's or higher degrees? Or b) Boone county, deep in coal country, where the total population is about 24,000 people, African Americans make up 0.6% of the population, 8.2% of the population holds a Bachelor's degree or higher, and the median household income is even lower? That's right, it was Boone, 55-45. McDowell County, the southernmost county and one of the poorest (32% of people below poverty level), also went for Obama. (Just so I'm not cherry-picking, so did some counties in the middle, one in the eastern panhandle, and so did Monongalia county, where the state's largest university is located.) I'm not sure what to make of all this, but I guess one point is that you'd be making a mistake to assume that the mere prevalence of lots of white, poor folks meant a solid vote for McCain.

Now I'll undermine that data a little with a depressing anecdote: my sister, who still lives in WV, worked for the Obama campaign in 2008. At one point, while she was standing on a street corner with an Obama sign, someone drove past and literally threw an empty snuff can at her, while shouting "I'll never vote for no n***." So, you know, there is just a teensy, eensy bit of racism involved too. The snuff can was a nice touch, too.
posted by chalkbored at 6:55 AM on July 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


I like how the EPA is hated because private property rights permit West Virginians (or anyone) to dump shit in the water that ultimately ends up in my watershed, and my body.
posted by kgasmart at 7:46 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was really bizarre that article brought up that a lot of people from WV and other parts of Appalachia are descended from settlers from Scotland and Ireland. Genetic voting patterns? People from VA can have some pretty nasty stereotypes about West Virginians. Senator Webb may have been repeating some here.

As someone from Virginia and of the Scots-Irish heritage reference, I call it pretty shooey. I haven't read Webb's book, though apparently, after one term in the Senate, that feisty fightin' attitude dissolves, the people he bases his premise on mainly arrived in the nation at least 200 years ago. Just like my German, English, and so on other forebearers, any type of conscious attitude/political thought that might have been specific to the mind set of Scottish people who were transplanted to Ireland and then came to the colonies, has been thoroughly diluted by time and interaction with other cultures. Neither myself, nor my family, nor my extended family, act or vote by a determination centuries old. I don't dismiss the sometimes overlooked contributions of these people, but claiming that it influences how someone voted in the 2008 election is just plain foolish.

And for the sake of clarity, please refer to the West Virginians you despise as "some West Virginians" as there are West Virginians who aren't racist, who fight tooth and nail to stop the destruction of their streams and rivers, etc....etc. It is not a monolithic state and the only flaw they possess is the historic mistake of not choosing to call themselves the much cooler sounding name of State of Kanawah after seceding from Virginia, instead of the name they opted to assume.
posted by Atreides at 8:13 AM on July 13, 2012


Scots-Irishman James Webb, Vietnam combat veteran and former Naval Secretary, traces the history of his people, beginning nearly two thousand years ago at Hadrian’s Wall, when the nation of Scotland was formed north of the Wall through armed conflict in contrast to England’s formation to the south through commerce and trade. (...) And it explores how the Scots-Irish culture of isolation, hard luck, stubbornness, and mistrust of the nation’s elite formed and still dominates blue-collar America, the military services, the Bible Belt, and country music."

I don't know how this Scots-Irish meme has creeped into the American narrative, but it smells like bullshit to me. I don't know the percentage of Scots-Irish Canadians, but there are more people in Canada claiming Scottish ancestry than any place in the world outside of Scotland. I'd venture to say Scots-Irish is easily on of the top 5 ancestries. Australia, a bunch of Scots-Irish. New Zealand? Same Deal.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have pretty good military histories for small countries... but Bible Belt and Country Music? Please. Whatever sociological factors drive the American political mindset it isn't a Scots-Irish thing.
posted by Intrepid at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know how this Scots-Irish meme has creeped into the American narrative, but it smells like bullshit to me.

This reminds of walking my family's dog one Saturday during a summer home from college and getting trapped into what became an hour-long conversation with an older neighbor about the glory of the Scots-Irish. I don't think I had heard the term so much before or since until this thread. This guy was completely into it, though. He went on at length about how Scots-Irish were the heart and soul of America.

I know some Internet libertarians who 100% believe that and have started saying it very loudly since Obama got elected. It's also the implicit message of pretty much anyone who's against affirmative action.

This brings up another memory of talking with a law school classmate who was a Federalist Society member and ardent libertarian. He was arguing that Obama's election showed racism was over as a valid concern and so we should repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, all affirmative action policies, and reverse decisions like Heart of Atlanta Motel Inc. v. United States since they "infringed on liberty".
posted by Sangermaine at 8:57 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regarding Senator Jim Webb, I was living in northern Virginia at the time of his 2006 Senate campaign, and I did some phone banking for his campaign. There was some hope that Webb would be able to eat in to the Republican base, because of his Appalachian roots, but the voting results suggest otherwise. Webb is from Gate City, Virginia in Scott County, yet his home county went 62-38 for George Allen. This is especially galling when you consider that Webb is a life-long Virginian of Applachian descent, whereas George Allen grew up in California and didn't move to Virginia until his college years. In addition, Allen basically establishes his pseudoauthenticity as a Virginian through waving the Confederate flag and other racist dog whistles.

In fact, Webb won because Allen's dog whistles got to be too unsubtle. Webb had sent out a Indian-American "tracker" born in Fairfax County, Virginia named S.R. "Sid" Sidharth to film George Allen. True to form, Allen nicknamed Sid "macaca" on videotape, which later became a YouTube clip that mortally hurt Allen's campaign. It probably mortified a lot of moderate Virginians, but it also increased minority turnout considerably. I met Sid once, and he was a totally Americanized guy who said "dude" a lot, but according to the campaign grapevine, Sid's granddaddy was an independence activist for India back in the 40s and personally knew Gandhi and Nehru. So let's just say Sid wasn't a superpowerful person in his own right, but his family was way connected in the Indian-American community for this reason, and there was a higher than average mobilization of Indian-Americans in Virginia because of this.

In addition, Vietnamese immigrants in northern Virginia (who were typically from anticommunist South Vietnam) had historically voted Republican because they were hawkish on foreign policy, but they swung strongly to Webb, because they respected Webb's service in Vietnam, Webb was married to a Vietnamese woman, and George Allen's racism was a turnoff. I also know from my phone-banking experience that Muslim voters and African-American voters loved Webb. When I talked to some Muslim voters, they often said they were telling everybody in their mosque to vote against Allen. Finally, the African-American voters were not only very respectful of Webb's military service, but the liked the fact that he was a Southern Appalachian who wasn't personally prejudiced toward black people. In other words, they knew Webb was a redneck, but he was their kind of redneck.

The Democrats tried really hard with the Jim Webb campaign to appeal to Appalachian voters, but being more solicitous of Appalachians had really zero effect on helping him win the campaign. Instead, despite his Scotch-Irish "born fighting" background, Webb won like most every other Democratic candidate by building a heterogeneous multiracial, multiethnic coalition that gave him just enough to beat Allen by four-tenths of a percentage point.
posted by jonp72 at 9:45 AM on July 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


If Obama was in cahoots with bin Laden, he has an interesting way of showing it.

Look, this is Lee Atwater's law in effect. (warning: offensive language) Very few people are openly racist anymore. It's internalized, and code words are used instead. It's acceptable to hate Muslims, gays, and socialists, and so these stand in for race. Ironically, the one thing about Obama that's actually true is the one that doesn't get mentioned.
posted by moammargaret at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Scientist: So we're all agreed that West Virginians are a bunch of stupid filthy racist bigots, then? Glad we've got that established. Let's close this up.

Damn people, if I were from West Virginia this thread would be making me feel pretty bad about myself.
You can pretend that we're unjustly bashing WV, but history's record and statistical polls back it up: WV harbors a lot of racist people.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2012


Though in fairness, not necessarily more than you would expect demographically from a state with a lot of poor, old, rural ________.
posted by Atreides at 11:42 AM on July 13, 2012


Now that I think of it, states with a lot of poor, old, rural black folks are also pretty prone to aggregate racism. Probably not arising from the poor, old, rural black folks, though.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:10 PM on July 13, 2012


nangar: "It was really bizarre that article brought up that a lot of people from WV and other parts of Appalachia are descended from settlers from Scotland and Ireland. Genetic voting patterns? People from VA can have some pretty nasty stereotypes about West Virginians. Senator Webb may have been repeating some here."

See my previous link with Tim Wise discussing the Scots-Irish stuff (FWIW, I'm Scots-Irish descent)
posted by symbioid at 5:02 PM on July 13, 2012


Also to clarify: Scots-Irish is not just "Scottish" it's a specific subset of people who descended from Scottish ancestors and were sent to persecute and take over the Irish farms in a lot of North Ireland. Most of them were Presbyterian, and they moved to Pennsylvania and traversed down the Shenandoah valley. I don't think just because you have "Scots-Irish" genes, you are going to have to think this way or that (lord knows I don't think like a lot of the South, even though a lot of my ancestors come from there).

There's a lot of class issues where the working class whites were used against the slaves (as you see quite often now: I might be low, but at least I'm not *that* low). And so they're used to hold the line and prevent uniting against their own interests.

Is it a flawed narrative? Perhaps, I haven't looked into it enough. But what I have looked into does sound fairly solid. Of course, narratives are just that: narratives. The story I told is going to clash with the MIGHTY GLORIOUS SCOTS-IRISH that Webb tells a tale of, because that's looking upon his history with pride and not shame.
posted by symbioid at 5:14 PM on July 13, 2012


Catching Hell for Hiring a Muslim
posted by homunculus at 11:42 AM on July 19, 2012


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