Friday, October 16, 2020

Is 2020 A Geographical Political Re-Alignment?

 After months of resisting the urge, I have thrown myself into looking at election polling data. I have been most struck by an untold story. Ohio has become a red state, as opposed to a bellweather, but Arizona is turning blue and Democrats look strong in North Carolina and Georgia.

The old assumption was that the industrial Midwest was a "blue wall" for Democratic presidential candidates, something thrown into doubt by Clinton losing Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. That once seemed very worrying, but now Democrats are breaking the Republican hold on the Sun Belt, a region that is growing far faster.

The Republican success in the Sun Belt going back to the 1970s has been essential to that party's success, not least because growing population there meant more seats in Congress. Now the places that blue collar workers have been fleeing to, and which have also seen an increase in immigration, could be a new "blue wall."

The political press is loathe to give up their old narratives, so maybe that's why they do not see the significance of this change. If Democrats have a lead pipe lock on the Northeast and the West Coast and can add the Sun Belt, the Republicans are at a permanent disadvantage. 

This change has been happening for years. Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia have gone from swinging to solid blue. A lot of Republicans have to be secretly hoping that Trump loses so that they can make a pivot. Putting all their chips on white nationalism doesn't work as well in a more diverse nation, especially when it alienates Latinx voters in states where they used to be much rarer. 

After this election Republicans might have to go back to blowing racist dog whistles instead of blasting air horns. They might suddenly rediscover the ways of Reagan and Dubya, who appealed directly to Latinx voters and didn't demonize undocumented immigrants. I say "might" because the ideology of white nationalism works so well in mobilizing their dwindling base that they will be loathe to give it up. Time will tell.

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