Philadelphia Votes, Part 2


After posting that map of Philadelphia’s presidential votes the other day, I wanted to see how much had changed since 2012. So I came up with this:


You’re still looking at a vast sea of blue, but the differences jump out at you. Clinton and Obama both won the city easily, but Obama won it much more thoroughly. Trump won wide swathes of the 45th ward where Obama had carried every single division four years earlier. Trump’s victories in the Northeast were also much deeper and widespread. Even in the dark blue areas of North and West Philly, we can see that Obama was the stronger candidate. Where Clinton had three divisions with 100% of the votes for her, Obama had twenty-seven. The pattern held throughout the area. Clinton didn’t lose much of Obama’s totals, just a handful of votes in each division. But it was enough.

Diverging Dominions


If you look at election maps as much as I do, you may have noticed that West Virginia, once among the most Democratic states in the Union, has trended Republican, while more Republican Virginia has been going the opposite way. What’s amazed me, though, is how rapid the change has been.

I’ve written before about the deepening of Republican control of Appalachia (see these two blog posts about Kentucky,) and the same pattern holds true in West Virginia. It has also been true in the mountainous regions of Virginia, but the simultaneous trend toward the Democrats in suburban Washington D.C. has been even more powerful. Take a look at this chart:



What that chart represents is how much the state’s presidential vote diverged from the national totals. In 2000, Virginia was 8.5% more Republican than the country, and West Virginia was 6.8% more. Pretty similar, and George W. Bush carried both states. He won both in 2004, too, but they switched places. This time, Virginia was closer to the national average, at +5.7% Republican, and West Virginia was a deeper red at +10.4.

Barack Obama’s election exacerbated the trend, just as it did in Kentucky. In 2008, Virginia was 0.9% more Republican than the national average–close enough for Obama to win the state. John McCain carried West Virginia, which was now +20.4% Republican. In 2012, the states divided the same way, only more so. Virginia was now 0.02% more Democratic than the nation, an almost exact bellwether. West Virginia was one of the best states for Mitt Romney at +30.6% Republican. A state Al Gore was shocked to lose in 2000 was, by 2012, not even worth campaigning in for his fellow Democrat.

The Republican margin of victory in West Virginia is so extreme that, if it were reunited with the much larger mother state of Virginia, the result would have been a narrow Romney victory (the combined state would be +4.5% Republican.) That’s not enough to change Obama’s electoral vote victory, but it is notable, in that West Virginia is usually so small compared to Virginia that combining the two means the smaller state disappears within the larger’s totals. That’s not particularly relevant, since no one is proposing to undo West Virginia’s 1863 separation from the Old Dominion, but it’s worth noting that the two states haven’t been this politically divergent since they separated.

Tubman Triumphant


Yesterday, the Treasury Department announced that, among other changes, Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill.

I support this. Tubman was a great figure in American history who worked to advance the cause of human liberty. I’ve been pleased to see that many people I respect on the Right have also praised the change. And, you know, we used to change the people on bills all the time. Hamilton was on it once, as was a more obscure Treasury Secretary, Daniel Manning. So, yes, let’s shake things up.

Even though I’ve never been especially a Jackson fan, I feel like he’s getting slammed a little too much these days. I mean, he was a proponent of slavery and Indian removal, so those are major strikes against him, but he was also the first president to suggest that poor and landless people (if they were white and male) deserved an equal say in this country’s governance as the rich and landed. Jackson and his followers expanded full participation in the republic to a lot of people in a fairly short time, and in a way no other nation was really doing.

That didn’t amount to much if you were one of his slaves or one of the Indians he forced to walk a thousand miles away from their homes (and possibly die on the way,) but it meant something positive to a great many people, the sort of folk who had no voice in any other country at the time. His monetary policy was kind of bizarre, but he did whip the redcoats at New Orleans, so that’s something.

So, let’s be glad to see him go, but not Vox-ify the nuanced character that founded the Democratic Party and did some good along with all the bad.

Thanks but no Thanks


Thanksgiving is the most inclusive, and most American of holidays. You don’t have to belong to any particular race or religion to celebrate it. You don’t even have to believe anything one way or the other about the first Thanksgiving, on which this holiday is loosely based. It’s just a time to gather with family and be thankful for all our blessings and for each other. Then we watch sports and eat too much. It’s perfect!

Naturally, the Democratic National Committee wants to turn it into a progressive indoctrination session.

We saw the same thing last year, when they pushed young lefties to proselytize about Obamacare in between bites of candied yams. It’s part of a disturbing trend of making every event in human life about politics. It’s not completely new: the “personal is political” cliche from the ’60s is the beginning of such a theme on the American left, and extremists of right and left in Europe have long sought to view every facet of existence through a political lens. But it is new for a major American political party to seek to invade non-political spaces with as much vigor and persistence as the Obama-era Democratic party.

I think this goes too far even for most Democrats. My own family has people of all different political views, and some who don’t much care about politics either way. None of them ever tried to indoctrinate me, and I never tried to indoctrinate them. It just doesn’t feel natural or respectful to do it.

With some relatives, I’ll have political banter, but only with the kind of folks who just like to talk and think about interesting ideas. None of us is really seeking to change minds or to upbraid someone for their thoughtcrimes.

Instead of a list of counter-arguments, I suggest this: enjoy your family, enjoy your turkey, enjoy your football, and don’t bait relatives who disagree with you into turning Thanksgiving into a real-life version of Twitter. Be cool! Give thanks! Have fun!

The Debate Nobody Watched


There has been a strange divide between the two major parties this year. The Republicans have seen record numbers watch their primary debates, while the Democrats have tried their best to make sure no one witnesses theirs. Even Vox, the notorious apologists for the Democrats in general and the Clintons in particular, admits that scheduling a debate in Iowa on a Saturday night when Iowa football is on is sketchy. But it’s not the result of bad planning, it’s the result of a bad candidate, Hillary Clinton, and the party machine’s desire to protect her from scrutiny. And it is lost on no one that Clinton’s own party thinks the best way to help her win is to never let anyone see her.

This debate was on CBS, and moderated by John Dickerson, to general acclaim:

The debate began with opening statements. In hers, Clinton sought once more to assure the American people that she is not a robot:

The people remain skeptical:

Once the debates started, the questions naturally turned to the ISIS murders in Paris and the wider question of war on Islamic fundamentalist terror. Clinton tried to sound tough, tougher than President Obama, just as she did when she ran against him in 2008:

Bernie Sanders turned, as all old Bolshies do, to the past, highlighting the various misdeeds of the nation he seeks to lead:

Martin O’Malley said some things:

Generally, the output was underwhelming:

The candidates next turned to their tax plans, which no one believed:

They talked about reform of the financial industry, which let to the first interesting question of the night: is Hillary Clinton owned by Wall Street? Sanders says yes:

Clinton offered an unusual counterargument: 9/11?

O’Malley joined Sanders’s criticism, then touted his his own bona fides:

Sanders and O’Malley called for the forward-thinking innovation of re-enacting laws from 1933:

This was difficult for Clinton to agree with, since her husband had worked to repeal the act in question in 1999. Plus, you know, she’s owned by Wall Street:

In closing, the candidates reminded the viewer of their strengths.

Sanders called for more “free” stuff:

Clinton emphasized her age and her proximity to important things:

O’Malley said something, but even he wasn’t paying attention:

There was not much said here, and not many people watched it. The only real take-away was in the most ridiculous item of the night:

Fortunately, Democrats will have a chance to revisit the issue in their next two debates, to be held on the Saturday before Christmas and on a Sunday in January, opposite an NFL playoff game.

Who Lost Appalachia, Part II


Last night, the Democrats’ retreat from Appalachia turned into a rout as Matt Bevin was elected governor of Kentucky. The state had elected a Democrat to the office four years ago with a large majority, and mainstream opinion this time was that Bevin (who unsuccessfully challenged Mitch McConnell from the right in a primary in 2014) had no chance. He won by 9 percentage points.

This was a real test in Republican strength, and two points show that strength to be quite real. The first we knew for months: GOP voters outnumbered Democrats in the primary for the first time ever. That’s not always dispositive, but it shows a core party strength of numbers that conveys at least some advantage.

Second, the success carried down the ballot to some of the fairly anonymous row offices. These are as good a test as any for a parties’ statewide base, since it involves choosing a candidate that you know little or nothing about for an office you might not have known even existed. All you have to go on is the person’s name and party. The Republicans took most of these, with the Democrats holding only those in which their candidates had famous names (both are the children of Democratic politicians).

Kentucky has been Republican in presidential politics for a while now, but after last night we can say that it is well and truly a red state.