Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The State That Time Forgot

Another excellent article in Reid Wilson's "Changing America" series in The Hill. This one is about Missouri, a state where change is coming only very, very slowly. Not so long ago, Missouri seemed to be a microcosm of America and appropriately competitive between the parties. That's much less true today. Wilson's article lays out why with some very interesting data that shed light on the Democrats' Midwestern challenges more generally.
“Missouri was the canary in the coal mine for Democrats,” said Tom Bonier, a Democratic data analytics expert. “Missouri 20 years ago was a swing state. All the sudden it just fell off the table, and it was white working class voters just flocking away from the party.”….
[A]s the nation has changed, Missouri has stayed much the same. The state has become older and whiter, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, and the influx of Hispanic Americans that changes the political calculus in other states has not materialized here; just 4 percent of Missourians are Hispanic, far below the national average.
“We don’t have an immigrant population here, a Hispanic population that looks anything like what it does across the country,” Hancock said.
White voters, especially those without a college degree, now play a more influential role in Missouri than they do in most other states. As partisan polarization has driven those voters to the Republican Party, Missouri Democrats have suffered.
“The story of Missouri as a swing state is a state being left behind by the politics of earlier times,” said Dave Robertson, who chairs the political science department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “The white population of Missouri has remained closer to the kind of 1950s demographic strength than has been true in other states.”
Nowhere is that shift more evident than in Missouri’s rural counties. In 1996, Bill Clinton won 62 of Missouri’s 114 counties, along with the independent city of St. Louis. Four years later, Al Gore won 13 counties and St. Louis. Obama won eight counties in 2008, and three in 2012, the same number Clinton won four years later.....
In other states, Republican gains in rural areas have been offset by Democratic gains in cities, where minority voters and Millennials have boomed as shares of the population. But in Missouri, Republican gains in rural areas far outstrip Democratic advantages in big cities.
George W. Bush won only three Missouri counties with more than 70 percent of the vote in 2000; in 2016, 97 counties gave President Trump 70 percent or more. Between 2000 and 2016, all but two of Missouri’s counties trended towards Republicans.
A sad tale from the Democratic perspective, and a cautionary one. If you don't deal with the white working class problem in this part of the country, it will deal with you. A party that wants to win should keep that in mind.

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