Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Census Speaks

Well, now we know which states are going to win and lose (and by how much) in the upcoming apportionment and redistricting of House seats.  With the numbers released today, speculation is already beginning on how these numbers will play out both locally and nationally.  The following map gives a picture of how 12 seats will shift across the country:

Texas comes out, clearly, as the big winner with a gain of 4 House seats (followed by Florida with a pickup of 2) while New York and Ohio emerge as the big losers with a contraction of 2 seats each.

For most, these results aren't surprising.  The population shifts from the industrial north and midwest to the southwest and southeast have been going on for decades--and have been affecting our politics for decades as well.  Nonetheless, the quick analysis that many commentators are providing suggests a boon to Republicans.  For example, of the 8 states gaining seats, 5 voted for John McCain in 2008 while of the 10 states losing seats, 8 voted for President Obama.  Further boosting Republicans is the fact that Republicans will control the redistricting process in most of these states--both gaining and losing seats--putting them in position to further pad their House majority.

A big wildcard in thus, however, is the fact that much of this growth, especially in Texas and Florida, was due to the growth of the Latino population.  In Texas alone, Latinos accounted for 70% of the state's population growth.  Latinos now make up 37% of the Texas population (although only 25% of the electorate).  The fundamental question, for both parties, going forward is how they will appeal to this growing Latino vote.  Should Democrats succeed in further cementing their support in this community, they can mitigate some of the consequences of these broader population shifts to traditionally red states.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Census Data, Mapping, and the Coming Redistricting

In the last day or so we've started to see the release of a trove of new Census data.  What we're getting now are results from the American Community Survey which tracks demographic changes over the 2005 to 2009 period.  The New York Times has an incredible interactive tool that allows you to pull up maps based on zip code and census tract--allowing you to search by race, income, and a few other variables.

When one maps by race, the prevalence of segregation inevitably, and necessarily, comes up.  Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on some of the work done at the Brookings Institution with this new data.  Interestingly, what the data shows is that residential segregation has actually been on the decline, with differing degrees of white/black and white/Hispanic segregation.  Despite a general positive trend toward desegregation, many metropolitan areas remain highly segregated.  Not surprisingly these areas tend to be concentrated in northern, rust belt states.  I've talked about this phenomenon a lot on this site so I can't say I was too shocked by the findings.  Milwaukee, as it has in many similar studies, sits at the top of the list.  Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covers this story from the local perspective (If you want to get really depressed, read the comments section after the story).

Beyond the correlations between race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and voting behavior, this data is important in that it begins to set the context in which the next round of reapportionment and redistricting will take place.  As constituencies get created for local, state, and national offices, politicians oftentimes use deliberate strategies to encompass certain populations within district lines.  At the congressional level, the 1965 Voting Rights Act mandates that race be taken into account in certain circumstances.  Thus, pay attention to how this type of information is used as each state begins this oftentimes highly contentious process in the next few years.  The largest and most comprehensive national portrait, of course, will be provided by the 2010 Census.  The first batch of that data will be released next week so I'll probably have more to say then. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Returning to Slave Maps

Today's NYT--as part of its series remembering the 150th anniversary of the onset of the Civil War--has a short piece on this map, used before on this site.

Be sure to follow the links that zoom in on the map and provide further explanation of the numbers and how their variance from state to state and county to county affected how secession was viewed across the south.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stephen Solarz--Redistricting, Congressional Reform, and Foreign Policy Activism

Yesterday saw the passing of former New York Democratic Congressman Stephen Solarz.  As his obituary notes, there is much to mention upon his death and much that is of interest to us here.  For example, Solarz came to Congress as a member of the famed "Class of '74."  In the aftermath of Watergate, Democrats scored huge gains in the 1974 midterms, picking up 48 House and 4 Senate seats.  As we continue to digest this year's midterms, it's always useful to go back and look at other elections that saw huge turnover.  With every wave comes a crop of new members seeking to make their mark--usually sooner rather than later.

This "Class of '74" was important institutionally as well.  As I always discuss in my class on the US Congress, the early '70's were a period of dramatic transition for the Congress.  With large numbers of ambitious new members--like Solarz--the era of the "Old Bulls" came to an end.  Strict seniority rules for choosing committee chairmanships were abolished, the subcommittee structure was expanded, and the number of party leadership positions grew.  Thus, power in Congress became much more decentralized, all to the advantage of this new crop of members.  This decentralization happened in tandem with attempts by Congress, systemically, to realign the balance of power between itself and the President.

Solarz was extremely aggressive in using his new seat, within this changing congressional context, to assert himself in the making of American foreign policy.  For each of the past 12 years I've taught a course on the role of Congress in American foreign policy.  The underlying theme for the course is that Congress--its members, structures, etc.--is for numerous reasons temperamentally uncomfortable as an active participant in foreign policy, despite its constitutional prerogatives.  Most members have little incentive, preparation, or expertise for this work.  Solarz was very much the exception to this from the onset of his career.  By the time he left Congress he was one of a small handful of members, especially in the House, who were not only involved in foreign policy but could point to tangible results of their work.

Finally, we should note that the end of his career, although no doubt affected by his role in the infamous House bank scandal, was more than anything brought about by the rough and tumble process of redistricting.  With the boroughs of New York being an ethnic mosaic unlike any other in our country, gotham districts have often been carved to create distinct constituencies with a specific ethnic flavor.  Consider this description of Solarz's 13th District, from the 1976 Almanac of American Politics:

The 13th congressional district of New York, in south central Brooklyn, might be called the Ocean Parkway district: it takes in terrain from both sides of that thoroughfare as it makes its way from Prospect Park to Coney Island.  There is a large Italian American community in Bensonhurst, most of which was removed from the district by the 1974 redistricting; still the 13th, according at least to the census figures, is one of the most heavily Italian American districts in the nation.  But most of the neighborhoods here, from Midwood in the north, through the streets lined with low rise apartments along the Parkway, to Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, and Coney Island in the south, are heavily Jewish.  With Flatbush, most of which is in the 16th district, the 13th is the heart of Jewish Brooklyn.  Though no reliable data exist, the 13th is probably the nation's most heavily Jewish district, and most likely the 13th and the 16th are the only Jewish majority districts in the nation.  It is, of course, overwhelmingly Democratic by tradition.

By the 1990's, however, efforts were underway to use the redistricting process to increase minority representation.  With states like New York losing House seats in reapportionment, districts were often combined and lines radically redrawn, upsetting the ethnic balance that was in place.  Thus, Solarz was forced to run for re-nomination in 1992 in the newly drawn 12th district.  CQ's Politics in America from the time describes the result:

One certainty of New York's redistricting for the 1990s was that a second Hispanic-majority district would be created.  As a result of an ongoing influx that began just after World War II, Hispanic population had grown by 1990 to nearly a quarter of the city's total.  Yet only the South Bronx House district had sent a Hispanic to Congress.

Drawing a new Hispanic majority district, however, was no easy matter.  Unlike blacks, who often live in geographic concentrations, Hispanic immigrants settled in disparate low and middle income communities across the city's five boroughs.  Mapmakers had to go block-by-block to build a district that could reasonably assure a Hispanic's election.  The result was the 12th, one of the most unusually shaped House districts in the nation's history.  It follows a widely meandering path through parts of three New York City boroughs: Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

In the resulting six way Democratic primary Solarz was defeated by Nydia Velazquez, an activist in the New York Puerto Rican community.  She holds the seat to this day, having risen to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Small Business.  The district was quite radically redrawn again after the 2000 census and now includes more western and northern neighborhoods in Brooklyn.  The heart of Solarz's 13th district is now divided between the neighboring 10th and 11th.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Lots of Losses Out Yonder

During my election night posting, I mused about the end of the southern rural Democrat.  It turns out that not only were the ranks of southern rural Democrats decimated, but that rural Democrats nationwide had a very, very bad night.  This story by the Daily Yonder, a great site dedicated to rural politics and policy, dispels the notion that Tuesday's losses were distinctly southern in flavor.  Looking at the 125 most rural districts in the country, we see how badly Democrats fared.  Check out the map above to get a visual sense of what happened.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

More Midterm Musings

Some more quick hits as we start to get some real data:

The best predictor of whether a Democratic incumbent would lose?  The underlying partisanship of their district.  Seems obvious, right?  In all the post mortems, John Sides at TheMonkeyCage reminds us that fundamentals matter.  Swing districts are the most likely candidates to flip.  Because swing districts are found across the country Tuesday's GOP gains, as I noted yesterday, were not concentrated in any one region.

On the turnout front, there are some indications that the Latino vote mattered quite a bit, especially out west.  The Democrats can perhaps thank Latino voters for keeping their Senate majority.  As the GOP wave swept westward, it lost momentum by the time it hit Colorado, Nevada, and California--three states with large Latino populations.  Nate Silver picks up on this from a polling perspective, showing how the polling in the states with the largest Latino populations tended to be the most off in terms of predicting winners.  A few weeks back I attended a forum at the Center for American Progress on the Latino vote.  I was going to do a post on it, but the event turned out to be kind of a dud.  Some interesting takeaways though was a discussion on the difference between primarily English or Spanish speaking Latinos.  Estimates are that about 40% of the Latino population is primarily Spanish speaking and that these voters tend to be more strongly Democratic than English speaking Latinos.

On the redistricting front, two states approved provisions to eliminate the gerrymandering of districts and take the process out of the hands of state legislators.  Moving in the direction of a state like Iowa, California and Florida will seek a redistricting process based solely on population numbers and geographical contiguity.  California and Florida are two of the most gerrymandered states in the country.

I'm going to have more to say about Wisconsin as we move forward, but suffice it to say, the results were staggering when compared to 2008.  Whereas President Obama outperformed his national average in the Badger State during the presidential race, Tuesday so a massive reversal of Wisconsin's recent voting trends.  Going into Tuesday, Wisconsin had 2 Democratic Senators, a 5/3 advantage for Dems. in the House delegation, a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities in both houses of the State Legislature.  After Tuesday: Split Senate delegation, 5/3 Republican advantage in the House delegation, a Republican governor, and Republican majorities in both state houses.  An absolute wipeout.  This article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives an excellent rundown of what happened at the top of the ballot, including an emphasis on turnout.  While turnout was high overall and constant in the big Democratic counties of Milwaukee and Dane, it surged in the suburbs surrounding Milwaukee (Ozaukee, Waukesha, and Washington), propelling Ron Johnson and Scott Walker to victory.  Not only that, but as the below maps show, their vote totals, down to the county level were virtually identical.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Starting To Dig Into The Results

You already know what happened.  Some first thoughts as we start to dig in.

Here's the list of House and Senate seats that changed hands, including defeated incumbents.  What's striking is how broad the geography of these losses were for the Democrats.  Republicans gained seats in 33 states across the country.  This was not an election that was regionalized although some stretches of land were a killing field for the Democrats--namely Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  Essentially if I were to drive from my house to visit my parents, I'd traverse the land that gave the Republicans their majority.  I-70 stretches across this part of the country.  This sets up the battleground for Obama's re-election.  Expect him to spend a lot of time here over the next 2 years.  Not surprisingly, the Rust Belt has hemorrhaged jobs over the last decade with many parts having higher than the national average in unemployment.

The second source of Democratic losses, including some from the above states, was among the Blue Dog Coalition which essentially saw its ranks cut in half.  These conservative, often rural and southern, Democrats were no match for yesterday's wave.  Despite the fact that many voted against health care reform, cap and trade, and other parts of the Democratic agenda, they lost in droves.  The result of this is the creation of a smaller, yet more liberal, Democratic caucus.  Progressives have always criticized Blue Dogs as being Democrat-lite and impediments to more liberal policy.  Nonetheless, without them you don't have a majority.

Seniority wasn't insulation to defeat.  Normally the most difficult campaign that a member of Congress will have will be his earliest ones.  In the first few terms members are still learning the job, learning their district, and are thus susceptible to being knocked off.  They haven't built up a record and reputation to deter serious challengers.  Yesterday's losses were across the seniority spectrum.  26 of the incumbents knocked off were in either their first or second term--products of the 2006 and 2008 Democratic waves.  At the same time, 3 committee chairmen (Oberstar, Spratt, and Skelton) were also knocked off as were 14 term Rich Boucher (VA), 13 term Paul Kanjorski (PA), and 10 term Gene Taylor (MS) and Chet Edwards (TX).

Aside from these numbers and trends, another subject that has been discussed in the commentary today relates to the upcoming re-districting process.  With the census concluded, state legislatures will undertake the process of redrawing House district lines to correspond with population growth and shifts.  Results in governor's and statehouse races will obviously affect how this process proceeds on a state by state basis.  Something that I haven't heard discussed however, is how redistricting will have an immediate effect on the members elected for the first time last night.

All of the incoming freshmen members (with the exception of those from one district states) were elected from a constituency that is going to change over the next year.  Rather than have time to learn the contours of their district and develop the representative skills to maintain their seat, they have to assume that the people who just elected them are not necessarily going to be there to vote for them in 2012--many of them will be pushed into neighboring districts while others from surrounding areas are added.  This has to be unsettling to these members, especially those elected by small margins.  Furthermore, a number of states where Republicans made gains--Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York--are slated to lose seats in the reapportionment process.  Depending on how these states redistrict, GOP gains could be wiped out not by the 2012 elections but by the hand of mapmakers.  This is a dynamic that I would pay a lot of attention to over the next year or so.

That's it for now.  More to come.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Midterm Live Blogging

Here we go.  I'm doing my monitoring strictly on-line.  I can't stand tv coverage so for my sanity's sake--and for you, my fair readers--we're going to do this without having to cut through the yammering of Chris Mathews and other "experts."

8:23:  So far, things not looking good for Democrats in Virginia.  Pereillo going down, which was expected.  The bigger story is Rich Boucher down in coal country.  Boucher had always been able to not only hold this corner of the state, but do so quite handily.  Apparently that's over, which is a shame as I always found him to be a pretty serious, policy oriented member.  Gerry Connolly also in trouble in northern VA.  Along with Nye down in Hampton Roads area, Dems could lose 4.

8:34:  Connecticut Senate called for Blumenthal.  Republican hopes for the Senate take a hit.  Not unexpected but R's are going to need to run the table.

8:37: Manchin win called in WV.  That should pretty much end the R's Senate dream.  Only question seems to be whether Reid will be around to lead or if Schumer/Durbin battle looms.

8:45: Wisconsin getting ready to close in 15 minutes.  Polling shows bad night for Dems on the horizon.  Keep an eye out for 7th.  Obey open seat the most competitive.  Feingold not in good shape for Senate seat.

8:49: Boyd down big in FL-2.  Blue dogs are having their ranks decimated.  New Congress is going to be much more partisan as the remaining moderates are purged. 

8:52: Giannoulias looking good in IL w/12% in.  As with all IL races it will be the magnitude of Chicago turnout that determines the outcome here.  Does the machine still live???

8:55: Marcy Kaptur has a good night in what could be an ugly night for OH Dems.  Electoral Politics Rule 1: Don't dress like a Nazi.

9:05: Networks calling it for a Republican House majority.

9:20: Indiana's "The Bloody 9th" flips again.  Baron Hill out.  One of the most competitive districts in the country cycle after cycle.

9:29: New Hampshire goes back to its Republican roots?  Both House seats flip plus R's hold Senate.  Yet...Dems hold Governorship.

9:31: Just in case anyone was unclear about First Amendment, Oklahoma has voted to ban Sharia law.  Good God.

9:36: Dems. Kanjorski and Carney in big trouble in NE Pennsylvania.

9:41: Rahall holds on in WV.  Wonder how much Manchin momentum helped him.  Very ugly race as Lebanese American Rahall tarred with "Arab" tag.  Glad this kind of crap wasn't rewarded, at least here.

9:44: Lincoln Davis seems done in TN.  Another Blue Dog.  How many rural southern Dems left???  Chet Edwards also out in TX.

For Dems out there, might I recommend Clynelish 14 y.o. Single Malt Scotch?  Quite nice as I'm enjoying it now.

10:03: For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans hold the North Carolina legislature.  Gotta get my Eric Foner out to get the history.

10:11: Dems. Marshall and Bishop going down in Georgia.  The south is becoming essentially Republican unless you've got a sizable black population in your district.  Shuler hangs on in NC but he's very much the exception.

10:25: Wisconsin in for big changes.  Looks like two House seats flip (7 and 8).  Scott Walker elected Governor.  Obama got 56% in WI, one of his most impressive performances for a swing state.  WI unemployment not as bad as other Rust Belt states.

10:32: If anyone would have told you, 2 years ago, that West Virginia would be a bright spot for Democrats in the future, you'd have thought they were certifiable.  2010 is the bizarro 2008.

10:42: Russ Feingold defeated in Wisconsin.  Never won by a lot but was reliable.  Can't wait to see turnout data.  Low turnout in Dane and Milwaukee???  The Progressive tradition in WI really took a hit tonight.  With Feingold loss and Obey retirement, few remnants left.

10:48: South Texas has 4 Latino Dem. House members.  After tonight only 2 may be left.  Ortiz out, Rodriguez trailing badly.

10:54:  Only about 10-15% in for most races, but things looking really weird in upstate NY.  GOP renaissance where they previously only held 1 seat???  Numbers may not hold but interesting nonetheless, especially as GOP did well elsewhere in NE, especially NH.

11:07: How could so many PA Dem Incumbents lose but there still be a close Senate race?  Normally, I don't think campaigns matter much compared to underlying fundamentals but Sestak seems to be proving that wrong.

11:12: $160 million isn't quite enough to win CA Gov's race.  Moonbeam back.

11:18: Gene Taylor looks done in MS gulf district.  Longtime Blue Dog.  Well tanned, great hair, Catholic.  Fixture at Capitol Hill haunts Tune Inn and Hawk n Dove.  Better settle up on your tab.

11:25: Old Bulls and Dem Committee Chairs Spratt (SC) and Skelton (MO) go down.  Two more rural Dems hit the canvas.

11:35: Wave doesn't seem to crest over Mississippi River in Iowa.  3 Dem. House incumbents holding on.  Minnesota also holding solid for Dems, plus Gov. pickup.  Wisconsin really looking like an outlier now in my mind.

11:39:  Scott Brown doesn't improve Massachusetts GOP chances.  House delegation stays 10-0 Dem. with win in Delahunt open seat.  Deval Patrick re-elected Gov.

11:50: Grandpa voted, junior didn't.  Exit polls show a huge shift in turnout based on age compared to 2008.

12:07: No longer the one.  John Hall, former lead singer of Orleans, out in NY.  Those early NY numbers coming to bear.

12:17: First African American GOP congressman elected since J.C. Watts.  Tim Scott wins easily in SC.  With Susanna Martinez elected as first ever Hispanic female Governor (NM), is this the most diverse GOP since Reconstruction???

12:28: Reid seems to have it well in hand in NV.  Murray hanging on in WA.  All things considered, Dems seemed to do better out west.  Not sure what this means yet.

I'm going to sign off for tonight.  There's a lot to digest and sort through.  I may hold off tomorrow to allow me to put something together that isn't stream of consciousness.  There will be enough commentary out there to hold you over.

What Will Happen Today

In short, I have no idea.

All media accounts and polling suggest that the Democrats are going to get massacred today. That may well be.  One of the things that I pride myself, and this blog on, is that I don't make predictions.  No better way to look foolish that to make predictions about politics.  Rather, I try to rely on the fundamentals.  Given my training as a political scientist, there are certain fundamentals when it comes to congressional elections.  Namely:
  • Midterms are bad for the incumbent President's party.
  • Incumbent members of Congress are overwhelmingly re-elected
  • Turnout is lower in midterms and favors the out-party, which tends to be more energized
  • Minority party gains tend to be concentrated in open seat contests
Three of those four suggest Republican gains.  The wildcard is #2.  All indications--although largely anecdotal to this point--are that this is a bad, bad year for incumbents.  The comparison being most often made is to the 1994 Republican landslide.  In that election, 35 Democratic House incumbents lost.  If the Republicans repeat that performance--they need 39 House seats to gain the majority--they will have a big night, given that they are expected to win a slew of open seats in the south.

Beyond these, however, there is another "fundamental" that will probably play the greatest role tonight, although it won't get discussed nearly as much as it should: 10%.  The unemployment rate.  In all of the commentary on why Republicans will do well, few people--especially Republican flaks--will admit that in many ways their success will be due to factors completely beyond their control.  Sophisticated campaign operations, money, targeted GOTV, etc. are in the end ancillary.

I'll be blogging throughout the night as results come in. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

ElectionDissection.com Book Club: Daniel Patrick Moynihan: A Portrait In Letters Of An American Visionary

Last week saw the release of a trove of letters spanning the career of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  Moynihan had arguably one of the most interesting and broad careers of any modern politician.  Assistant to four presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford), ambassador (India and United Nations), and four term Senator, Moynihan's peripatetic life of politician/public intellectual is virtually inconceivable now.  Though clearly a liberal (he called himself a Kennedy Liberal), Moynihan was known for--and often criticized by the left for--his contrarian-ness.  Just as much a critic of liberalism as a champion of it, Moynihan's intellect, curiosity, and skepticism made him more of a thinker than a true legislator.  Thus, while he did not produce a policy legacy akin to that of contemporaries like Ted Kennedy or Bob Dole, he added something distinctive to the Senate, something that I would argue is sorely lacking today.

 Moynihan's greatest impact, probably, came in the realm of urban and social policy during the 1960s.  Some of this work has contributed to how we look at electoral politics.  Specifically, Moynihan, along with his longtime collaborator Nathan Glazer, were pioneers in the study of ethnicity.  Their seminal work, "Beyond the Melting Pot", explores how different groups--the Irish, Italians, Jews, etc.--competed for and rose to power in New York.  Not simply a study of voting and party formation, "Beyond the Melting Pot" is a larger sociology of these groups with a focus on how they assimilated (or have yet to assimilate) into the broader culture.  It was Moynihan's attempt to explain the plight of the African American community at the time that is one of the most oft cited aspects of his work, even now several years after his passing.  While serving in the Johnson Administration, he authored what has come to be known as the "Moynihan Report."  "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" was an attempt to frame how the government should proceed with social policy aimed at impoverished African Americans.  Focusing on the historical factors that, he believed, led to a decline in the stability of black families, Moynihan's analysis can be read as a warning shot to liberal policymakers who believe that the right program can solve complicated, entrenched, and long standing problems.  In the aftermath of the study's release, Moynihan was vilified by many on the left for, at best, "blaming the victim" or being a high brow racist.  A reading of the report (which many of its critics failed to do) doesn't really bear these critiques out.  What it shows, however, is how social science and politics oftentimes create a very explosive mixture.  Given the social upheaval of the period and the hegemonic Great Society liberalism of the Johnson years, Moynihan's willingness to raise tough questions from inside the tent left him scarred for quite a long time, if not the remainder of his life.

Having been stung by the reaction to the Moynihan Report, especially from so many of his friends and colleagues on the left, Moynihan spent much of the late 60's and early 70's further engaged in critiques of liberal shibboleths.  The fact that he did this from within Republican administrations makes his career all the more fascinating.  How one reads this part of his career--was he trying to fight the good fight for liberalism within the enemy camp or was he increasingly a traitor to his roots?--depends, I suppose, on one's willingness to give Moynihan the benefit of the doubt.  He would have perhaps said that he did not so much leave the Democratic Party as much as it left him.  In the field of social policy, it is quite clear that the policies Nixon supported--i.e. a guaranteed income--not only had Moynihan's fingerprints on them but would be inconceivable in a Republican administration today. 

After his ambassadorial stints, Moynihan sought the Democratic Senate nomination in New York in 1976.  In a heavily contested primary, Moynihan won by about 7,000 votes over his top challenger, Representative Bella Abzug--she of the fiery personality and big hats.  The race also featured former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and NYC Council President Paul O'Dwyer.  As an aside, I should probably devote an entire post to Abzug at some point.  She features prominently in another fascinating Democratic primary of the era, the 1977 NYC mayoral contest that also featured Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch.  For a great primer on that race, check out Jonathan Mahler's "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning."  Anyhow, in the general election Moynihan went on to defeat Republican incumbent James Buckley (brother of William F., himself a frequent debating foil of Moynihan).  Once ensconced in the Senate, Moynihan was never seriously challenged for re-election.  He won 65% and 67% in 1982 and 1988 respectively.  In the Republican landslide of 1994 that saw his co-Empire State Democrat Mario Cuomo dispatched from the Governor's mansion, Moynihan won quite easily with 55%. 

As I mentioned above, Moynihan's legislative record doesn't seem to square with his ambitions.  This retrospective on his career, published on the eve of his retirement in 2000, explores some of the reasons.  I like to think that some of his failures can be attributed to his training as a social scientist.  As one myself, I know that we're often better at pointing out what's wrong with a proposition than what's right with it.  Every graduate student gets quite proficient at deconstructing, critiquing, and picking apart someone else's work.  Thus, someone like Moynihan could quite easily look at a state of affairs--say persistent urban poverty--and quickly ascertain what has gone wrong in the past, what will probably go wrong in the future, and conclude that attempting to change it is futile (especially if the proposed change is sweeping).  To many, this would make Moynihan a "conservative."  The fact that he spent much of his time in the liberal wilderness kibitzing with the likes of Irving Kristol and other "neo-conservatives" perhaps gives some credence to this.  That aside, this temperament also makes legislating difficult.  To successfully push policy through the Senate one needs to be willing to both suspend belief about the shortcomings of one's ideas (what won't work) and also find ways to get others on board.  In short, you need to be an optimist, a salesman, and a trader.  Thus, Moynihan seemed destined to be the "brain" or the Senate without exercising much of the "brawn."

Having said that, one shouldn't conclude that Moynihan was a failed or unsuccessful Senator.  There is a tremendous value in having someone who can provide the institution and other senators with what we might call "context."  While Moynihan may have struck people as pedantic and somewhat windy, one can't deny that he brought to the debate a tremendous amount of substance.  There should be a place for people like this in politics.  That Moynihan was able to be both professorial and a tremendous vote getter is quite remarkable.  In reflecting on his career and now diving into his until now unpublished correspondence, I can't help but lament the fact that he seems like a relic of a bygone era.  Despite the fact that he's been out of office only a decade, the current political environment seems to have regressed to a point that a Daniel Patrick Moynihan would be un-electable.  Our politics is worse off for that.  Can you imagine twitter.com/dpmoynihan???

For some more on Moynihan, check out these interviews:

CSPAN "Life and Career of Daniel Patrick Moynihan" from 1987
Charlie Rose from 1998
Charlie Rose from 1996
Charlie Rose following Moynihan's death

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Visit To Antietam: Why the Civil War Matters

Of all the topics that have been explored on this blog since its creation, the one that has received the most attention, both explicitly and implicitly, has been the role of race in our politics.  No doubt the 2008 campaign made much of this discussion necessary and inevitable.  However, this country’s tangled and troubled, yet sometimes hopeful history with race has fascinated me since I first became interested in politics.  I’ve always felt that it has been our most important societal cleavage and, while not always the most appropriate lens through which to view our politics—there are surely others like class, region, gender, etc.—it is the one that I always seem to come back to regardless of my starting point.

When we look at our country’s historical narrative, no event has shaped our society, politics, economy, and understanding of ourselves more than the Civil War.  I’d go so far as to argue that the Civil War, if it was indeed the “Second American Revolution,” serves as the point around which America’s story revolves.  Those issues that couldn’t be reconciled at the founding, most notably that of slavery, but also the fundamental question of the relationship between the states and the federal government, ultimately led to the conflict.  In its aftermath, we can also see how the Civil War has left a long wake.  As we know, the end of slavery did not heal its wounds and solve the “race problem” in this country.  In fact, it has in many ways gotten more complicated.  Furthermore, we still debate the role of government in our society even as the Civil War, as the greatest period of governmental expansion in our history, seemingly propelled us toward the reality of perpetual big government.  If indeed, as Faulkner tells us, “there is no past,” we are destined to reckon with the Civil War as long as we are Americans.  If nations have what I would term “existential moments” in which their very identity is debated and ultimately defined, the Civil War was ours.  So, if we want to understand American politics, including elections, we need to spend a lot of time thinking about that most vexing time.

As any student of the Civil War knows, there were numerous points at which the conflict could have turned.  In retrospect, the outcome may seem assured given the vast resource and manpower advantage of the Union and the seeming ill-preparedness of the Confederacy for the reality of secession.  Both sides enjoyed military victories and had momentum working in their favor at different points in time.  Yet, both sides failed to capitalize on their successes and both struggled mightily to keep their people committed to the fight.  The tragedy of the Civil War was not only that it seemed destined to occur in the first place, but that once engaged, both sides seemed destined for a war of bloody attrition that would stretch the country to its very limits.  With no common ground, however small, to compromise an end around, the conclusion would have to come through exhaustion and surrender rather than negotiation.

Throughout the war there were a number of battles and events that were crucial—Bull Run, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, the Wilderness, etc.  But for me, Antietam has always seemed the most pivotal and important.  Prior to the battle on September 17, 1862, the Confederacy had enjoyed a string of victories.  Beginning with Stonewall Jackson’s success in the Shenandoah Valley and McClellan’s decision to abandon his efforts against Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign, then followed quickly by the rout at Second Bull Run, Lee’s forces were emboldened enough to undertake their first serious incursion onto northern soil.  With aims on Washington, it was hoped that this thrust would bring about European recognition of the Confederacy and an end to the conflict in the South’s favor.   In pursuit, the hastily reorganized northern army, again under the command of the shortly deposed McClellan, tracked westward from Frederick Maryland, across the Catoctin Mountains.  The two armies, roughly 150,000 men total, converged on the tiny hamlet of Sharpsburg Maryland.  Situated between the meandering Antietam Creek to its east and the Potomac River to its rear, Sharpsburg would become the next spot of American soil upon which so much blood would be shed.

Given the run of recent events, the north needed a military victory badly.  What those positioning themselves on the Maryland countryside did not know was that a much larger and profound outcome hinged on the result.  For months, President Lincoln had struggled with how to address the issue of emancipation.  While Lincoln had not campaigned for the presidency as an abolitionist, the rapid secession of southern states was premised on the notion that he would nonetheless proceed down that path.  Without going off onto a tangent regarding Lincolns’ view of slavery and its relation to the war, by 1862 Lincoln had come to the conclusion that the issue could no longer continue to simmer on the back burner.  From the beginning of the conflict Lincoln had to balance his growing desire to attack the institution with his need to keep the non-seceded slave states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri in the Union.  Coupled with this was the dubiousness of whether an emancipation could even be enforced and for what ends.  Despite this, by the summer Lincoln had decided to move forward with an Emancipation Proclamation--but to couch it in a way that put the burden on the seceded southern states.  Should they not return to the Union after a designated period, slaves residing in such states would from that point forward be free.

Given the military doldrums of the spring and summer, however, Lincoln was in no position to issue the Proclamation.  It would smack of desperation and no doubt signal the weakness of the Union.  For it to have any effect, no doubt psychological more than practical, it had to be issued from a position of strength.  Thus, Lincoln needed a win.  

The Battle of Antietam would provide Lincoln the opportunity he so badly wanted, but at a tremendous cost.  September 17, 1862 was the single bloodiest day in American history.  Over 25,000 northern and southern troops were killed or wounded.  The battle raged over three quite distinct locales on the field.  For a comprehensive rundown of the battle, see hereDawn saw the advance of General Joseph Hooker’s First Corps from its position on the extreme north of the field.  With General Stonewall Jackson’s Confederates emerging from the West Woods, some of the war’s most brutal fighting took place in what has become known simply as “the Cornfield.”  The second theater that day, further south, occurred along a Confederate entrenchment along a sunken farm road.  The “Bloody Lane” saw wave upon wave of Union forces mowed down until an exhausted, disorganized, and spent Confederate line was finally breached and overtaken.  Finally, on the extreme southern end of the field, the Battle of Burnside Bridge raged throughout the day.  Aided by the natural fortifications provided by the rolling hills opposite Antietam Creek, a small force of Georgia troops was able to continuously repel Union General Burnside’s attempts at crossing the creek in order to unify with the other northern forces and crush Lee’s army.  Although ultimately able to break across, it was too late.  Lee was able to muster his army together, retreat across the Potomac, and continue to fight for 2 ½ more years.

With Lee’s thrust northward repelled, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  As a result, the war became more explicitly about ending slavery.  As I wrote a few posts back, opinion within the Union ranks, and among northern voters, was decidedly mixed about waging a war on emancipationist aims.  Northern Democrats campaigned throughout the war to try and end the conflict and many were keen to do so without abolishing slavery.  That Lincoln was able to withstand such criticism and be overwhelmingly re-elected in 1864 signaled the desire of the country to see the war through.  In fact, there is much evidence to suggest that many of those on the front lines became much more opposed to the horrors of slavery once they confronted it directly during their campaigns southward (for an excellent overview of this, see Chandra Manning's "What This Cruel War Was Over").

Next year will mark the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.  No doubt there will be much discussion about the currency of the Civil War for modern day Americans.  For me, its relevance is obvious, especially if we are being honest with ourselves about the war's cause--slavery.  When we think about the long arc of America’s history with race, the Battle of Antietam is one of those few events which changed the trajectory of our nation.

**Photos taken September 24, 2010.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The last few days has brought forth some amazing maps to add to our collection here.  Much better than my crudely drawn, Microsoft Paint creation from the previous post, someone who goes by stanton816 has created this precinct level map of the DC mayor's race.

Also, check out this flickr stream of city maps generated by using 2000 Census data (see radicalcartography as well).  Each dot, color coded by race, represents 25 people: Red dots are for caucasian; Blue for African-American; Yellow for Latino. This mapping process was developed by cartographer Bill Rankin (see this story in Co. Design for more).  Here's DC and the surrounding environs:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Adrian Fenty: Can Washington DC Become "One City"???

This is what a polarized electorate, and indeed city, looks like. Now two days out from the DC’s mayor’s race that saw once popular incumbent Adrian Fenty thrown out in favor of City Council Chair Vince Gray, the post mortems are starting to come in and explanations are starting to crystallize (full results here).  The reasons being offered for the downfall of Fenty point to the variables of race, class, geography, and personality as all playing a role. The Washington Post focused on the "character" aspect yesterday.  Like most elections that see numerous streams intersect to produce an outcome, there’s probably some truth to all of these. I want to try and flesh them out a bit, while also pointing something unique to DC that I think provided the underlying context for the outcome.  For a less nuanced analysis, Courtland Milloy hammers at Fenty today.

When Adrian Fenty was first elected Mayor in 2006 as a young, energetic Ward 4 councilman, he promised an administration dedicated, above all else, to results driven reform (see 2006 results here). The abysmal school system would be reformed; city services would be streamlined; ossified bureaucracies would be shaken up. Whereas previous administrations (i.e. Marion Barry) were staffed through patronage, Fenty’s government would be one where technocrats were in ascendance. The personification of this shift was the new school chancellor Michelle Rhee. Given a wide mandate to institute sweeping changes, Rhee has set about a radical, and some would argue much needed, reorganization and reconceptualization of education in the nation’s capital.

Coupled with this reform mindset was Fenty’s reputation for energy and constituent service. The mayor had made his climb through retail politics. He would not be outworked and was visible and accessible. With multiple blackberries holstered to his hip, he could beckon city workers at the drop of a hat to respond to potholes, piled up garbage, or a city park in need of repair. Implicit in this was the feeling on the part of citizens that they mattered. Fenty was reaching out to them, wanting to know what they needed. Not locked up in the Wilson Building, he was a man of the streets, more comfortable shuttling around the city’s neighborhoods than behind a desk. He was a fixer, yes, but also someone who cared about and understood the community.

Four years later, Mayor Fenty is no more. What happened, I think, is that these two aims—reform and service—could not be balanced. Fenty’s personality and style, no doubt, played some role in this. As much of the coverage of his administration has attested to, his drive to change the city was most often done without the input and participation of those who would feel the brunt of his efforts. He was brash, arrogant, and short tempered, yet decisive and forward looking. As long as things got “better,” the assumption was that city would respond, despite the fact that they no longer felt courted by the Mayor. Rather than the Mayor showing up at your door, it would be the improved Washington through better schools, roads, and facilities that would greet you every day.

Unfortunately, “better” can be defined differently and here is where we start to see the polarization of the city come into view. Let’s take the issue of employment. Washington, DC has vastly different levels of unemployment depending at what part of the city one looks. Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, these levels correspond to the pattern of Tuesday’s vote. The wards with the highest unemployment in the city—8, 7, and 5—were the wards where Gray’s numbers were highest. Those with the lowest unemployment—3 and 2—saw Fenty claim 70-80% of the vote. When you aren’t worried about losing your job (Ward 3's unemployment rate is 3%) dog parks, bike lanes, and lavish parks are a nice perk. When you are struggling with 25-30% unemployment rates in your neighborhood, they’re a slap in the face, an extravagance. When the Mayor is tone deaf about this to the point of rationalizing it, people are probably going to notice.  As city budgets have been trimmed in the midst of economic difficulties, those in the eastern parts of the city have come to question Fenty’s priorities and whether they are being focused on the affluent of upper Northwest at the expense of those east of the Anacostia. Rather than post-material amenities, these neighborhoods cry for job training and basic services. There is not a single functioning hospital in all of Wards 7 and 8.

In this, race obviously becomes a factor. There is an almost perfect correlation between Tuesday’s vote and the distribution of the DC population by race. While there was no formal exit polling done on Tuesday, the evidence suggests that Fenty won by a roughly 4:1 margin in the predominantly white neighborhoods while Gray won by the same margin in the predominantly black neighborhoods. It is not correct to say, however, that race was the only variable that mattered. It’s a bit more muddled, and why I think we need to look at things like unemployment and the like. Remember, just four years ago Fenty won the support of both white and black voters. He won every precinct in the city. What has happened is that not every part of the city has benefited from Fenty’s changes, at least as they perceive them. Again, what “better” or “results” mean is open to debate. What also matters is how those results are achieved.

Here is where some context matters—and this is an angle I haven’t seen explored a whole lot. One thing that is unique about Washington, DC is its governing structure and history. As the nation’s capital, Washington has only recently gotten relatively full control over its own internal affairs. It was only in 1967 that we received some measure of “home rule,” allowing us to elect our Mayor. An elected City Council did not arrive until a few years later. Prior to that, Washington was ruled by a three person, federally appointed, Board of Commissioners. Prior to Home Rule, and even since, Washington has been overseen by Congress. Every piece of legislation passed by the city government is subject to congressional veto. Thus, in recent years Washington has not only had to have its duly elected representatives’ decisions subject to the whims of the congressional membership (with DC residents becoming a partisan football), but has also found itself as the laboratory in which members can pursue their pet agendas. On issues like gun control, gay marriage, needle exchange, and school choice, Washingtonians often feel as if they aren’t really in control. The height of this came during the 1990’s when Congress instituted a control board to run all of the District’s finances.

Why this matters, I think, is that many district residents are particularly attuned to their role in governing the city. Here is where age becomes an interesting variable. Many of Fenty’s supporters are younger, new arrivals to the city. They didn’t live here prior to Home Rule or the Control Board and so they probably aren’t as sensitive to slights from City Hall. For them, “results” are more important than “process.” For those older residents who have lived in DC their whole lives, being excluded from governing is going to be reminiscent of when the city was powerless. I’ll use the example of my neighborhood here. Earlier this year I moved into Ward 5, Precinct 69. This part of Washington DC is predominantly African American, with long time, older residents making up, at least anecdotally to me, the largest part of the population. Back when the campaign was starting to heat up, Vince Gray signs sprouted up throughout the neighborhoods of Brookland, Woodridge, and Michigan Park like mushrooms. These neighborhoods aren’t poor but they aren’t the cosmopolitan, young, and thriving DuPont Circle either. While only separated about twenty minutes or so by car, Brookland and DuPont can feel like totally separate worlds. Where Fenty seems to have lost these neighborhoods, it seems to me, is that he forgot how these folks have experienced their city—and their role in it—over the years.

In no other way is this better seen than in how Fenty approached the schools. When the Mayor was given the ability to control education and subsequently appointed Michelle Rhee he made it clear that results where going to be the measure of success. If teachers needed to be fired, schools consolidated and closed, and the teacher’s union weakened, so be it. Despite the merits of doing all of these, the blunt force with which this agenda was pursued ran straight into this legacy and history of how the city used to be governed. While it may seem like dull, tedious “process” to include neighbors in these decisions (beyond town hall meetings and listening sessions), for those whose children and neighborhoods that are affected, this “process” is the most intimate involvement they will have with their city’s decision making. That it affects their kids makes it even more critical that they feel invested. In short, I get the sense that for longtime Washingtonians Michelle Rhee is merely the latest incarnation of the Board of Commissioners or the Control Board—an outsider who thinks they know what’s best for the city despite the fact that they didn’t grow up here.  The fact that Rhee hasn't hesitated to talk about the national implications of her work in DC makes things worse.  A parent living in a struggling neighborhood and who is worried about their son or daughter's schooling doesn't care about a grand experiment in education.  They care about their kid.  If you're going to dramatically change the schools, you need to have the trust of the community--parents, teachers, alumni, neighborhood leaders, etc.  As Matt Yglesias argues (as does Washington City Paper's Mike Madden), Rhee and Fenty never really did the work to create that trust.  Ultimately, Fenty paid the price for that failing.

Thus, I can’t say that I’m at all surprised by the outcome, its magnitude, and the geographic/racial/class/age chasm that we see. Washington, DC is certainly two, if not many, cities. Governing it is never going to be easy, especially when you’re trying to make big changes. The ultimate failing of Adrian Fenty is not that he tried to change the city and make it better, its that he didn’t figure out the right way to do it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick Hits

9:20 pm:

Delaware just goes to O'Donnell.  Castle's 44 years of public service comes to an end.  Despite Tea Party enthusiasm, this result must make Democrats ecstatic.  Delaware native Dave Weigel is worth following for analysis, in Twitter short form.

Wisconsin results can be followed here.

9:50 pm:

Gotta say, Wisconsin GOP primary is a lot closer than I'd have guessed.  Only 5% in, albeit, but Walker with a slim lead.  Wish I knew where those results were from.  This would be a pretty big upset.

10:00 pm:

Also interested in Rangel/Powell contest in NY.  Harlem politics can be fascinating, especially when familial revenge is at stake.  No numbers yet.

10:40 pm:

Come on DC.  I'm going to be ticked if everything comes out at once.  I like the suspense of results trickling in bit by bit.

10:50 pm:

A nice piece by Weigel on the now defeated Mike Castle.  He's reporting that O'Donnell is toast even before the applause of tonight dies down.

Drip, Drip, Drip...  DC starts coming in.

11:00 pm:

With a 14 point lead and 37% reporting, Wisconsin GOP Gov primary has been called for Scott Walker.  Not a surprise there.  Will set up an interesting general in that, historically, Wisconsin does not pick their governors from Milwaukee.  Now they will.


Here we go.  Twitter to the rescue.  Mike Debonis w/precinct results for DC in real time.

11:30 pm:

Once again, people in New York just don't like Rick Lazio.

12:00 am:

Just a hunch, but this map is probably going to be useful in understanding the Fenty/Gray numbers.

12:10 am:

Rangel wins comfortably.

12:30 am:

The numbers coming out of Ward 4 don't look good for Fenty.  If he can't win his home ward, he's probably cooked.

1:15 am:

The Washington Post is reporting a Vince Gray win.  The numbers aren't fully out, but unless we have a 2000-like snafu, this seems pretty definitive.  Good enough for me to head to bed.  Some bloggers have real jobs.

Lots of analysis to come tomorrow.

Around Town As DC Votes

A couple of quick shots from around town as we wait for DC numbers to come in.  John and I hit a few spots in the Brookland/Michigan Park/North Michigan Park neighborhoods of Ward 5.  The Vince Gray presence was much more pronounced than that of Mayor Fenty--to be expected in this part of town but bad news nonetheless for the incumbent.

Precinct 66: Backus Middle School

Precinct 67: Bunker Hill Elementary School

Nice violin playing--patriotic music to serenade the voting.

Precinct 68: St. Francis Hall--Franciscan Monastery

Campaign volunteers were reporting relatively light turnout.  With DC now having early voting, it was difficult to ascertain whether people were taking advantage of voting early, or whether enthusiasm and motivation was down.  Once we start to get some numbers, we'll be better able to answer this question.

Busy Primary Day, With An Emphasis On D.C. Mayor's Race

Let's get a little more current.  Today wraps up the primary season leading into November's midterms, gubernatorial, and various state and local races.  Seven states are up and there are a number of interesting races.  The one that is getting the most ink is the Republican Senate primary in Delaware.  A month ago this race was on nobody's radar.  The presumptive nominee is longtime Republican vote getter Mike Castle.  Castle is one of the politicians I profiled last year in my post on small state politics.  A fixture in state political circles since the mid '60's Castle has served as both governor (two terms) and as the state's lone House member since 1993.  Castle has fashioned himself as a prgamatic moderate, perfectly suited to a state which typically votes Democratic statewide.  The state GOP establishment has been firmly behind Castle and everything pointed to an easy pick-up for Republicans of the seat vacated by now VP Joe Biden. 

That, of course, was before the year of the Tea Party.  Over the past several weeks, Castle has seen his sure thing become much more precarious as Christine O'Donnell, fueled by a Sarah Palin endorsement and a slew of out of state funding and manpower, has tightened the race.  Like earlier contests in Utah and Alaska, which saw incumbent GOP Senators defeated, tonight's contest in the First State could provide fireworks.  The winner faces Chris Coons, New Castle County Executive.

Closer to home, the big tilt today is the DC Democratic mayoral primary (Washington Post blog coverage here).  Given the underlying political affiliation of DC voters, this is the whole shebang.  The winner will be the mayor.  Watching this race up close over the past months, this race has become fascinating.  The incumbent, Adrian Fenty shot to prominence four years ago through a retail politics performance par excellance.  He won every precinct in the city, casting himself as a results oriented reformer.  As is so often the case with reformers, patience and prudence take a back seat to action.  The flashpoint in all of this has been Fenty's efforts to reform the long moribund DC education system.  Under Chancellor Michelle Rhee, Fenty has overseen a mayoral takeover of the school system and a process of school consolidation and widespread teacher firings--with test scores both improving and ebbing as a result.  In a nutshell, Fenty has been highly polarizing, especially among DC's older establishment.  His opponent, City Council Chair Vince Gray has campaigned on the notion of "One City."  To supporters, he will bind back together what Fenty has blown up.  To detractors, he will be a throwback to the dysfunction of latter day Marion Berry/Control Board DC government.  The prevailing view of the underlying dynamics of this race suggests that race and age are the faultlines upon which the election will be decided.  Fenty has tended to draw his support from white, more educated, and younger voters whereas Grey is seen as strongest among African American and, especially, older voters.

John has been doing yeoman's work looking at this race from the ground level--see here, here, and here.  We're both going to try and get out today to capture some of what's going on at various polling places.  I'm also going to post as results start coming in later tonight. 

Also of note today is the GOP gubernatorial primary in Wisconsin.  Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is taking on former 1st District Congressman and one time Senate candidate Mark Neumann.  The winner will take on Milwaukee Mayor and former 5th District Congressman Tom Barrett in the general.

UPDATE: As the results start coming in tonight, we're going to get very focused on the micro level for the DC mayor's race.  Here's a DC ward and precinct map so you can play along at home.  If the race shakes out as predicted, expect to see Gray do extremely well in Wards 5, 7 (his home), and 8.  Fenty can be expected to do well in Wards 2 and 3.  His home Ward 4 could be the real bellwether.  Wards 1 and 6 should be relatively competitive too I would think. 

John and I are going to hit some of the precincts in Ward 5 to get some local flavor.  Hopefully we'll have some pictures to go along with the numbers.  This should be Gray territory big time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The 1864 Wisconsin Vote: Where the Copperheads Were

Some more Civil War musings.  Over the last few weeks I've been trying to unearth some of the data behind the Civil War era elections.  Like the last post that looked at the secession vote in Virginia, county level data is the holy grail, yet oftentimes elusive.  As has been the case so often, my native state of Wisconsin has been exceptional in its record keeping.  Any Badger State political junkie is well familiar with the bi-annual Blue Book, which acts as a sort of mega almanac of Wisconsin government, economics, history, and the like.  It also provides detailed election returns.  Thus, I was ecstatic to find an on-line version of every Blue Book going back to when it was simply called the "Legislative Manual of the State of Wisconsin."

For the 1864 election, the report election returns down to, where relevant, the town, ward, and precinct level (!!!).   From this, we can explore the relative levels of support for Abraham Lincoln and the Democratic nominee, General George McClellan.  What I'm particularly interested in is how the war, and its progress by 1864, affected support for Lincoln.  One thing that those familiar with the war know is how the military success of the north and south ebbed and flowed throughout the conflict.  While by 1864 the north had achieved some notable successes (i.e. Gettysburg), the war was far from over and a sort of weariness had crept into northern circles.  Politically, Lincoln was seen as highly vulnerable.  For the duration of the war he had been trying to balance a coalition of Radical Republicans, pro-war Democrats, and border state fence-sitters.  The defection of any of these groups could not only lead to the collapse of his government, but perhaps the Union as well.  For any President trying to manage a coalition, any decision or action is likely to upset one camp while not fully pleasing the other--a no win situation in even the most peaceful times.  The 1864 election was thus a test of whether or not the country would be willing to see the war to its conclusion or whether increasingly vocal anti-war northerners would be able to change the direction of country.

Indeed, the fact that Lincoln's re-nomination took place under the banner of the "Union Republican" Party and not the still fledgling "Republican" label is an indication of how worried northern pro-war politicos were of the coalition's splintering.  The coupling of Lincoln with pro-war Tennessee Democrat Andrew Johnson as the VP nominee is further illustration of this delicate dance taking place among those trying to re-elect the President.  Ultimately, Republicans were aided by the fact that the Democrats seemed to have a difficult time fielding a candidate that was 1) anti-war, or at least skeptical of the Lincoln administration's efforts and 2) viable in an electorate that had thousands of its sons, brothers, and fathers currently engaged in the fight.  The fact that the Democrats ultimately settled on the popular, yet handily pro-war McClellan shows how hard it was going to be defeat Lincoln, despite public unease with the pace of the war. (We could devote a lot of time to McClellan as a General and how his dismissal by Lincoln may have played into the politics of his nomination and campaign, but we'll set that aside for now).

Those northern elements allied against the war are normally identified as "Copperheads."  While being largely pro-Union, Copperheads were oftentimes driven against the war by its increasingly abolitionist tenor.  With the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation after the Union victory at Antietam, many northerners felt that the war's efforts were being directed for more ambitious purposes than those originally sold to them by Lincoln.  This question of "why" the war was being fought is one that I'm going to hopefully address in my next post.  Until then, its worth noting that northern feelings about abolition were decidedly mixed, especially in certain segments of the electorate.  When the manpower needs of the Union army were such that volunteer regiments would have to be supplemented by conscription, draft riots in such places as New York demonstrated how difficult it would be to lead men into battle under the banner of ending slavery.

In doing some background reading on the Copperhead movement, I've been spending some time with the writing of Frank Klement, a historian who used to teach at my alma mater.  In his writing on the subject, Klement talks a lot about how the Copperhead movement had a strong ethnic dimension to it.  Specifically, Copperheadism tended to take root in many parts of the midwest that had a strong German and Irish Catholic population.  Writing in "Catholics as Copperheads During the Civil War," he argues:

The Republican party, founded during the 1850's as Whiggery disintegrated, became the home of three isms: prohibitionism, abolitionism, and Know-Nothingism.  Irish-Americans and German-Americans detested each of the three, oftentimes reacting emotionally...The Irish and German-Americans detested abolitionism, for they feared that emancipation would release a flood of cheap labor that would threaten their very livelihood. (The Catholic Historical Review.  January 1994.  p. 36). 

Midwestern voters tended to also be drawn to Copperheadism for economic reasons.  Heavily agricultural, these regions relied on southern markets for their livelihood.  As the war dragged on, and especially as the Mississippi River blockade shut off southern markets, many sought an end to the war as soon as possible.

When we take all of this into account when looking at one particular state--Wisconsin--what do we see???  With the data I've created the following color coded map to show the support of Lincoln (red) and McClellan (blue) on a county by county basis.  Statewide, Lincoln won Wisconsin with 52.4% of the vote.  He won 35 counties to McClellan's 22.

McClellan's main area of strength was Milwaukee and its surrounding counties--the urban center of the state.  Winning 68% of Milwaukee county his 3700 margin there was the largest margin of victory for either candidate in any county.  Neighboring Washington and Ozaukee counties gave McClellan an additional 4058 vote margin. 

Aside from these areas being populous, what else does this part of the state have, that is relevant to this discussion???  German Americans.  Check out the following map that shows the prevalence of German Americans in Civil War era Wisconsin:

Not only were German-Americans present in great numbers in those counties that gave McClellan his greatest support, the German presence throughout the state was immense.  In fact, those who were either German born themselves, or had at least one German born parent, comprised over 1/3 of the entire state's population.  In the ethnic mosaic of Wisconsin, Germans were the dominant group.

While not nearly as large as the German bloc, Wisconsin did see considerable Irish immigration as well.  As Klement noted, this group was also likely to be sympathetic to Copperhead critiques of the war.  Looking at a map of Wisconsin's Irish population, the correlation isn't quite as stark as we saw with the Germans.

In my next post I want to explore another facet of the 1864 vote: that of the soldiers themselves.  Here, the question of how salient the issues of the war and emancipation will be at the forefront.  Were those actually doing the fighting more likely to support Lincoln or were they, perhaps, ready for the war to end?  Would they support their previous, and beloved commander, McClellan?  Might it depend upon which group of soldiers we're looking at?  Finally, we'll have something to say about the mechanics of how soldiers in the field actually voted--and whether this might have affected their choice.  Stay tuned.

**Above maps from Richard N. Current.  The History of Wisconsin.  Volume II.  The Civil War Era.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Secession Dissection in the Old Dominion. Or, Where West Virginia Came From

Continuing on with a look at Civil War era electioneering, lets take a look at how one particular state (soon to become two) moved toward secession.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the Confederacy was formed in waves; not every state left the Union at the same time.  In the second wave of secessions was Virginia.  Following the attack on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln's call upon the states to provide troops for the Union effort, the critical state of Virginia moved toward secession.  Given the size of the state, its geographical location, and its history in the forming of the country, the Confederacy would probably have ended much sooner than it did had it not had Virginia in its ranks.

As must be noted, Virginia was actually quite hesitant to secede.  A number of efforts were made to keep Virginia in the Union, with an early Secession Convention sending a delegation to Washington to try and ascertain the Lincoln administration's intentions.  When Sumter was met with Lincoln's determination to meet Southern hostilities with force, Virginia's march to leave the Union picked up pace.  On April 17, Virginia's Secession Convention voted to secede, with the final decision subject to a statewide referendum.  With the data for this vote available on a county-wide basis, I thought I'd map it to see if any patterns emerge.

In the last post I tried to show a linkage between secession support across the South with the prevalence of slavery.  For the purposes of this post, lets do the same thing.  Our hypothesis would be that those parts of Virginia that had a higher prevalence of slavery would have a higher level of support for the secession referendum.  Fortunately, I found a good map of Virginia that shows slavery by county that we can use:

As we can see from the map, slavery was more prevalent in some parts of the state than others.  The most north-western part of the state (more on that in a bit) had very little slave presence at all.  So, how did the vote correspond?  The vote to ratify secession was held on May 23, 1861.  I've taken the county data, color coded it based on the percentage of the vote for secession in each particular county, and then transposed the result onto the above map.  The color scheme is as follows.  Each percentage band is % of the vote in favor of secession: Dark Red 95% and above; Red 90-95%; Dark Pink 85-90%; Pink 80-85%; Orange 75-80%; Yellow 65-70%; Light Yellow 60-65%; Brown 55-60%; Light Green 50-55%; Green 35-40%; Dark Green 30-35%; Sage Green 25-30%; Light Blue 20-25%; Turquoise 15-20%; Pale Blue 10-15%; Blue 5-10%; Dark Blue 0-5%.   For those parts of the map that are un-colored, there was no data available.

What becomes clear immediately is how widespread and virtually unanimous support was for ratification across a wide swath of the state.  Essentially, all of modern day Virginia, even in those counties that had a comparatively small slave population, voted unanimously (95%+) to ratify secession.  Once the movement toward secession had built up momentum, the population followed. 

Where things are more interesting is in the north-western part of the state.  Here, as we can see, resistance to secession was strong.  In most of this part of the state ratification failed to not only get a majority, but received less than 20% of the vote.  This, in short, is the story of how modern day West Virginia came into existence.  Even prior to the May 23 vote, efforts were underway in this part of the state to not only vote against secession, but to create an alternative government and eventually break off from the Commonwealth.  During two conventions held in Wheeling, strongly pro-Union Virginians plotted to resist the movement of the state into the Confederacy.   Conventioneers moved to create a "Restored Government of Virginia" and utlimately break away from Virginia.  Ultimately, West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863.  If you've ever driven through this part of the country you know how mountainous this territory is.  This was not land where slavery ever took hold.  The land was simply not hospitable to the type of agriculture that one found in South Carolina, Mississippi, and other parts of the Confederacy including modern day Virginia.  Thus, Unionism was and remained strong even as the state was moving quickly into rebellion.