Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Something is Broken with the Red State Idea

To wit: there are too many states where Republican Presidential candidates win by big margins, but the results in the state houses, governors' mansions, and even the US House and Senate don't correspond. Why did Bush beat Kerry by 20 points in Montana -- and Gore by 25 -- yet in Montana the Governor and one of the Senators are Democrats, as are a majority in the upper state house and 50/100 in the lower state house?

I've always taken this as a puzzle, but it's a big enough discrepancy that we have to face the fact that there is an answer, and we have to set ourselves the gola of finding it. Perhaps it's because retail politics plays a significantly bigger role at the state level? Perhaps the cheap, seedy divisive messages that Republican Presidential candidates use count on distance for their division (e.g. the Massachusetts librul attack)? Perhaps state candidates use a different message? Perhaps Dems problem is entirely due to how they message foreign policy?

As a politically aware Democrat who has lived only in large, Blue states, and whose friends are all solid Democrats, I have no idea. Presumably it involves the way that those undecided voters think about politics. But someone needs to figure this out.

Because this is the sort of problem that dominates the Democrats' ability to lose Presidential elections that they should be winning by 20 points: everything we don't understand about how we get our votes, we have to figure out. Right down to understanding the individual thought processes of individual voters in the 50 states. Right down to understanding how the things we say modify the attitudes of each American. The Dems are a coalition, and they're a much smaller coalition than they should be.


After reading this, Rocky offered the plausible idea that the difference is due to the right-wing media. First, in the presidential race, Fox and the far-right media are there to shill for the Republican non-stop; they're too busy and important to shill for governors. Less idealogical outlets such as CNN provide a different problem to the presidential race. Because they are obsessed with the partisan bickering narrative, in which conflicts are always been the defined left and right (and because he-said-she-said journalism, which they refer to as 'objectivity', and which guides everything they do, says that there are two sides to every story and those two sides are the right and the left) they tar presidential politics politics with the brush of right-wing bias, and their coverage alone, according to this theory, is enough to skew Montana 20 points to the right. But since the national media only cover national candidates, state-level candidates escape relatively unscathed. Obviously there is local press, but it covers different issues -- more pork, less foreign policy -- and perhaps the inherent right-wing bias that the press has is less felt in local coverage.


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