The New York Times
is calling us a bunch of dumb crackers in this story
today, and the truth hurts. Welcome to Tennessee, the land of racists and Republicans. That pretty well sizes it up. It would make a nice motto for our license plates.
It wasn't only that John McCain won the South (with the exception of Virginia and North Carolina where smarter people have moved and changed the dynamic), but that he took white votes by mind-boggling margins. In Tennessee, the fine citizens of our white hinterlands went for McCain by 40 points or more. John Kerry, the wind-surfing Massachusetts liberal, did much better than Barack Obama. The inescapable conclusion? Race was the deciding factor for many white voters. For the numbers, see this post by my esteemed colleague Jack Silverman.
The good news is we've been marginalized. We don't count much anymore. We've receded into a backward enclave of America where white supremacy reigns. It's kind of like, um, let's see, the Old Confederacy.
What may have ended on Election Day, though, is the centrality of the South to national politics. By voting so emphatically for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama — supporting him in some areas in even greater numbers than they did President Bush — voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say.
The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”
What a proud moment for Tennessee Republicans! They rode a wave of racism into power in the legislature for the first time in 140 years. In an oped,
Congressman Zach Wamp denies race was a factor. (He also denies McCain had coattails in Tennessee. That's laughable.) Wamp points out that Harold Ford Jr. did pretty well as the Democrats' 2006 Senate candidate.
But there's a difference. Obama ignored Tennessee. Ford campaigned here really hard. Tennesseans might be racist, but not so racist that they won’t vote for an African American who asks nicely. (Now there’s a silver lining!) Plus, Ford ran like a Republican, and Obama has a funny name.
“Junior was everywhere,” one Democrat explains to Pith
. “He talked about his guns and his God. He became one of the Bubbas because he was with them so much. It’s hard to hate someone you know. Obama was unknown.”
Republicans may deny it, but they know it's true. In fact, their party did all it could to inflame racial fears about Obama with press releases casting him as some kind of Muslim Manchurian candidate. At the time, we thought it was stupid for the state GOP to go into the gutter against Obama. We thought they'd only wind up turning off independents. Boy, were we wrong. Bill Hobbs and Robin Smith knew what they were doing all along. They're a lot smarter than they seem.