Friday, August 12, 2005

Three More Cheers for the Great Political Divide

Remember the famous red-blue charts that appeared in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election? Here's one of them:

Shades of purple indicate the spectrum of election preferences within counties. The deeper the shade of purple the higher the proportion of votes cast for Kerry.

But too often overlooked is this companion chart:

Counties shaded pink, red, and purple have the highest population density.

In sum, we already knew about the high correlation of population density (i.e., large cities) with "blueness" (Democrat votes).

Now, an outfit that calls itself the Bay Area Center for Voting Research (BACVR) has published a list of America's 237 most liberal and conservative cities. Buried in the fine print (in a paper that I didn't find on the Center's site), is this description of the Center's "research method":
The Bay Area Center for Voting Research identified every American city with a population greater than 100,000 according to the 2000 Census, and obtained the election returns in each of these cities. . . . The votes were tabulated by combining the voting returns from all of the precincts located in a particular city.

Following the gathering of city voting returns, BACVR analyzed the political leanings of third party candidates who received more than 0.1% of the votes cast in a city so that they could be tabulated as liberal, conservative, or neutral. Cities were ranked based upon the percentage of residents who voted for George Bush and John Kerry, and eligible third party Presidential candidates also had their support tabulated. When analyzing the voting returns, votes for George W. Bush or other third party right-wing presidential candidates contributed to the city’s conservative score, while votes for John Kerry or other left-wing presidential candidates contributed to the city’s liberal score.
In other words, given the paucity of votes for third-party candidates in 2004, BACVR does little more than replicate the red-blue (Republican-Democrat) split, but does so only for cities with a population of more than 100,000. Moreover, BACVR counts votes for the Libertarian Party's Michael Badnarik as "conservative" votes; Badnarik -- a vocally anti-war libertarian -- received more than 40 percent of the third-party votes cast in the cities in BACVR's sample. In sum, BACVR's "research" subtracts from the sum of human knowledge. But I'll let BACVR speak for itself:
Being Liberal Now Means Being African American

By Phil Reiff and Jason Alderman

. . . .

New research done by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research (BACVR) reveals who the real liberals in American are and the answer is not the tree-hugging, ponytail wearing ex-hippies you might expect. Instead, the new face of American liberalism is of a decidedly different hue. The nation’s remaining liberals are overwhelming African Americans.

The BACVR study that ranks the political ideology of every major city in the country shows that cities with large black populations dominate the list of liberal communities. The research finds that Detroit is the most liberal city in the United States and has one of the highest concentrations of African American residents of any major city. Over 81% of the population in Detroit is African American, compared to the national average of 12.3%. In fact, the average percentage of African American residents in the 25 most liberal cities in the country is 40.3%, more than three times the national rate.

The list of America’s most liberal cities reads like a who’s who of prominent African American communities. Gary, Washington D.C., Newark, Flint, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Birmingham have long had prominent black populations. While most black voters have consistently supported Democrats since the 1960s, it is the white liberals that have slowly withered away over the decades, leaving African Americans as the sole standard bearers for the left.

Despite being the core of America’s liberal base, a major split exists between who the nation’s liberals are and who leads them politically. White politicians still control the levers of power within the Democratic Party, and black faces are rare around the decision making tables of America’s liberal advocacy groups.

While there are some noteworthy pockets of liberals who are not African American, these places end up being the exceptions. College towns like Berkeley and Cambridge have modest black populations, but remain bastions of upper middle-class, white, intellectual liberalism. These liberal communities, however, are more reminiscent of penguins clustering together around a shrinking iceberg, than of a vibrant growing political movement.

Further reinforcing this racial and ideological divide is BACVR research which shows that the most conservative city in America is the ultra white community of Provo, Utah, where less than 1% of the population is black.

Political pundits have noted the highly polarized nature of the American electorate, postulating that religion, age, education, wealth, and even the love of car racing are at the heart of the schism between liberals and conservatives. While these experts have identified some of the symptoms of our national rift, they have missed the root cause.

BACVR’s research gives us the real answer, disheartening as it may be. The great political divide in America today is not red vs. blue, north vs. south, costal vs. interior, or even rich vs. poor – it is now clearly black vs. white.
It seems to me that the piece should be titled "Being African American or an Academic Means Being a Democrat," with this subhead: "Blacks Play into the Hands of White Liberal Elites." But what else is new?

The real story isn't that "white liberals that have slowly withered away over the decades, leaving African Americans as the sole standard bearers for the left." The real story (a non-story, actually) is that larger cities have become increasingly black, and blacks have remained true to the Democrat Party. The real story is that blacks, on the whole, are less educated and less affluent than whites and therefore less likely to live in college towns like Berkeley and Cambridge (not to mention Madison and Ann Arbor) or high-tech centers like Provo (and nearby Orem).

Given BACVR's less-than-candid description of its methods, I wasn't surprised to read this in today's Austin American-Statesman:

[BACVR] named Austin the 93rd most liberal city in the land, just slightly bluer on the electoral map than Virginia Beach and Salt Lake City.

Dallas was 32nd, two slots more liberal than Madison, Wis.

The study found that cities with large black populations tended to turn out for liberal candidates. Austin has a relatively small black population.

The rankings threaten to obliterate a tradition of snide remarks about [Austin] from less-liberal burgs such as Plano (fifth most conservative U.S. city, the study says), Abilene (third most conservative) and Lubbock (No. 2, trailing/leading only Provo, Utah).

Thus, the report was immediately dismissed by everyone.

"I would find it hard to believe that Austin is not in the top 25 or 30 liberal cities," Travis County Republican Party Chairman Alan Sager said, not particularly complimentarily.

The unsurprising news is that the city of Dallas is more "liberal" than Austin because the city of Dallas has a proportionally larger black population. That's about all there is to it. Metropolitan Dallas is another story. There are, for example, the suburbs and exurbs of Plano (number 5 on the "conservative" list), Arlington (number 10), Garland (number 29), Carrollton (number 34), and Mesquite (number 52).

Consider this map of the cities in the lower 48 States that voted more than 55 percent "conservative" (red) or more than 55 percent "liberal" (blue) in the 2004 presidential election:

What do you see? I see voluntary social, economic, and academic segregation. I see the "rust, snow, and mist belt" of the Northeast, upper Midwest, and Pacific Northwest vs. the "sun and farm belt" of the South (excluding its large cities) and "flyover country." I see the "have nots" in the older cities (and close-in suburbs), teamed with college-town socialists, vs. the "haves" (but not the super-rich guilty ones) in the newer cities and exurbs. Birds of a feather do tend to flock together.

As I wrote in "The Great Divide Is a Great Thing," a commentary on another fatuous piece of non-news from the local rag:
The Austin American Statesman, that great proponent of civic morality, has been running an occasional series called "The Great Divide." It's about the supposed polarization of American politics and American society. A sample from today's installment (registration required, not worth the trouble):
In stories published this year, the Statesman has reported that since the late 1970s, Democrats and Republicans have been segregating, as people sift themselves into more politically homogeneous communities. . . .

People are less likely to live and vote among those with different political leanings, and the nation's politics have grown bitter as a result. "Things get ugly when you have this kind of divergence," California Institute of Technology political scientist Jonathan Katz says. "Each side thinks the other is wrong."
Of course "each side thinks the other is wrong," as the idiot from CalTech so pompously observes. (He probably analyzed a lot of data for a lot of years to figure that out.) It's always been that way and always will be that way. That's why the nation's politics are so "ugly" and "bitter". Actually they're no more ugly and bitter than they've ever been, we're just more aware of the ugliness and bitterness because (1) there are more screaming heads on TV and the internet than there used to be and (2) Democrats no longer rule the roost as they used to, which has caused them to scream louder than ever.

All this business with screaming heads just confirms one fact of life: Face-to-face political argument seldom ever changes a person's mind, it usually hardens it.

So why should people with opposing views live near each other if they're going to wind up fighting about politics? How many family dinners have been ruined by Uncle Joe called his nephew Fred a pinko, commie, hippie freeloader or a right-wing, fascist, capitalist exploiter of the working classes? Now, if you don't like your family's politics you move to where your family ain't -- and to where your can enjoy a peaceful meal with like-minded friends, chuckling over the idiocy of John Kerry or George Bush, as you prefer, without an Uncle Joe to spoil the fun.
The truly bad thing about the great political divide is that most blacks choose to remain with the party whose policies ensure their enslavement to and impoverishment by the welfare state.

Other related posts:
Is There Such a Thing as Legal Discrimination? (09/23/04)
More on the Legality of Discrimination (09/24/04)
Race and Acceptance (09/27/04)
Buckley Cuts Through the Cant (10/26/04)
The Case for Devolved Government (11/17/04)
Let 'Em Secede (11/22/04)
Rich Voter, Poor Voter, and Academic Liberalism (04/13/05)
Tolerance and Poverty (04/19/05)
Class in America (05/17/05)