Obama Lost Confederacy

Several folks are picking up on this Strange Maps overlay of cotton production in 1860 and the voting patterns in this month’s presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain:

Overlay of 2008 election and 1860 cotton picking maps.

Overlay of 2008 election and 1860 cotton picking maps.

While the title “From Pickin’ Cotton to Pickin’ Presidents” is rather amusing, it’s precisely wrong.  Indeed, the Strange Maps blogger makes this clear:

The link between these two maps is not causal, but correlational, and the correlation is African-Americans. Once they were the slaves on whom the cotton economy had to rely for harvesting. Despite an outward migration towards the Northern cities, their settlement pattern now still closely corresponds to that of those days.

During the Democratic primary, many African-American voters supported Hillary Clinton, thinking it unlikely Barack Obama would win the nomination, let alone the presidency. When it became apparent that Obama had a good shot at the nomination (and thereafter at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue itself), their support for Obama became near monolithic. As it turns out, president-elect Obama won with the an overall support of 53%, but that includes over 90% of black voters (1).

Andrew Sullivan links without comment and Steve Bainbridge observes, in a post entitled “Obama won the Cotton Belt,”  “As much as Obama’s policy positions pain me, this final comeuppance for the Confederate traitors and vindication of the rights of their slaves pleases me greatly.”

Yes, black descendants of former slaves voted for a half-black descendant of people who could have owned slaves and people who might have sold their own kind into slavery.  Then again, they have historically voted for the Democrat, regardless of skin color and heritage, anyway.  And the white Republican carried most of these states, as usual.

Were the last two presidential elections — and 7 of the last 10 — in which the Republicans won vindication of the Confederates who lost the fight for national sovereignty and a comeuppance for the former slaves who had full voting and citizenship rights in each of those elections?  If the GOP wins again in the future — or, heaven forfend, beats Obama in 2012 — will it signal that the South has in fact risen again and that holding onto that Confederate currency was prudent advice after all?

And what of the 0-for-2 streak of national tickets featuring female vice presidential nominees?  Were they a slap in the face of the suffragettes and a not-so-subtle message to get back into the damn kitchen?

Or is ascribing deep-seated historical motivations to elections decided over peculiar circumstances and personalties rather silly?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Race and Politics, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mithras says:

    Southern whites voted for the Republican 68-30 this election, the same proportion as for past 40 years when the Democrat is not southern. When the Dem is southern, they still vote GOP, but it’s closer. Now why might that be?

    Pretending there is no historical antecedent to this group behavior is what is silly.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Pretending there is no historical antecedent to this group behavior is what is silly.

    Of course, Alaska and Utah, two of the most Republican states in the country, have no slaveholding heritage. And blacks voted for the Party of Lincoln for more than a century until Franklin Roosevelt won them over.

    Yes, the South has a history. Then again, it has also been a magnet for migration in recent decades, thus diluting the antebellum culture rather considerably. Not to mention the passage of more time since the Civil War than the Union existed beforehand.

  3. Putting the southern politics hat on…

    As James Joyner posts today a recent Strange Maps entry has produced a bit of buzz by showing the overlap between cotton production in 1860 and Democratic voting in 2008. Of course, a map of cotton production in 1860 and Democratic voting in 1908 would…

  4. Gadfly says:

    Mr. Joyner’s comment that Obama descended from people who “might have sold their own kind into slavery,” is predicated on an impoverished and vaguely offensive understanding of ethnic background.

    Do we reprimand Europeans for fighting their “own kind” in the world wars? The continent of Africa is roughly triple the size of the US, and has a vast array ethno-religious and linguistic groups, far more than most other places in the world. Just because people live on a continent together and share skin color does not mean they comprise one monolithic tribe.

    If you want to say “they” exploited eachother, then don’t be selective, and say this is true for all interactions between all people identified as white. Otherwise your classification is arbitrary (and thus implicitly racist).

  5. tom p says:

    Or is ascribing deep-seated historical motivations to elections decided over peculiar circumstances and personalties rather silly?

    Indeed… and yet, the history of racism is not quite yet history. It still lives in the here and now.

  6. Floyd says:

    “”Indeed… and yet, the history of racism is not quite yet history. It still lives in the here and now.””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

    And it will, as long as it can be exploited for political advantage.

  7. Mithras says:

    And it will, as long as it can be exploited for political advantage.

    Unfortunately for the GOP, white southerners only made up 22% of the electorate this time around. The political advantage from exploiting white supremacy seems to be waning.

  8. Barry says:

    Mithras: “Pretending there is no historical antecedent to this group behavior is what is silly.”

    James Joyner: “Of course, Alaska and Utah, two of the most Republican states in the country, have no slaveholding heritage.”

    So?

    James Joyner: “And blacks voted for the Party of Lincoln for more than a century until Franklin Roosevelt won them over.”

    In other words, blacks voted (when they could) and still vote for the Party of Lincoln. Which, to help you out here, is now the Democratic Party. There was this sorta shift in the party alignments; the Democratic Party picked up blacks, and white southerners, for some reason (undoubtedly having nothing to do with that) migrated en masse to the other party.

    James: “Yes, the South has a history. Then again, it has also been a magnet for migration in recent decades, thus diluting the antebellum culture rather considerably.”

    Which is why the White South isn’t so monolithic. From what I’ve gathered, the primary (white) Democratic voting areas in the South are the ones with the most migration from the North.

    James: “Not to mention the passage of more time since the Civil War than the Union existed beforehand.”

    Gee, major wars and their aftermaths linger.

  9. Floyd says:

    “”Unfortunately for the GOP, white southerners only made up 22% of the electorate this time around. The political advantage from exploiting white supremacy seems to be waning.””
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    The above statement ENTIRELY misses the point.
    It is democrat “race baiting” that has kept racism alive in the here and now.
    It is their favorite divisive tool to tout minority status as the road to political advantage, instead of equality under the law for every citizen.
    Every democrat position is defended with shouted accusations of oppression and racism, when challenged.
    Racism is at least the bulwark of the Democrat Party, if not it’s very foundation.