Obama's Snubbing of the South

Cross posted at Politics and Critical Thinking.

President Obama has conceivably put together one of the more diverse cabinets since President Bush’s choices in 2001. Presently, his picks range from five women, four blacks, three Hispanics, and two Asians. As diverse as his cabinet is, does it really represent the face of America?

Obama’s cabinet choices might be ethnically representative of the US as a whole, however, regionally there is much left to be desired. So far the only pick from below the Mason-Dixon line is the Southern-lite US Trade Rep. and former Dallas mayor, Ron Kirk.

The South is traditionally painted as rural rednecks, totting Confederate flags, draped in sheets, carrying shotguns, bellowing, “The South shall rise again.” While this caricature may have applied some fifty odd years ago. The face of the New South is quite different than what our brethren on the West Coast and in the North East might have you believe.

Population growth is one reason. Back in July CNN reported that 7 out of the 10 fastest growing cities were in the South our South-lite regions.

City State Population Growth
New Orleans La. 239,124 13.8%
Victorville Calif. 107,221 9.5%
McKinney Texas 115,620 8.0%
N. Las Vegas Nev. 212,114 7.4%
Cary N.C. 121,796 7.3%
Killeen Texas 112,434 6.5%
Port St. Lucie Fla. 151,391 6.3%
Gilbert Ariz. 207,550 5.8%
Clarksville Tenn. 119,284 4.8%
Denton Texas 115,506 4.7%

There is also the demographic shift in South that is contributing to massive change in identity. Most still stereotype Southerners as “traditional agrarian whites.” The South is actually home to almost 50% of the nation’ s American-African community, also, there is a migration of Hispanics into the region as well.

US Census Bureau,


Census Bureau-(Hispanics) This ethnic group was the most mobile of the four discussed here as 56 percent changed residence during the five-year period; the South and the Midwest recorded net gains while the West and the Northeast showed net losses; Florida recorded the largest net gain among states (92,000) while Clark County, Nev. (56,000), led all counties.


The South is also growing economically, maintaining its viability through the housing bust into the credit crunch. Although, not immune from its effects, the Southern economy has proven a certain amount of resiliency from the present economic turmoil. Almost two-thirds of the fastest growing counties were in the Southern United States.

Despite the a vast shift in the economic, demographic, and sociological makeup in the South these simple facts seem to allude to the pundits and political scientists. There is almost a blatant relishment, on their part, that the South has somehow faltered in its political power.

From the NY Times,

NY Times-That could spell the end of the so-called Southern strategy, the doctrine that took shape under President Richard M. Nixon in which national elections were won by co-opting Southern whites on racial issues. And the Southernization of American politics — which reached its apogee in the 1990s when many Congressional leaders and President Bill Clinton were from the South — appears to have ended.

“I think that’s absolutely over,” said Thomas Schaller, a political scientist who argued prophetically that the Democrats could win national elections without the South.


Furthermore, there is the stereotypical argument that voters in the South are ignorant Confederates, who will only vote Republican due to racist views and lack of education.

NY Times-One reason for that is that the South is no longer a solid voting bloc. Along the Atlantic Coast, parts of the “suburban South,” notably Virginia and North Carolina, made history last week in breaking from their Confederate past and supporting Mr. Obama. Those states have experienced an influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years, pointing them in a different political direction than states farther west, like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and Appalachian sections of Kentucky and Tennessee.


Of course an analysis done by the Public Policy Polling shed a little more light on why Obama received his increased support among White constituents in Southern states. The abandonment "Confederate mindset," which had been done many years earlier, had little or nothing do with it. Some in the South, like many portions of the US, succumbed to fears concerning the future of the economy.

Public Policy Polling-Economy, Economy, Economy. Among white voters in North Carolina who list it as their top issue Obama is actually up 48-46. In Florida Obama has the same 48-46 lead with whites most concerned about the economy. In Virginia it’s a 49-46 advantage.


With these factors in mind it would behoove the President-elect to look towards the South for future political gains. Alienating this region with its growing demographic support and approaching it with a West Coast or North East frame of mind could be a severe mistake.

With states such as California and New York suffering major blows to their economies. It is feasible to assume that an increased number of people holding hourly wage jobs could potentially migrate to states with more stable economic situations (i.e. The South). Coupling this migration with the large representation of minorities in this area, there will inevitably be an increase in the number of electoral votes allocated to each Southern state. Eroding the Democratic lock on California and New York, which contributes a significant number of electoral votes to their cause.

Republicans, as of now, are shifting the dynamic of the GOP and an outreach to minority communities is high on the priority list. Combining this with white support could solidify the base of the GOP even further and represent a return to the Southern Strategy which could work in favor of conservatives.

Comments :

3 comments to “Obama's Snubbing of the South”
Blueskyboris said...
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Just for the record, I think it has more to with your economic views, then with any real racism with the majority of Southern state Americans. Caricatures sometimes last longer than the reality that created them.

Blueskyboris said...
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However, there is still a greater percentage of racists in the South than in the North, but that statistic is more historical than mainstream.

Casey said...
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Boris,

You're basing that on...?