Sunday, December 17, 2006

What happened in 2006?

Many column inches have been devoted to the outcome of 2006 mid-term elections by columnists more talented than I. However, I think it is worth re-iterating the key issue of these elections.

If you looked at a political map of 100 years ago, you'd notice that the "Solid South" was solidly Democratic, while New England and the Northeast was a Republican stronghold. This paradigm began to shift with 1948, when Strom Thurmond ran for President as a "Dixiecrat," and began shifting in earnest with Richard Nixon's 1968 "Southern Strategy" which ran contrary to the advice of then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in creating a much more conservative, neo-racist Republican party to appeal to the white Southern voter put off by the Democrat's insistence on civil rights and voting rights for blacks. While the South started voting for Republican presidential candidates in the 60s and 70s, a whole generation of Southern Democrats in congress and the Senate held onto their seats by separating themselves from the national party and taking centrist positions. This strategy proved effective until 1994, when the "Republican Revolution" ousted a whole generation of Southern Democrats.

Meanwhile, in the Northeast, the same shift was happening in the opposite direction. While the Northeast began voting for Democratic presidential candidates, a generation of Yankee Republicans hung onto their seats by taking a centrist tack, exhibiting the socially liberal but fiscally conservative views that had defined New England Republicanism for generations.

However, the 2006 election marked the turning point where these candidates attachment to an extremely disliked national Republican party caused them to lose. When the 110th Congress is seated, 21 of the 22 House members from New England (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine) will be Democrats. The Democratic Party has taken complete control of the New Hampshire state government for the first time since 1877. Democrats now control all statewide offices in New York for the first time since 1938.

The 2006 elections mark the end of a historical shift. The GOP is now the party of Dixie, while the Democrats are now the part of the Northeast and Midwest.

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