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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Alabama really is different

In 2008 the white vote for President in Alabama was 90% John McCain, 10% Barack Obama. It was the lowest percentage of white voters for Obama of any state. Here in North Carolina -- hardly a stronghold for the left-wing -- Obama got 35% of the white vote.

John Kerry had received 19% of Alabama's white vote in 2004. Why did the Democratic ticket lose half its attractiveness to white voters in four years? One plausible reason was a deliberate decision by the Obama campaign not to compete in Alabama, allowing campaign funds to be redirected to states like North Carolina where they made a difference. Another plausible reason is that Obama is African-American. Another is that John McCain's military record was more impressive to white voters in Alabama than George W. Bush's military record.

Whatever the cause(s), it's not good for any state -- especially not a southern state -- to be so divided along racial lines that 90% of white voters align with one political party and 90% of African-American voters align with the other. A lot has changed for the better in Alabama since 1954 when I was born (and the same year that a little-known Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. came to town). But a two-sided 90/10 split essentially constitutes resegregation at the polling place. Perhaps this is not a surprise in view of the widespread resegregation of Alabama's schools. I don't know where this is going but I worry the destination won't be good.

Let me add that if 90% of people making less than $75,000 per year were to vote for one party and 90% of people making more than $75,000 per year for the other, I'd be worried too. America was founded on consensus not polarization. Divisive politics are poisoning this country -- something to remember as we endure the next 90 days of negative campaigning.