Thursday, December 31, 2009

Who Let All These Democrats into Pennsylvania?

Renee M. Lamis. The Realignment of Pennsylvania State Politics Since 1960: Two-Party Competition in a Battleground State. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009.

The author argues that the cultural wars in the 1960s over social issues created a political realignment in Pennsylvania. The Republicans gained electoral success by taking conservative positions on these cultural issues. Meanwhile, several groups that were in the minority opinions, many of whom were African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and educated women, were capable of forming a collation that could make the Democrats winners in elections. Thus, the political realignment that helped Republicans on conservative social values has now led to helping Democrats on liberal social values.

The relative cultural conservatism found among Allegheny County and southwestern Pennsylvania votes is creating electoral gains for Republicans. The Philadelphia suburbs are becoming relatively more liberal and tending to vote more for Democrats

Rob Speel notes that conservative politics that help Republicans in Southern states hurt them in other states. Pennsylvania voters more often split their votes between candidates of both parties and do so rationally. A national political realignment does not mean it occurs in the same way in each state.

Pennsylvania is part of the Northeast states where Democrats carried at least three of the past five Presidential elections. This is a geographic area from West Virginia to Maryland through Maine.

Pennsylvania has tiled towards Democrats in Presidential elections (i.e. in 1960, Pennsylvania was Kennedy 51.1%, Nixon 48.8%; in 1968 was Humphrey 47.6%, Nixon 44.0%, in 1976 was Carter 50.4%, Ford 47.7%, in 2000 was Gore 50.6%, Bush 46.6%, and in 2004 was Kerry 51.0%, Bush 48.5%).

The counties that have changed the most politically over past years are in southeast Pennsylvania. These are the suburban counties of Montgomery, Delaware, and Bush as well as Lehigh. These counties went strongly for Nixon but were carried by Kerry.

In contrast, several south central counties that were Republican in the 1960s became more Republican in 2004. These are Bedford, York. Franklin, Fulton, and Juniata.

Several counties in southwestern Pennsylvania that were Democratic in 1960 yet much less Democratic in 2004 are Washington, Fayette, and Greene.

Republicans fared better in Pennsylvania statewide office elections than they did in Presidential voting.

In 1960, Pennsylvania had one Democratic and one Republican U.S. Senator, 16 Republican and 14 Democrats members of the U.S. House, the State Senate was even politically, and the State House was 51.9% Democratic. This compares to 1928 when Democrats had no U.S. House members from Pennsylvania, 12.0% of State Senate seats, and 7.7% of State House seats.

Pennsylvania tended to elect Republicans who were more liberal than most other national Republicans, such as Hugh Scott, Bill Scranton, John Heinz, Richard Schweiker, Arlen Specter, and Tom Ridge. Rick Santorum was the only conservative Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania.

59% of white Pennsylvania Democrats were regular church goers in 1968. In 2004, 36% of white Pennsylvania Democrats were regular church attendees.

Among white voters, 48% of Pennsylvanians voted for Obama in 2008 compared to 11% in Mississippi and 10% in Alabama.


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