John Brummett, ‘Arkansas Week’ on ‘The Map’

Everyone’s talking about “The Map,” the New York Times’ interactive look at how the nation voted on Tuesday. The map compares how states and counties voted on Tuesday compared with how they voted in 2004 and other elections.

When compared with the 2004 vote, the map shows states and counties getting “bluer,” meaning Democrats made gains in those areas on Tuesday. But it also shows areas that went more “red,” where Republicans made gains. And ground zero for that trend, standing out from the rest of the country, is Arkansas.

BuzzFeed, a snarky site that somehow tracks Internet “buzz,” has labeled the red section of the map America’s “Racist Belt,” saying that “race is the only reason that makes sense for a Democrat to switch sides this election cycle.”

What? That’s quite a leap to make. There’s got to more to it than that, right?

Arkansas News Bureau columnist John Brummett wades into the topic today. And he acknowledges that while race was certainly a factor in how some Arkansans voted, other factors were likely at play:

One: Obama chose not to campaign here and in those other red-belt states. If he had spent millions persuading us and Tennesseeans and Kentuckians and West Virginians the way he persuaded Ohioans and Pennsylvanians and Virginians and North Carolinians, maybe we would have given him a better vote.

Two: This is the same belt along which Hillary Clinton creamed Obama in the primaries, especially so, by 74 percent, here in Arkansas, which is, in a way, a home of hers. So we had lingering resentment toward Obama about that. The problem with this explanation, its fatal flaw, which perhaps already has occurred to you, is that New York is another Hillary home state that gave her a big primary win, but, for heaven sakes, didn’t hold that against Obama months later in the epic general election.

Three: Our state’s black population, and indeed the entire black population along this narrow red belt, is less than that of Upper Midwest urban areas and deeper South states. Obama ran altogether better in those areas, but only because of those higher concentrations of black voters. In other words, we may be white racists, but no more than white people elsewhere. This is, while arguable, something less than a ringing self-endorsement.

“Arkansas Week,” AETN‘s weekly news roundtable, also riffed on the topic at the top its show this week. (You can listen to the MP3 of the show here.)

While all the panelists agreed that a vote for John McCain in Arkansas didn’t automatically mean racism, they acknowledged that race was likely a factor in many Arkansas votes. Arkansas Business Publisher Jeff Hankins pointed out how Arkansas counties voted on Tuesday, with Obama winning Pulaski County, Jefferson County and a few other counties deep in the Delta — areas with sizable black populations.

Hankins also noted that Arkansas Democratic Party leadership wasn’t exactly active in its support for Barack Obama.

Trivia: Barth noted that only Alabama was more emphatic than Arkansas in its support for McCain. And, of course, 2008 is the first time since 1968 that Arkansas didn’t vote for the winner of the presidential election. In 1968, it voted for independent candidate George Wallace.


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