The two Virginias

When Virginia decided to secede from the Union in 1861, West Virginia decided to stay with Lincoln and the North.  The rest of Virginia became a strongly Democratic state.

In the 1996 election Bill Clinton won West Virginia by 15 points over Bob Dole.  Meanwhile Virginia had become a solidly Republican state ever since 1968, and sure enough Bob Dole carried Virginia itself.  Things sure have changed over the past 16 years.

In this election Romney destroyed Obama in West Virginia, winning by around 27 points, his biggest margin east of the Mississippi.  A swing of 42 points from the 1996 election.  And Romney didn’t just win West Virginia, he swept the entire Appalachian region.  Meanwhile Obama won Virginia for the second time in a row.

West Virginia symbolizes the future of the GOP, while Virginia symbolizes the future of the Democratic Party.  Which party has a brighter future?

PS.  Thank God for the voters of Colorado.  For the first time in American history a state voted to legalize marijuana, and not just “for medicinal purposes.”  Maybe I should retire there, instead of California.


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34 Responses to “The two Virginias”

  1. Gravatar of Chris Chris
    6. November 2012 at 22:38

    Looks like Washington’s going to legalize marijuana too, so you have your pick of a couple states!

  2. Gravatar of Peter Peter
    6. November 2012 at 22:57

    “Which party has a brighter future?”

    Both will most likely have about 50% of the future due to the way the voting works.

    I read that on a blog recently. But I can’t remember which one.

  3. Gravatar of david david
    6. November 2012 at 23:08

    The Democrats are abandoning their reliable mining demographic for the environmentalists precisely because the former is shrinking under sheer economic force. Even if you think the future is powered by coal, it sure as hell won’t employ as many people to dig it up from the ground.

  4. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    7. November 2012 at 02:35

    Hey! Don’t forget about Washington! Marijuana is legal here now as well.

    But what the state says and what the feds say are two separate issues entirely.

  5. Gravatar of Bill Woolsey Bill Woolsey
    7. November 2012 at 04:24

    I see this post as being very mistaken.

    I am a George Mason and Virginia Tech grad. (I went to high school in Virginia as well.) My wife is a native Virginian.

    Virginia went for Obama because the federal government is one of its major industries. Look at the vote totals for Fairfax County. (I lived there for 6 years or so.)

    West Virginia went for Romney because of Obama is against coal.

    The implicit story of racism–the one more than hinted at–has little to do with it.

    That’s my theory, even though I plan to be teasing all of my Virginia inlaws about how they are all liberal Democrats now.

    OK, OK, I live in the Charleston bubble. But it is no more obscuring to reality than the Boston bubble.

    My precinct is overwhelmingly white, Romney won a big victory 62%, (and Johnson got 3.4%.) But I don’t think it is because my neighbors are racist. As for James Island as a whole, it was 54% Romney (and 2% Johnson.) Obama, on the other hand, carried nearly all African American James Island 1b by 85%. I suppose I could find the statistics on the racial makeup of the precincts, but I know because I have knocked on every door in 1b. And I have knocked on every door in my home precinct more than once.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. November 2012 at 05:25

    Peter, Good point, but which party has to recalibrate to assure itself 50% of the wins?

    Bill, You said;

    “The implicit story of racism–the one more than hinted at–has little to do with it.”

    Surely you are not saying I hinted at racism? That’s absurd. The GOP is winning working class whites and losing highly educated white areas like Northern Virginia. Race has nothing to do with this post. My point (hinted at) was that the economy of the 21st century will look much more like Northern Virginia or the Triangle area of North Carolina, than West Virginia. Obama won lots of nearly all white states like Vermont and New Hampshire.

    Daniel, Let’s hope Obama shows some spine (now that he’ll never again run for office), and refrains from sending in the Feds to arrest old ladies for having a pot plant in their backyard.

  7. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    7. November 2012 at 05:31

    Looking forward to how progressives and liberals are going to ignore it when Obama vetoes the Colorado and Washington legalizations.

    It’s harder to finance black ops when prices are lower.

    Speaking of financing government operations…

    The Congressional Budget Office predicted in 2010 that the US government’s TOTAL revenue would be exceeded by mandatory spending and interest expense within 15-years.

    Guess what? It happened the next year in 2011.

    In Fiscal Year 2011, the federal government collected $2.303 trillion in tax revenue. Interest on the debt that year totaled $454.4 billion, and mandatory spending totaled $2.025 trillion. In sum, mandatory spending plus debt interest totaled $2.479 trillion… exceeding total revenue by $176.4 billion.

    In Fiscal Year 2012 which just ended, that shortfall increased 43% to $251.8 billion.

    The government could cut the entire discretionary budget, i.e. eliminate the military, SEC, FBI, EPA, TSA, DHS, IRS, etc, and they would still be in the hole by a quarter of a trillion dollars!

    Raising tax rates ceteris paribus won’t help…Hauser’s Law.

    The way I see it, the government could only collect sufficient revenues if the Fed increased the money supply in such high quantities that nominal incomes increase sufficiently for taxation to bring in more dollars. But this may require 10% – 25% annual price inflation.

    It took over 200 years for the government to accumulate $1 trillion dollars in debt.

    It took just 286 days to accumulate the most recent trillion (from $15 trillion to $16 trillion).

    Last month alone, the first full month of Fiscal Year 2013, the US government accumulated nearly $200 billion in new debt…20% of the way to a fresh trillion…in just 31 days!

    See a pattern?

    The numbers will only continue to get worse. 10,000 people begin receiving mandatory entitlements every single day. Fewer people remain behind to pay into the system. The debt keeps rising, and interest payments will continue rising.

    It doesn’t make a difference how high they raise taxes, or even if they cut everything else that remains in government as we know it.

    Obama is going to be heralded in history as captain of the Titanic. If progressives and liberals were better informed on economics and finance, they would have voted for Romney just to make a Republican the captain instead.

    To any conservative, or libertarian, or right leaning politically partisan person who is in any way upset that Obama won…don’t be. Progressivism is, hopefully this time for good, going to die another death. It’s going to be ugly, and it’s going to hurt a lot of innocent people, so in this sense I will be upset.

  8. Gravatar of Tom Hannaford Tom Hannaford
    7. November 2012 at 05:38

    I know Washington and Colorado made the big leap (although I’m not holding my breath on the Feds letting them go through with it), but c’mon…why would you go to Washington for it? Colorado is wayyyyyyy nicer!

  9. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    7. November 2012 at 05:48

    1. Good job calling the election early. I refused to call this one in July like I usually do because it was so close.

    2. Doesn’t that troll Morgan Wurstler owe you something because of a wager? Like he has to clean your house? Good for you again.

    3. I too am interested if we will see Obama stop pandering to the right and let marijuana be. End the war on drugs! Why don’t I see libertarians crying this one instead of end the fed? The war on drugs involves actual big government kicking in doors but they are quiet about that one. Hmmm… (actually I don’t wonder but that is another story).

    I once read that the biggest bloc against legalization in California are the growers in the north. They know that legalization will crush prices. Interesting cartel behavior in real life.

  10. Gravatar of Becky Hargrove Becky Hargrove
    7. November 2012 at 06:02

    As to the future retirement…I have to wonder, where is the neighborhood that would actually feel a bit like this blog?

  11. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    7. November 2012 at 06:05

    “why would you go to Washington for it?”

    Washington. Legal Pot. No State Income Tax. What more could a retiree want?

  12. Gravatar of MkeC MkeC
    7. November 2012 at 06:16

    Major Freedom,

    I’m pretty sure you’re a regular reader of this blog so hopefully you’ll recognize there are some variables missing in your sinking ship summation. Take everything you said and imagine (God, er… Fed willing) 5% NGPD growth over the next 4-8 years.

    Not nirvana perhaps but you maybe you can stop clutching your live preserver.

  13. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    7. November 2012 at 06:17

    Steve:

    Washington. Legal Pot. No State Income Tax. What more could a retiree want?

    DEA smashing down your door?

  14. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    7. November 2012 at 06:20

    MkeC:

    I’m pretty sure you’re a regular reader of this blog so hopefully you’ll recognize there are some variables missing in your sinking ship summation. Take everything you said and imagine (God, er… Fed willing) 5% NGPD growth over the next 4-8 years.

    Not nirvana perhaps but you maybe you can stop clutching your live preserver.

    I don’t think you understand the severity, or even the actual statistics of the nation’s fiscal situation.

    5% NGDP growth is woefully insufficient for generating enough incomes for the state to tax such that the fiscal holes can be plugged.

    I think you have fell hook line and sinker for the “vulgar market monetarist” idea that 5% NGDP is a panacea.

    Current NGDP annual growth is around 4%. And the hole is accelerating. 5% won’t cut it.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. November 2012 at 06:27

    Steve, Vancouver Washington–isn’t that the town where you can shop in sales tax-free Portland, just across the bridge? No sale or income tax, and legal pot.

  16. Gravatar of Tom Hannaford Tom Hannaford
    7. November 2012 at 06:46

    I’ll take the Colorado mountains with my legal pot, thank you very much!

    @Benny: The Johnson campaign, and by extension most of the libertarian candidates running for house and senate seats this election season, were far and away more vocal about ending the drug war than any other issue. The “end the fed” stuff still lingers, but once Paul dropped out of the race it dropped out of sight as well as far as major talking points go…

  17. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    7. November 2012 at 07:25

    Massachussets legalized it too!

    Apparently they slapped a license on cultivation in Washington. So the old ladies are still busted.

    Maybe I should retire there, instead of California.

    Oh it’s coming to California, man. By 2024, if Caplan is right: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/11/a_bet_i_forgot.html

    I’m just trying to imagine Fred Armisen’s reaction to this.
    He must be tired after the second debate: https://twitter.com/Pat_Healy/status/258393561303748609

  18. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    7. November 2012 at 07:25

    Damn, still can’t spell it properly. It’s Massachusetts, isn’t it?

  19. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    7. November 2012 at 07:30

    Oh, sorry, it’s just medical marijuana in Massachusetts… still, isn’t everyone in California high off “medical marijuana” right now?

  20. Gravatar of Paul Zrimsek Paul Zrimsek
    7. November 2012 at 07:38

    Even assuming that the future of the Democratic Party is Virginia rather than the electorally similar but distinctly less promising Ohio, the model doesn’t strike me as being all that scalable. We’re already pretty much maxed out on the number of states that get to have a national capital full of well-paid government workers on their borders.

  21. Gravatar of Patrick Sims Patrick Sims
    7. November 2012 at 09:01

    A couple things stick out to me when looking at the county by county electoral map in VA:

    1. Cities – VA now has a large populations in its cities. Cities in Virginia are considered their own county with direct electoral representation. As more democratic-leaning voters move to the cities, you get a logical pull.

    2. Higher Education – See local cities that also have Universities (UVA, William and Mary, James Madison). Charlottesvill, home of the University of Virginia, has produced a huge pull with surrounding counties. This area of the state is liberal and has higher levels of education that the rest of the state.

    3. High Tech and Contracting – Northern VA is a heavily populated urban environment which fits in to the first talking point, but it is also a hub for government contracting, consulting and several high-tech industries. Without government, I’m not sure they would exist, but neither would Silicon Valley! Also the area is highly educated compared to the rest of the state.

    And 4. Southeast. Large populations of minority demographics. Esp. the Norfolk, Suffolk and Hampton areas.

    So, I think when you say the Republicans are going WV, you mean that they are 1. Not living in cities 2. Either not pursuing higher education or not “drawn” to it by having highly educated neighbors 3. Jobs are less consulting/tech-oriented 4. They’re predominately white. That sums up WV.

    I’m not sure you can draw only negative views from each of these points, but I believe they are insightful enough to draw an opinion.

  22. Gravatar of Neil S Neil S
    7. November 2012 at 09:05

    Prof. Sumner,

    Take a good, hard look at the state of the budget and infrastructure before retiring here (CA). The state government is in the pocket of the public employee’s unions. As a long time resident, I’ll be retiring out of state, and I’m far from alone.

    Regards,
    Neil

  23. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    7. November 2012 at 09:19

    ‘Vancouver Washington–isn’t that the town where you can shop in sales tax-free Portland, just across the bridge?’

    Yes, but the WA Dept of Revenue sends out spies into Portland shopping centers to note Washington license plates and then harasses their owners.

    WA also legalized gay marriage, elected another Dem governor (3 decades in a row), but passed an initiative that requires a 2/3 vote in the legislature for any tax increase (and defeated a state income tax on the wealthy only two years ago).

    So, legalized pot makes sense there.

    Also, congrats to Ray Fair. He predicted 49% of the two party vote for Obama; well within his margin of error.

  24. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    7. November 2012 at 09:21

    ‘We’re already pretty much maxed out on the number of states that get to have a national capital full of well-paid government workers on their borders.’

    Exactly, Paul.

    But, less politely, would Obama have won if he were a white man?

  25. Gravatar of Adam Adam
    7. November 2012 at 10:02

    For some reason I never pictured Prof. Sumner as a pot head (NTTAWWT).

  26. Gravatar of Major_Freedom Major_Freedom
    7. November 2012 at 10:15

    Why do medical patients have more civil liberties than those who are not?

    It’s like if a person uses enough illegal steroids and as a result gets glaucoma, they’ll be treated better by the state.

    Interesting world.

  27. Gravatar of Gabe Gabe
    7. November 2012 at 10:24

    Obama isn’t “pandering to the right” in supporting the continued growth of the drug war, the DEA and the prison population. Obama is merely owned by the same prison industrial/military/medical/bankster complex as the republicans…two puppets controlled by the same interest.

    Ron Paul and libertians are pretty clear that they want to end the drug wars and defund the DEA. Democrats and Republicans are against…and the statist/facists have been winning this war unfortuantely.

    Congrats on another victory last night and don’t expect a big change when you elect the same creeps…doesn’t matter how cool they seem during fundraiser speaches.

  28. Gravatar of Cthorm Cthorm
    7. November 2012 at 10:31

    Scott – I’m a 4th generation Californian. I know a lot of good people who have moved out to Colorado over the last 20 years. It’s a great place to be, but in the urban areas it’s looking more and more like California. You can’t go wrong with Western Colorado or Northern California (in the Sierras) for a place to retire. Colorado is cheaper for now.

  29. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    7. November 2012 at 15:50

    @Tom

    I guess that depends on your point of view. The only libertarian on my ballot was Johnson, and he is a fly next to the Ron Paul elephant. Most libertarians I encounter are far and away the end the fed Paultards. I have often said that social conservatives are the only flavor of conservative, and coming here and seeing the trolls only confirms that point of view. The vast majority of libertarians are social conservatives.

  30. Gravatar of Cthorm Cthorm
    7. November 2012 at 16:21

    The vast majority of libertarians are social conservatives.

    Really Benny, really? That is the first I’ve heard of it. Does support for full drug legalization and marriage equality not disqualify you from social conservatism anymore?

  31. Gravatar of James James
    8. November 2012 at 08:58

    Scott, the Democrats did best among high-school dropouts, while the GOP did best among college graduates. The GOP won all white groups, including white college graduates, white women, whites 18-29 years. So the myth that Republicans are now the party of downscale old white men is just that: a myth. Look up Andrew Gelman’s excellent book “Red State Blue State Rich State Poor State”. Democrats tend to win high-income states and regions, while Republican win high-income individuals. Good example for composition fallacy.

  32. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    8. November 2012 at 09:43

    @Cthorm: Yes, let’s have all marriages equally controlled by the State… I mean, unless the State thinks you’re married, you’re not really married, right?

  33. Gravatar of W.E. Heasley W.E. Heasley
    8. November 2012 at 19:42

    “When Virginia decided to secede from the Union in 1861, West Virginia decided to stay with Lincoln and the North. The rest of Virginia became a strongly Democratic state.”

    Hmmm. Not even close and surely no cigar.

    West Virginia seceded from Virginia and the South AFTER 1861. West Virginia by no means decided to “stay with Lincoln and the North”. Rather, the western part of Virginia for many, many years could not find a voice in Virginia’s legislature. The special interests of plantation owners took precedence over any western Virginia concerns.

    The concerns of those in western Virginia, which by the way was one of the fastest growing parts of Virginia, had been glossed over so many times and for such a long time that those in the western section of the state of Virginia had circulated succession literature for many years prior to the war between the states.

    The outbreak of hostilities between the north and south allowed those secessionists in western Virginia their chance to secede from Virginia. It was the “opportunity” to secede from Virginia and not “stay with Lincoln and the North” that was the phenomena at hand.

  34. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. November 2012 at 16:05

    James, I never claimed the GOP won poor people, I said they tend to do well with working class whites and lose highly educated areas. So the data you present has no bearing on my post.

    W.E. You misinterpreted my post. I stand by my claim that West Virginia split off from Virginia after Virginia seceded. It took a little while, but that was the trigger that caused them to split off.

    Benny, You don’t lknow anything about libertarians if you think most are social conservatives. Are you being serious? God I hope not.

    Cthrom, I need a metro area with at least 10 million people. Does Colorado have one?

    Saturos, I have trouble spelling it, and I live here.

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