Why Do They Think Pennsylvania is a Swing State and We’re Not? October 13, 2012

I have seen it said that Pennsylvania is a ‘swing state’ in this election. Nobody maintains that California is. But I looked at the presidential electoral maps of the past, and I found that Dukakis, against Bush Senior, lost ten states that have never been lost by a Democratic presidential candidate since. The ten are Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, and California. That’s a rather long list. Micah Cohen of Five Thirty Eight attributes the change in California partly to the immigration of Latinos, who tend to be socially conservative and economically liberal but whose bottom line is insistence on a ‘path to citizenship’ for the illegal immigrants; and partly to the fact that after the aerospace industry was reduced after the end of the Cold War, many of the former aerospace workers left the state. The end of the Cold War did accompany a very serious recession in Southern California and Arizona that, because it did not affect the stock market much, was often dismissed by Republicans based outside of California. One motive for this is that if the recession of the early ‘90s was minimized, it was easier to represent the ‘Clinton boom’ that followed as a mere extension of the ‘Reagan boom’ that preceded; if they conceded that there was indeed a serious recession in the early ‘90s, they feared that Clinton, not Reagan, would get credit for the boom that followed.

The media would like to exaggerate the role of disgust with the Religious Right in explaining why so many states have turned ‘blue’. That may be relevant for those states on the list where Latinos have not settled in large numbers. In California, it has application to the Bay Area’s ‘Peninsula’ and to Los Angeles’s West Side, I think, but is very much secondary to Latino settlement and white emigration in affecting the state as a whole. Failing to understand the differences between Latinos and socially liberal suburbanites leads to events that catch the media by surprise, the victory of Proposition 8 four years ago being the most notable of all of them. But then again, Proposition 8 was not a Republican candidate.

Related: “In California, Growing Diversity First Made Its Mark” by Micah Cohen at NYTimes.com

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