The most reliably Republican section of the United States in the last 40 years has been the Mountain West - the birthplace of both Patrick and yours truly - which comprises the states of Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and the Dakotas (few mountains, but similar political atmospheres). I made it blue because of my keen knack for irony:View Larger Map
In presidential elections for the last 40 years (from 1968 to present), the Democratic candidate has won only 11 of Mountain West's (MW) collective 293 electoral votes. In fact, these 11 EVs all came in the '92 election which saw Independent Ross Perot run on people's fear of the deficit
, and pull in 19% of the national vote. In the end, Clinton won Montana (3 EVs) by 2.5% and Colorado (8 EVs at the time) by 4.3%.
A lot of this has to do with the political philosophies of the citizens of the MW. The MW comprises, as the NYTimes
(click "Republican Herd") puts it, the "leave us alone" coalition of the Republican Party - the Libertarian branch of the party (officially known as the Republican Liberty Caucus
). There are several theories as to why the Republican Party has received the support of the MW Libertarians (one well thought out theory
suggests that it was because vote-hungry Republicans needed the MW's electoral support in the face of fierce competition with the Copper Democrats of the 1860's, and granted statehood to these territories to secure it), but this is beyond the scope of this musing. I'm focusing more on the future of the MW's political leanings.
People in the MW are more Catholic and Mormon
than evangelical - the group that has been the "bedrock
" of the Religious Right arm of the Republican party. Presidential candidate (and Libertarian Republican... AND MW neighbor) Barry Goldwater accused the religious right
of "bullying" government, not "using their clout with wisdom", and said that he would "fight them every step of the way". The people of the MW's values are nicely summarized by the Libetarian Party's motto
: "Small government, Lower taxes, More freedom". The Republican Party and the Bush administration may have lowered taxes, but the government has become bloated
, and privacy violations have run amok
(partisan link, but it seems pretty well established that Bush & Co. have disregarded citizen privacy in many, many ways).
As a result, the Republican party has become less desirable to the people of the MW. On a Senate and House Level, Democrats have made gains in the last few elections. John Tester joined
longtime Democratic Montana Senator Max Baucus in 2006. Tim Johnson is cruising to reelection
in South Dakota, despite suffering a stroke in late 2006 and being nearly incapacitated since. Mark Udall is whooping up
on Republican Bob Schaffer for Wayne Allard's old seat in Colorado. Heck, even BFI (butt-freakin'-Idaho), the most Red state by several measures (such as economic policy
), looks like it might pick up
it's first US House Rep since Larry Larocco was elected in '93
. Of course, it has taken stud Walt Minnick (a man-crush of mine), an endorsement
by Democratic Idaho legend Cecil Andrus, and an incumbent with the nickname Bill "the idiot
" Sali. But these Democrats are a different breed than those on the progressive forefront of the culture wars: Tester was a farmer
who lost three fingers as a child working in the family butchery; Walt Minnick is a gun-owning outdoorsman/longtime-forester
The Republican Party's jump to it's present state as neo-conservative Bush-doctrine adherents has hurt them at the presidential level this election cycle. The non-partisan Pollster.com
has Obama ahead in Colorado and North Dakota, and within 3 in Montana and 7 in South Dakota. His superior get-out-the-vote
operation is likely to pay dividends for future elections and in down-party races, which will only help him once he reaches office and in the future. Wyoming, Colorado and Montana all have
Democratic governors which will help eliminate voter suppression. Heck, even Utah
has a Democrat in the House.
All in all, the MW is surely trending blue. Arguments can be made that because these Democrats aren't as socially progressive as the more-left-leaning branch of the party that this could end up hurting the Democrats' message. But my opinion in the matter is that even if they only caucus with Democratic leadership 75% of the time, that's better for the Democratic Party than the nearly 100% adherence that their fellow GOP Congresspeople have given to the neo-con leadership. Anyway, keep your eye on this region, and not just because of my overwhelming love for the most beautiful
place on Earth, but because regionally, this is one of the fastest changing political ecosystems in the country. And if you love politics as much as me, when the philosophy of an entire region evolves, you pay attention.
Labels: Elections, Idaho