Sunday, November 4, 2012

Curiosity of Politics: Vermont

I'm in the middle of packing my life into boxes, but there's something I've been meaning to share. I don't have as much time or battery life as I'd like, so I'll have to be quick, but I want to show you something strange: This.

That is the list of presidential election results, by state, for every election ever held in the United States of America. There was a version of this chart in one of my history books in college and then, as now, it fascinated me. See, the state I'm currently moving out of is Vermont, and Vermont has the longest party loyalty streak of any state for any party: from 1856 through 1960, Vermont voted Republican. In case you were wondering, this is what the electoral map of 1856 looked like:

There were 31 states that year. And Vermont remained a Republican stronghold for 104 years. Even when the cool states were voting Democratic, Vermont voted Republican. Even when it was FDR in World War II, Vermont voted Republican. In fact, even after going for LBJ in 1960, Vermont went back to being Republican until 1992. Now, it's one of the bluest of the blue states, with there being no indication of anything about that changing in this election. Why?

It's complicated in ways I wish I had the time to get into. The Republican and Democratic parties performed a very slow waltz over the course of the 20th century in which the two traded places as the liberal and conservative voices, and that had a lot to do with race. In the last few years, the remaining handful of conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans have either jumped ship or died from old age.

One might think that that's what happened with Vermont: The conservative generation has passed on, giving way to liberals. But what I, personally, have seen is nothing like that: I went to an Occupy march last year at about this time and most of the people there had probably been college kids when Vietnam was happening. The liberals here are young and old.

More than that, however, is that the Republican Party here in Vermont looks nothing like the Republican Party nationally. There are different strains of Republicanism nationally - the Reaganites, the neo-cons, whatever Mitt Romney is classified as - but I'd say the Republicans here are Coolidge Republicans, taciturn to the point of being spartan and concerned with function over style for everything. At the height of Tea Party mania during the midterm elections of 2010... nothing happened here.

I'm too young to really know if they've stuck by their guns the whole time or if they've retracted from the high-water mark of Reagan flamboyance in the 1980s, but either way, they're not the rest of the party is nationally. Just a thought worth sharing as we head into an election in which both sides are convinced the other party's candidate will run the US into the ground.

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