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Posted by Thomas Shevory at 2:39PM   |  9 comments
Map

Thomas Shevory, Ithaca College

One narrative that has emerged from the 2010 mid-term elections is that Democrats have a “rust belt” problem.  According to this, the long-term secular decline in economic activity in upstate New York, western and central Pennsylvania, parts of Ohio, and much of Michigan is undermining support for the Democratic Party.  This argument turns up a lot on the cable tv news shows, and was featured in a recent Newsweek article as well.  This is a variation of the long-running argument that the white working class, a former base of the Democratic Party, has deserted it.  At one time, it was on cultural issues, but now it’s on economic ones.  And this does not bode well for the President in the general election.  But is it true?

There’s little doubt that the Democrats’ losses had a lot to do with the unemployment problem.  But it’s important not to jump to conclusions.  If you unpack the numbers just a little bit, it becomes clear that things are a bit more complicated than the narrative might have us believe. For example, while Democrats lost some seats in upstate New York, in formerly industrial pockets, like Buffalo, the party easily reelected a Democratic congressman.  In fact, a quick glance at the new congressional map reveals that Democratic losses line up along urban and rural borders in much the way they have for decades. 

Variations occurred at the margins, often because of shifts in the suburban vote. Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Akron are all in districts that elected Democratic members of congress by comfortable margins. Connecticut and Massachusetts, both of which have suffered their share of deindustrialization, did not elect a single Republican member to the new Congress.  Union members tended to vote a majority for Democratic candidates in key races, albeit in not as large numbers as they might once have (but again that’s not a new story).

The big story in the rust belt, as with many other parts of the country, was not a shift in party affiliation, so much as a decline in turnout.  Democratic voters, especially the young, did not turn out in the same numbers proportionately to their Republican counterparts in 2010 as they did in 2008.  The much-vaunted enthusiasm gap turned into a reality. Perhaps this isn't surprising.  Democratic constituencies were demoralized, and it is more difficult to mobilize young voters in off-year elections.  Enthusiasm is a fleeting thing, and, in the long run, with all due respect to Facebook and Twitter, electoral politics is mostly shaped by old-school, boring, institutional commitments.


9 Comments

I clearly remember 2008 as a time of involvement and participation in politics. People came together with such high spirits to embrace similar ideals and calls for reform and change, whether that be within the republican or democratic party. It was a time of hope and optimism, unlike anything anyone has seen in quite a long time. I and many of my peers were a part of this movement because we truly believed that even at a mere 16 years old, we could make a difference.

Currently our President is a Democrat, and up until the most recent congressional elections, we also had an entirely Democratic controlling government. Considering the lack of change in this country, people needed someone to blame, so they blame the majority. The fact that much of the Democrats were not elected can be attributed to the overall attitude of the country, not just from one specific place.

Since 2008, the feelings and attitudes of the people of America have shifted. People are cynical and unfaithful in the world of politics. We have become jaded to the idea of change or making a difference. I know I believe that people can change their government, as ours is a citizens government. But I ask if there is a chance the the same level of hope and community will ever be reached again?

I think people, in general, have lost hope with the government. With the current events and individual situations of the public, their is less support for and more criticism of our leaders and their efforts to improve conditions. Instead of instant change and fulfillment of needs, there is a slower progression up from the economic difficulties to slightly better conditions. Perhaps the enthusiasm for voting and change has diminished after the realization that some change is not instant, and a permanent solution to economic difficulties has not been found. Combined with the less popular midterm election, the results of this 2010 election are not surprising.

I think people, in general, have lost hope with the government. With the current events and individual situations of the public, their is less support for and more criticism of our leaders and their efforts to improve conditions. Instead of instant change and fulfillment of needs, there is a slower progression up from the economic difficulties to slightly better conditions. Perhaps the enthusiasm for voting and change has diminished after the realization that some change is not instant, and a permanent solution to economic difficulties has not been found. Combined with the less popular midterm election, the results of this 2010 election are not surprising.

I feel that the component of American politics that shows itself to be most prevalent here is the current state of voting American citizens. In the past couple years, I have noticed considerable apathy in relation to current political circumstances. This apathy is unfortunate; it is a shame that more citizens are not concerned in ameliorating the political world.

Being from Buffalo, a rust belt city, this post interests me. I remember during the summer when the republican Palidno (Buffalo local and certifiable nut-case) announced he was running for Governor. The amount of Palidno signs on people’s lawns in support for him scared me a little. Here there were working class people (many working in the local Pepsi, paper, and Rich product plants) supporting a person who was wealthy, anti-union, and clearly not going to help out these people’s cause.
I think the reason why these people supported someone who would not, if elected, help them, is because of the media coverage. Meaning, Fox News.

In the movie Fair Game, the media is shown as a means to generate a specific viewpoint: a conservative, very pro-“American” stance. I feel like this sort of media manipulation was one of the reason why working class Americans where turning towards a conservative business owner.

Being from Buffalo, a rust belt city, this post interests me. I remember during the summer when the republican Palidno (Buffalo local and certifiable nut-case) announced he was running for Governor. The amount of Palidno signs on people’s lawns in support for him scared me a little. Here there were working class people (many working in the local Pepsi, paper, and Rich product plants) supporting a person who was wealthy, anti-union, and clearly not going to help out these people’s cause.
I think the reason why these people supported someone who would not, if elected, help them, is because of the media coverage. Meaning, Fox News.

In the movie Fair Game, the media is shown as a means to generate a specific viewpoint: a conservative, very pro-“American” stance. I feel like this sort of media manipulation was one of the reason why working class Americans where turning towards a conservative business owner.

The current state of the American political structure is so far gone from the will and being the voice of the people it's insane. I feel it could be best described as pro wrestling. In front of an audience, both parties devided are supposed to hate eachother, but behind closed doors, everyone's patting eachohther on the back, disenfranchising everyone for the power and corruptability for wall street.

The issues and unemployment problem are definitely perpetuated by the media and sometimes blown out of proportion. The new Tea Party movement seemed to be the biggest thing out of Washington since the civil rights rallies but almost all the high profile tea party candidates lost. I think people need to really begin to ask questions locally instead of getting fed their news and facts from Fox News or MSNBC. The sooner people begin thinking for themselves rather than others thinking for them, the better this country will becomes

The problem is not losing faith in specific parties, but losing faith in politics. The decline in turnout is a perfect example of this. Because people are losing their political efficacy (jobs have not been restored, something that the government has been trying to "fix") fewer citizens feel as though their vote, their voice will make any difference in the government as a whole.

In addition, the decline in turnout of the youth in the 2010 elections is nothing new: mid-term elections almost always have a smaller turnout from this demographic area. The enthusiasm in 2008 was probably caused by the nigh-militant campaigns on every medium imaginable, including twitter and Facebook. Campaigns did not put as much effort into their new media campaigns, so to believe that 2008's momentum would persist is futile.



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