Saturday, November 17, 2012

Why Virginia is Starting to Look Blue

For the second time in decades a Democrat carried Virginia, once a reliably red state.  This blog has noted before that Virginia's demographics are changing and that the backward facing elements in rural parts of the state are finally being out voted by the state's urban areas.  In addition, the younger voters are less beholden to the toxic propaganda of the Christofascists at The Family Foundation and similar faux "family values" groups.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the transformation.  Here are some excerpts:

A dozen years ago, Fairfax County was the partisan battle line in Virginia. Republicans won the more distant suburbs to the west and south, and Democrats generated huge margins in Arlington and Alexandria. But in 2008 and again in 2012, that line shifted to Prince William and Loudoun counties, with Barack Obama winning both each time.

Now Stafford and Spotsylvania counties, more distant parts of the ever-expanding Washington suburbs, seem destined to be the next frontier.

This has to be a deeply troubling trend for Virginia Republicans: The party is losing its once-large margins in many suburban counties around the commonwealth. With huge Democratic electorates in the state’s population centers, Republicans have historically relied on sizable suburban victories — coupled with large majorities in the state’s rural areas — to win statewide. But the GOP margins in the suburbs are eroding.

The counties are following a familiar pattern: As these distant suburbs have become less rural in character, they have become less Republican. The early round of suburbanization, including many ranch homes on large tracts, has given way to large townhouse complexes near major highways and clustered around Virginia Railway Express stops.

These two waves of suburban settlers tend to have different politics. The first migrants generally are older and more politically conservative, often seeking a more bucolic lifestyle. They are followed by younger migrants who are less likely to be able to afford a single-family home on an acre or more. Many do not even want such a spread. These later arrivals mainly want to live closer to work and are younger, more ethnically diverse and more Democratic in their partisan loyalties.

These changing suburban voting and residential patterns are not limited to the Washington area. Democrats used to struggle to get 45 percent of the vote in Henrico County, which surrounds Richmond. This year, Obama won Henrico with 55 percent of the vote. Obama did about as well in Albemarle County, which surrounds Charlottesville and was also once reliably Republican.
Virginia Beach also went for Romney, but Obama’s 48 percent showing there was well above Gore’s 41.6 percent.

Indeed, the majority of the counties in the eastern half of the state have become less Republican over the past dozen years. Even though Republicans continue to carry many of these suburban and rural jurisdictions, the narrower margins are swamped by Democratic votes in the cities and close-in suburbs.

Nearly a year ago, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell warned his GOP colleagues in Richmond against legislative extremism. They ignored his advice and spent time last winter talking about transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, thus irritating many suburban voters.  .   .   .   If they don’t want Virginia to change from purple to blue, Republicans need to develop far more effective strategies to connect with these newer, younger outer-ring suburban dwellers. Another round of socially conservative lawmaking in Richmond this winter will not help the GOP win the governor’s race in 2013 or return the state’s electoral votes to the GOP in 2016.

Sadly, I do not anticipate any moderation on the part of Republicans in the General Assembly.  They are far too beholden - and terrified of - the extremists at The Family Foundation and will likely continue to allow Victoria Cobb to rule them like a foul dominatrix.  

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