The NY Times has represented the shift from Republican to Democratic voting between 2004 and 2008 across the country with the following map:

blue-shift-2008-v-2004-nytimes

What’s immediately striking about this map is just how extensive and widespread the change in mood or opinion is. Even of those hundreds of counties that still came out with Republican majorities–and would be colored red on a map of just this year’s results–they were less red than they were in 2004. Obama’s appeal was higher than Kerry’s (not to mention McCain’s) almost across the board. He did not just win by turning out more urban voters. Southern and West Texas, the Midwest, North Dakota, Montana, Eastern Oregon and Washington, even Idaho and Utah were more drawn to Obama than Kerry (or less interested in McCain-Palin than Bush ’04). There is plenty of white, where things held steady, that’s true. But there is also a LOT of dark blue.

Right-wing pundits and Fox News have already been claiming that Obama’s win does not represent a “mandate.” But if a 6+% popular vote margin, with the widespread electoral shifts seen in the map above, is not a mandate then it’s hard to imagine what would be.

Secondly, what the map suggests about the state of the Republican party is just as remarkable. Except for a few outliers, the redshift areas are contained in the central South, with the firmest, brightest GOP last stand in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, northern Alabama and SW Louisiana. This is the Bible Belt and probably represents the only region this year where the old GOP values-based agenda (along with, of course, the historically deep-seated racism in these areas) still managed to trump the economic interests that the rest of the country seems to have considered the defining issue of the election.

In many ways even the evangelical mainstream has moved on from the old GOP paradigm of abortion, gays, and (inside this Trojan Horse) laissez-faire economics. More and more religious groups are becoming active and outspoken about other issues of social justice–poverty, health care, education, foreign assistance–as well as embracing a new theology of creation stewardship that is pro-environment. And on all these issues they can find common cause with, and find less to object to, in the basic liberal and progressive message as it has been articulated by Obama.

All this leaves the GOP and its staunch, still loyal Bible Belt base, increasingly marginalized and reactionary. And since–sad to say–that red swath has not been particularly well treated by recent economic trends (from job outsourcing, the youth/talent flight to cities, and the decline of extractive industries), it seems less and less likely that the GOP can rebuild their brand simply by appealing to this small and shrinking part of the American population. It seems less and less likely that Republicans will leverage this hardcore base into a political brand that can hijack the majority of us again any time soon.

Et deo gratias agamus for that!

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