Not Falling for the Bait This Year

That Pennsylvania is a battleground state is a myth. I’ve heard this since 2004, and while 2004 was close, it hasn’t been close since. McCain spent a lot of time and effort on Pennsylvania, only to get clobbered. I doubt you’ll see Pennsylvania go red in a Presidential election again, at least for the foreseeable future. So it’s probably good to see Mitt not taking the bait and fighting for Pennsylvania. There are other states that will swing this election, and it’s not going to be us. Sorry Ohio, you’re going to get it twice as hard this year.

The trend I think is based on two factors. One, Clinton took a lot of the fiscal and economic issues that made the suburbs generally Republican off the table, and fought culture wars instead. George W. Bush just continued that trend. So the ring counties around Philadelphia are a lot more Democratic than they were in a decade ago. The rest of the state has portions which have a very long tradition of voting Democratic, even though their values don’t likely align with the far-left agenda of the Democratic Party. But voting habits are hard to change. With the suburbs shifting, if PA is to ever to go red again, the parts of the state that are not Philadelphia are going to have to vote more like Tennessee than West Virginia. There are signs that’s starting to happen, but while that’s happening, the Philadelphia area is growing while the rest of the state depopulates, and it is becoming more blue. The Republicans are going to have to figure out how to survive here, in the suburbs, if they want a shot at Pennsylvania again.

18 thoughts on “Not Falling for the Bait This Year”

  1. As a Pennsylvanian I was thankful for the Electoral College after the 2000 election. It rendered my vote for Bush irrelevant.

  2. It would seem that PA’s problem is much like CA: urban populations trend blue, and take the rest of a geographically large state with it. If PA is to avoid the fate of CA, one-party rule by the Democrats, PA Republicans need to start changing their style and embrace issues that matter to the suburban voter, although I do not know what that might be in the context of PA. If they don’t do that, then PA Republicans will be marginalized and powerless.

    1. As a Philly suburban resident who has lived in the same municipality for almost seven decades, from the time it was genuinely rural (and still part of “Alabama North”, to its paved-over present, I’d say the cliche that appeals to the suburbs is “economically conservative and socially liberal.” Not 100 percent, of course, but leaning heavily that way — IMO. (Unfortunately that never did much for, e.g., the Libertarian Party — but that’s a whole nother subject.)

      (I always feel compelled to embellish my comments with my Old Stories: Regarding “Alabama North,” when my family moved into Bucks County when I was 18 months old, a prospective neighbor went around with a petition to keep us out, because we were “Polack Catholics from Philadelphia.”)

      1. I’m a transplant to this country, having grown up in Delaware County, and lived for a few years in Chester County before coming here. Chester County was probably the most red county. The part of Delaware County I grew up in was pretty solidly red, but in a decade that seems to have changed. Bucks seems to be weakly red compared to the other counties. Unions seem to have a lot more influence here than I remember in Delaware County, and Delco more union involvement than Chesco, where you hardly see any union activity. The purpling of Chester County is mostly driven by affluent liberals, and that probably goes for Montco too, which at this point I’d say isn’t purpling anymore, but turning pretty solidly blue.

        I’ve always kind of wondered if there’s some very deep cultural inclinations that go back even prior to the establishment of the United States at work here. Because the Quakers were tolerant of other religions, Pennsylvania was probably the most religiously diverse colony. I tend to wonder if that lead to a deep cultural distrust of people who wear religion on their sleeve in public life, and part of the reason that people here did not much appreciate George W. Bush. Pennsylvania would have had to largely avoid that for people to get along. Despite Penn’s tolerance, and the Quaker tolerance for other religions, the welcome mat they laid out for other religions quickly became the seeds of their own opposition, as the newcomers tried to limit the influence of Quakerism in the government.

        Back then Philadelphia was the economic and cultural center of the country, and though that shifted to New York, even before the revolution, I have to wonder how much of what killed the GOP wasn’t related to some deep seeded cultural inclination that wearing religion on your sleeve in pubic wasn’t good for business, and business was primary what Philadelphia was about until it became part of the rust belt.

        1. Wow, a lot of history to be covered here — and to speculate about.

          Starting with the ancient stuff, I’m not so sure about the effect of Quaker “tolerance” on anything. I was exposed to a lot of the older Quaker families in Bucks County when I was a kid, and among adjectives that spring to mind to describe them, “tolerance” is not high on the list. They may not have hit anyone over the head with a baseball bat, but neither did they conceal their likes and dislikes.

          I once read some commentary/correspondence from c. 1700, that advised Maryland Catholics who had to travel through Pennsylvania, to either conceal their Catholicism or carry 100 percent of the provisions they’d need with them; because the Quakers wouldn’t sell provisions or lodging to Catholics. For the people who “came to America to do good, and wound up doing well,” that they wouldn’t sell anything to anybody says a lot. (Certainly all of that is traceable to well-founded animosities back in England.)

          Moving forward in history, as you probably know, every building in our five-county area built before 1861 is credited with having been a stop on the Underground Railroad; though my own suspicion is that most of the little hidey-holes found were used for smuggling contraband, back when federal revenues came from tariffs rather than income taxes. In any case, Bucks County went for McClellan in the 1864 election. You could spin that two ways; one, that it was the Quaker influence, and McClellan was the “peace candidate,” or two, the a racist influence had entered the county and voters sympathized with the slave-holding South. (When I was a kid I knew a woman who had been a little girl during the Civil War, and who could point out where the local mustering camps had been; but I was too young then to think to ask her about her recollections of politics.)

          Coming into the 20th Century, the Ku Klux Klan was very active in Bucks County in the 1920s. One of my friends’ fathers got in big trouble once, when he was a kid, for sneaking up next to the Langhorne Country Club, where the Klan held its rallies, and setting their cross on fire prematurely, in the late afternoon. He was a Quaker, but the prank wasn’t ideological; he just wanted to goad the local Establishment a bit. The Klan burned one of the Catholic Churches in Bensalem, in broad daylight, c. 1928. (I’d note that it is very hard to find any documentation of the above, these days; it just isn’t how Bucks County wants to be known.)

          I suspect Bucks County’s Republicanism is tied, historically speaking, to the period when Philadelphia was dominated by the Republican Party. Business-wise, it likely spilled over into the surrounding counties. Probably the Frank Rizzo era was the last gasp of Philadelphia’s Republican domination, but at one time it seemed unbreakable.

          As you have probably figured out, Bucks County’s Republican Establishment is totally non-ideological; not that it doesn’t make for spirited discussion at their rubber-chicken dinners (been there) but no one with any power allows ideology to stand in the way of the real business, which is controlling patronage. You have alluded to friction between the Establishment and the Tea Party; I suspect it all comes from the TP’s failure to get what politics is really about.

          Lastly I’ll comment that the Democratic influence arrived pretty much with the Steel Mill and outside labor, c. 1951. My father-in-law was one of the Young Turk Democrats back in the 1950s and early 1960s, but said he got out of politics when the corruption switched from benign, to criminal — in both parties. But, the Republicans long ago learned how to accommodate the Democrats and work with them on real politics; you will notice the Republicans never run a serious contender for the General Assembly in the two representative districts at the bottom of the county; they run sacrificial clowns, to show the flag, give them token support, but let the Democrats have the seats.

          Which was all a very long-winded way of saying, not much in the way of ideology can be traced to real politics as ever practiced in Bucks County.

          1. Interesting. I didn’t know the Klan was active in Bucks County. I am too young to have direct connection with that era in Delaware County, but a lot of the reason my parents were Democrats had to do with their disdain for the machine politics of the GOP in Delaware County, which was as thoroughly corrupt as any Democratic Machine that may currently exist in Philadelphia.

            As you have probably figured out, Bucks County’s Republican Establishment is totally non-ideological; not that it doesn’t make for spirited discussion at their rubber-chicken dinners (been there) but no one with any power allows ideology to stand in the way of the real business, which is controlling patronage. You have alluded to friction between the Establishment and the Tea Party; I suspect it all comes from the TP’s failure to get what politics is really about.

            Yep. That’s been pretty much my experience.

            1. I’ll bring this to an end after this reply, before we bore everyone to death with local history.

              The Klan was quite active, probably everywhere in the north, well into the 1920s. Not to apologize for them, but to give perspective, in that era it was considered quite a “patriotic” organization, and its racial and religious biases were a fair reflection of what many/most people thought it meant to be a “Real American” in the late 19th Century. I found out that one of my uncles and aunts (my mother’s sister) had been Klan members out in Butler County; and they had always been lovely people in my experience, albeit with the notion of inherent white superiority that prevailed in the first half of the 20th Century. My mom’s family was as Irish as Paddy’s pig, but that sister would never admit to it; she always claimed they were “really English,” and that their well-documented Irish surname really wasn’t their surname. But, all of that was derivative from the 19th Century notion of who were “real Americans” and who weren’t. Irish, especially Catholics, certainly weren’t. But my aunt was nothing if not a “patriot.”

              If you are familiar with that narrow stone railway tunnel on Woodbourne Road, when I was a kid it always had fairly fresh “KKK” graffiti painted in white at its southern corners. Those could have been kids’ pranks, but I don’t think so.

              When we moved to Bucks County, my father was very used to how things worked in Philadelphia, and assumed (correctly) that politics was the same way here. The first time he had a political problem he asked around and was told the man to talk to was “Senator Watson.” He walked into the senator’s office and asked what it would take to get the problem fixed, and was told “You and your wife change your registration to Republican.” They did and the problem went away. Ten years later they changed to Democrats when the Ds took power in our end of the county; same reason. It’s all it took.

              Back to the Klan, they had a local resurgence in the late 1960s, 1968 to my recall. A high school classmate of mine had a lot to do with that, and ironically, he did it more for hoot than hate. But, in the same time frame a prominent local businessman tried to recruit my father for the Klan. (By then I guess they were taking Catholics.) I recall following a pickup truck with robed Klansmen and a light-bulb cross down New Falls Road one time, and seeing a march of about 100 Klansmen and Brownshirts, escorted by police, along Bath Road c. 1972. Then all that seemed to peter out.

              But, if you want stories, ask someone my age or older about Berks County.

    2. We do have single party rule here in PA. After the 2010 elections we have a Republican governor, house, and senate. Didn’t CA just come off 8 year of a Republican governor?

      1. California pretty clearly had a RINO, heck, he was married to a Kennedy! He also gave up on really trying to fix the state after a big referendum effort failed.

  3. Maybe in Bucks county you’re not getting hit with calls, mailing and ads. In central PA it’s a different story. A much different story. There is a hell of a lot of voter remorse out here and the campaigns are targeting us.

    1. When you’ve got more money than your opponent, you can strategically force him to spend money in defense of areas he’s not likely to lose.

      If there’s one thing that’s clear, Obama is trying to recreate his 2008 win, which was a narrower and deeper version of the Clinton coalition, hence the near total focus on his base. With how things have swung since 2008, that gives him no margins to speak of.

  4. Pennsylvania is different.

    According to my brother in Butler County (Sarver), Pennsylvania is “statism in action.”

  5. An interesting trend I found when I lived in Scranton was that most people I knew were Democrats but none of them were liberal or a fan of Obama other than he represented the party they were told to blindly follow all of their lives.

  6. I have a lot of relatives in the Philly area. One the one hand, the smart ones (which is to say, the conservatives), think PA is a sleeper red state that will surprise everybody, with local issues carrying the federal election over the finish line.

    One the other hand, I have my devote Catholic liberal relatives, who firmly believe in late 3rd trimester abortion, infinitely high taxation, that guns possess people and commit the crimes with their unwilling humans taking the fall, and every other democratic party platform plank.

  7. There is a reason that Pa, especially the Philadelphia area, continues to go Democratic. The voters there, mostly minority, seem to somehow multiply every election. For instance in 2008 the actual vote count exceeded registrations by somewhere around 104%. My guess is that is why the Democrats are fighting so vehemently against Voter ID laws. That would stop everyone from Baltimore and DC and God knows where else from voting in the Philadelphia area, sometimes twice.

    1. How was the business of the alleged over-voting resolved? This seems to be one of a number of such allegations, usually made either by people identified as “Republican activists” or by Republican officials, that seem to lead to nothing upon investigation. I seem to recall that in one of the alleged over-voting cases, a poll worker in a polling place serving more than one district, had been mistakenly directing voters to voting machines serving another district, and the over-voting in one district was matched by the under-voting in the other; but the under-voting wasn’t mentioned in activists’ commentary. I’m also wondering whether all of these allegations were put forward under oath when the ACLU’s challenge to the Voter ID law went to court. I believe the appeal is to be heard in federal court on September 13; I wonder if all of the allegations will be made there.

      I’m just wondering how legislation that was copied out of ALEC’s style book is supposed to address Pennsylvania’s assumed unique problems — if there really were any. If the absence of problems is nothing but liberal rhetoric, so far no one has done a very compelling job in challenging it.

  8. Excuse me. Make that the PA Supreme Court that the Voter ID law will go before on September 13. I don’t know when or if it will go to federal court; federal court struck down a similar law in Texas. I don’t think the PA court has to heed a federal decision, in another district.

  9. From PJMedia: “Is Romney Giving Up in Michigan and Pennsylvania?

    TL;DR: Some SuperPACs just did, but the now unreliable Washington Post house conservative quotes a Romney spokeswoman on their having an “expensive ground games in these states [Wisconsin too], as well as in Pennsylvania” and cites campaign activity statistics on these two states. For Pennsylvania:

    * 23 offices across Pennsylvania

    * More voter contacts last week than any other week this cycle

    * More than 1.5 million voter contacts

    * Fourth most voter contacts in the country

    * Knocked on more than 200,000 doors

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