Tuesday, November 21, 2006

South Dakota Turns Purple !

Some of the most important election results coming out of NOvember's elections did not involve candidates or even the political parties. They had to do with issues that were voted on in so-called red states. These were tectonic shifts that surely strike fear in the hearts of the social religious conservatives.

South Dakota is is in the Great Plains and is about as red as state as they get. Ranchers, farmers, and small town dwellers have voted Republican most of the time for generations.
There are democrats in South Dakota, including a fair number of Native Americans. But for the most part, the state can be counted on to line up with its neighbors in the Republican column during most elections, including presidential ones.

But South Dakota, like many western states, has a strong independent streak. They vote the GOP because they don't want government telling them what to do. And that is probably why they said no to a state-wide ban on abortion. The ban was supported by anti-abortion groups and "pro-life" politicians and would have set up an eventual trip to the U.S. Supreme Court where the guardians of morality dream of the end of Roe v. Wade. But this particular dream has turned into a nightmare. South Dakota said no. The state that sent George McGovern to the Senate many decades ago said loudly that they were not going to be the state to turn back the calendar on women's reproductive rights. The vote was not close.

Arizona is the state that gave us Barry Goldwater and John McCain. Again, this is a state that was, and still is, a place where people dont like others telling them what to do. They will vote republican most of the time. But Arizona did something that no state has yet done. They voted no to a ban on gay "marriage benefits". These anti-gay measures have passed now in about twenty-seven states, including blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin. But not in Arizona.
People out west have typically not been the most anti-gay. One still needs to go to the old south to find the largest number of true and rabid homophobes.

These seismic shifts do have ramifications for the republicans. They may not be able to count on the solid rocky mountain and plains states like they used to. As their coalition begins to fall apart there, a new one is possible. Independents, Hispanic Americans, working people, women, and GLBT people could join with others to say no to the fanatics on the right.


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