by Benjamin J. Kirby
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will
Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come
I wanted to feel better for longer after this election. Why couldn't that happen? Was that really asking so much? Was it too much to ask for a few more moments, a few days more, to bask in the joy of knowing that we'd re-elected a Democratic President after eight miserable years enduring the vagaries of the George W. Bush Administration? Was it so much to ask that we breathe a little easier for a few uninterrupted moments knowing that President Obama's signal achievement -- health care reform -- having survived the gauntlet of an ostensibly hostile Judiciary, will now reside safely as a part of his rich legacy?
I felt good yesterday -- really good. Tired, but good.
Now I'm just tired.
Here's an image floating around Facebook (click to embiggen):
Do you know how awful a person you have to be to look at the election map from two days ago and think Well hell, that looks just like a map of slave states and free states before the Civil War!
Conflating a pre-Civil War map with an election map from today is just... awful. The implication, one supposes, is that those in the north and the west whose states had a majority vote for President Obama's re-election are... I don't know, anti-slavery? Not racist?
I watched a lot of this election, and there were some awful things said and some truly horrible candidates here in the south, including one who called slavery a "blessing in disguise" and one who advocated the execution of children. Yes, students at the University of Mississippi rioted after Obama was re-elected.
And still, the idea that we can be divided by simple geographic boundaries is a ridiculous oversimplification, and not at all what 2012 (or 2008) was about.
I'd remind whoever put that map together that Obama won Virginia, North Carolina as well as Florida in 2008. This time around, he won Virginia again, and is on-track to win Florida again as well.
And speaking of Florida, we rejected several awful state constitutional amendments, one of which would have...
"...repealed the 127-year-old Blaine Amendment, which (in theory) banned the state from giving money to religious institutions. In truth, the state has long contracted with religious charities to house the poor, educate the illiterate and feed the hungry."
Another would have embeded a rejection of health care reform in our State Constitution. That one failed as well.
I started working on campaigns in 1992, in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas -- where I grew up -- on the Clinton/Gore Campaign. That map is the Election Day result.
Arkansas. Louisiana. Georgia. Tennessee. Kentucky. Missouri. West Virginia.
All "slave states."
I hate this kind of stuff. I hate it because how do you explain it to your two and-a-half year-old daughter, who is showing some interest in geography, and who was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, another "slave state"? What is the conflation of these two maps supposed to signal? Sorry 'bout your Grandmommy and Grandaddy, kiddo -- up there in Arkansas, they live in slave state.
Finally, this kind of stereotyping of the south is pedestrian. It's small. And it's unfair.
This can't possibly be how it works.
By the way, I'd encourage you to look at the county-by-county breakdown at the Washington Post. Sure. Blue in the midwest as well, around Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Lots of blue in the northeastern states, as you'd expect. Blue in Miami, and here in Pinellas and Hillsborough, though, too.
And the Texas border.
And a large swath in Alabama, all the way up through Sumter, South Carolina, into North Carolina, the state where I was born.
And the Missisippi Delta, some of the poorest counties in the land.
Those lonesome blue counties snake a path right up the Mississippi River, run all the way to Tate County -- damn near the Tennessee border -- before it hits red again. They cross the mighty river into places like Chicot County and Desha County in the southeast corner of Arkansas. I've campaigned in those small, unbearably poor counties.
They are desolate and they are beautiful and often unspeakably lonely. And one day, when I am driving my children up Highway 65, past the rice fields and dried-up ponds, alongside the winding Mississippi River, I will tell them that I was there. I will tell them about the old white pick-up I drove. I will tell them of the good people I met. I will tell them I planted yard signs. I will tell them that I asked my fellow Arkansans to vote for a Democrat.
I will tell them that this is America.