The true lesson of the midterms is that Republicans can no longer rely on states of the old Confederacy for unqualified supportby Diane Roberts / November 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
Beto O’Rourke lost his bid for Texas’s US senate seat; Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams did not, in the end, make history by becoming the first African American governors of Florida and Georgia. We are still waiting for the “New South” to emerge: a racially integrated, tolerant South, liberated from fundamentalist Christianity, finally freed from the old prejudices that animated the place from the Civil War, through Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. As Southern progressives know, change takes a long time. Yet the recent midterm elections suggest the rock-ribbed conservatism that has ruled the American South for 50 years is beginning to soften. Republicans can no longer rely on the states of the old Confederacy for unqualified support.
Close doesn’t count, except in horseshoes and hand grenades, but Beto O’Rourke stunned the nation by coming within two percentage points of Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. Two days after the election, the Guardian quoted Bethany Albertson, a political science professor at the University of Texas: “If you look at the top line and see O’Rourke losing, you’re missing the point. No Democrat has come close in Texas in decades, voter turnout was way up, and young people who have never voted before were drawn for the first time into the democratic process.”
The tall, handsome, some say “Kennedyesque,” O’Rourke is now spoken of as a possible presidential candidate in 2020. Likewise, Andrew Gillum, an unapologetically leftist Democrat, has become a big time player, with his ability to raise a lot of money both from small donors and big beasts such as George Soros and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. Though he lost the Florida governor’s race by a whisker, Gillum forced a recount and received more votes than any Democratic candidate in the history of the state—which was, lest we forget, part of the Confederacy, the third state to secede in 1861.
Florida voters also passed a state constitutional amendment giving more than 1.5m ex-felons the right to vote, overturning a set of Jim Crow-era laws and racist policies designed to disenfranchise African Americans, who have always been disproportionately convicted of crimes. Of course, not all former felons will register, and not all will be Democrats, but if the Republican-controlled legislature can be forced to implement the measure, Florida’s electorate could change from purple to…