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Thursday, November 8, 2012 / 9:40 AM

White Power and Missouri Politics

White Power and Missouri Politics

Missouri is not a red state. It’s not a blue state.

It’s a white state.

That’s the arithmetic message of the 2012 elections. Five of the six statewide Democratic candidates won their races—three by landslide margins—on the same ballot on which President Barack Obama, their standard-bearer, was crushed by nearly 264,000 votes, or 9.6 percent.

If one glances at the divided national map, it would be natural to categorize Missouri as a “red state,” and a solid one at that. The president lost the state by more than he lost Georgia. And voters sent ridiculous majorities of Republicans—in every sense of the word—to the state legislature.

But that doesn’t account for the vast disparity between the performance of five of the Democrats who won statewide office and the man who was reelected by a landslide electoral margin. Yes, it can be argued that the reelection of Sen. Claire McCaskill—a longtime Obama ally—was aided by having run against an unhinged person. Write off her 15.5 percent victory margin as an outlier.

But that still leaves Gov. Jay Nixon winning reelection by 12.1 percent and Attorney General Chris Koster winning by 15.1 percent. And the number of ballots cast for McCaskill, Nixon, and Koster was almost identical: In an election in which more than 2.7 million Missourians voted, the three were separated by less than 3,000 votes (or one-tenth of 1 percent). That’s remarkable.

Obama, on the other hand, received roughly 270,000 fewer votes that the candidates below him on his own ticket. Literally 10 percent of the electorate supported three major statewide candidates while opposing their standard-bearer, a man with whom they were constantly linked, and with whom they expressed no serious disagreement.

How do you explain those incongruous outcomes? I have a theory:

It’s racial. Missouri doesn’t do the diversity thing in statewide elections.

Before you send in the Reverse-Political-Correctness Police, here are the customary disclaimers: No, everyone who voted against Obama is not a racist, and yes, the people who voted against the president (while supporting the rest of his ticket) surely had many reasons that weren’t race-related.

I’m not calling anybody anything.

But here’s the bottom line: In its nearly two-century history, Missouri has never elected a person of color to any statewide office. Not one. In fact, only one African-American has even made it onto the ballot. That was Rep. Alan Wheat, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1994. He lost to John Ashcroft by 25 points.

Part of this is demographic. U.S. Census Bureau population estimates for 2011 find that Missouri has a non-Hispanic white population of 80.8 percent, as compared to a national average of just 63.4 percent. That’s a whopping difference.

But it really doesn’t explain the historic ballot results in this week’s election. More than a quarter of a million voters in this state wouldn’t elect a black man at the same moment they were giving landslide wins to white candidates in his own party.

I’m not seeing red about that.

I’m seeing white.

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Old to new | New to old
Nov 8, 2012 10:20 am
 Posted by  Toxicscrew

An interesting study would the amount of racial mix of a state and if there's a correlation to how well it is doing. MO being decidedly white and doing poorly in most respects, is that a norm or just part of being a flyover?

Nov 8, 2012 12:38 pm
 Posted by  ebryant


In general I agree with you that Missouri has an issue with many forms of diversity and inclusion, but I think this is a much more complex issue. As an African American who lives in St. Charles and spends most of my professional, cultural and volunteerism livef in St. Louis City, what I see from my vantage point among my St. Charles neighbors and friends is that they also have an over-romantic and somewhat inaccurate view of their American (individualist) values - I sometimes call this "Middle-Class White Values." I wouldn't call these folks racists, but I don't think they have much capacity/ability to understand perspectives that differ from their own. They are blind to many of their prejudices because not many people, within their spheres of influence ever contradict them and they very infrequently have any meaningful interactions with people who are different; therefore, they never ever have any reason to consider anything different and tend to select people and issues that look like, sound like, and live like they do.

Nov 8, 2012 04:03 pm
 Posted by  image mine

I live inside the city of St. Louis, a section called the CWE. I think this is a truly racist state, but the city has a different view. I've been here for a long time, and have seen views change. There is a difference in the thinking between the city & county. But that being said the city stills holds some racest values. So this is a place that fight against change, with a lot of bull headed people,so this is a red state with a white trim. Remember St. Louis has a identity crises

Nov 8, 2012 08:59 pm
 Posted by  ruszav

Yeah right our state is so white and so racist.
1) But the 95% of Blacks in the country who voted for president Obama are not racist.
2) A state like Iowa is whiter than Mo. But they are ok to be white because of who they voted for.
3) Washington DC is not racist, however they voted 94 % for president Obama.
4) Ray there is nothing wrong with being white, voting for who appeals to you for whatever reason, as long the reason is not for skin color alone.
5) I have 2 white sons and a white daughter and they are the most intelligent, polite, inclusive young people you will meet. But I guess in your mind Ray their only flaw is their pigmentation. NICE !


Nov 8, 2012 11:28 pm
 Posted by  Jeff

The prejudice of many Missourians is unfortunately, a reasonable hypothesis, as to what caused the disparity of voting results. However, I suggest that the reason for the discrepancy was because the people of Missouri simply liked the three candidates; McCaskill, Nixon and Koster, better than their opponents. Naturally, they all campaigned heavily here, and they were all successful in winning the hearts and minds of their constituencies. Perhaps if President Obama had campaigned heavily here, he too would have prevailed.

Nov 12, 2012 09:52 pm
 Posted by  Crox

Whilst this statistical analysis may or may not be fair, I think it's wrong to emphasise that "in its nearly two-century history, Missouri has never elected a person of color to any statewide office." Let's be realistic, until 1965 most African Americans weren't allowed to vote let alone run for office. Admittedly there are exceptions to this rule but I don't think it is fair to assert that Missouri hasn't elected a person of color in 200 years when in truth it was only really possible to vote for somebody from a diverse background until the last 45 years.

Nov 14, 2012 11:14 am
 Posted by  cinder

Just like to know why is everything black or white in Missouri we as people should be pass this our children get along much better than the adults when it comes to color. We have had many of white men in the white house and I have never seen a more divided country over a black man as the President. Hatered for no reason half of the people who hate the President or any person of color don't even know why they hate that person. If you would take the time to talk to people and stop the judgement you would probably find a friend and person who can related with you on some of the same issues you are crumbling about. Lets live in peace and not hate try something new for the New Year.

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