Belcher resampled the white voters whose racial animus he had measured before. More than half had voted for McCain, but not by an overwhelming margin. Belcher concluded that Obama might have done better among them had he not been black. In 1992, Belcher noted, 85 percent of voters who said the economy was bad broke for Bill Clinton. In 2008, in a verifiably worse economic climate, only 66 percent of voters who said the economy was bad voted for Barack Obama. “The economy is clearly not the only story. I could argue that the economy wasn’t as big an impact this time around as in 1992,” Belcher told me. “You can’t look at that swath of hard-red counties that actually grew even redder and say that we are post-racial.”
Surely the truth is that there is greater polarization on this than ever before. The range of views and feelings in America on race and gender and sexual orientation now has a far wider span than in the past. Crude bigotry endures at one end while total post-racial consciousness grows at the other. This stretches both across generations and regions, creating a bewilderingly complex picture in which everything you could say about America is true in some respect. Americans, to take the gay example, are probably more homophobic and more accepting of homosexuality than any other modern culture. There is Appallachia and Provincetown. And racially, there are those parts of America that actually trended GOP this past cycle - and then a place like Adams Morgan.
To me, this is an overwhelming reason for federalism. America cannot endure as a coherent polity without more of it.
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