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Jan 3, 2013

Fiscal cliff: a Civil War postscript

One more thing to say about America's fiscal cliff, and it's on the regional breakdown of the vote to approve the legislation in the House of Representatives yesterday morning (Australi

Charles Richardson — Editor of The World is not Enough

Charles Richardson

Editor of The World is not Enough

One more thing to say about America’s fiscal cliff, and it’s on the regional breakdown of the vote to approve the legislation in the House of Representatives yesterday morning (Australian time).

I can’t claim originality for the idea – John Judis posted about it at the New Republic. But it was sufficiently interesting for me to compile the figures myself (from sources here and here). The table looks like this:

Democrats

Republicans

Yes

No

Abstn

Yes

No

Abstn

Northeast

61

1

25

4

1

South

37

6

1

18

94

2

Midwest

30

2

21

27

1

West

44

7

2

21

26

1

Total

172

16

3

85

151

5

The Republicans are proportionately much stronger in the south, so you’d expect there to be more votes against the bill from the south than from elsewhere. What’s interesting is that the regional difference persists so strongly even within the Republican Party – and to some extent among the Democrats as well.

Northeastern Republicans (of whom there are not a whole lot left) supported the deal overwhelmingly. Those from the west and midwest split fairly evenly, 42 for and 53 against (although if you look at just the west coast they were strongly in favor, 16 to 7). So if we were to take out the southern representatives, the Republican caucus would have supported it, albeit narrowly.

But more than five out of six southern Republicans rejected the deal. Look no further if you want evidence of where to look for continuing “tea party” strength.

(Judis got slightly different figures to mine; that’s at least partly because we’ve defined the regions a little differently (I count Kansas, Missouri and West Virginia as south, and Delaware and Maryland as northeast), but there may be other discrepancies – in any case they don’t change the basic picture.)

There’s a continuing debate about whether the tea party are basically the same cranky white racists who hounded Bill Clinton, or whether they’re an exciting new breed of fiscal libertarians. No doubt the truth is somewhere in between, although I confess I lean more to the first view. These figures won’t settle that argument, but they’re an interesting new data point.

*UPDATE 4 JAN.*

The same message comes from the first vote overnight in the new House of Representatives. John Boehner was re-elected on the first ballot with 220 votes, all of them Republicans. But of the ten dissenters who voted for a smattering of other candidates (or in one case just voted “present”), eight were from the south.

 

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