Tuesday, October 21, 2008

As Goes New York, So Doesn't Go Pennsylvania

For geographers and historians New York State, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey form the region generally known as the Mid-Atlantic, and much has been written on the characteristics the states share, such as their political, ethnic, and racial heterogeneity, a key role in the forefront of industrialization in the 19th century, big cities that have helped define the American urban experience since colonial times(Go Phillies!), and so forth. So my question is (with apologies to New Jersey), why is Pennsylvania a battleground state, and why is New York State a battle finished state, one in which peace reigns, an enforced peace that intimidates and routs potential challengers? If Pennsylvania is Stalingrad or Antietam, New York is Agincourt and the Six Day War. (The Jewish vote is always important.)

I don’t know. I know a lot about New York State, and very little about Pennsylvania. I do know the cliché is that politically Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburg with Mississippi in between. But New York State also has its large rural and Republican stretches. New York as a firm Democratic state in presidential elections is fairly recent—I’ve told frequently told this little nugget of trivia over the past four years, and this might be the last time; since 1856, when the GOP first ran a national candidate, there have 38 presidential elections in New York State, 19 won by the Democrats, 19 won by the Republicans, though the Republicans have not won statewide in NY since 1984, and the Dems are almost certain to make it seven in a row on Nov 4th. Big city Democrats don’t have nearly as big cities in Pennsylvania as in NY, where NYC makes up about 44% of the state’s population. Upstate Republicans in New York, to generalize wildly, are primarily of the country club suburban type, the sort that have been tending Democratic in recent elections, while rural Pennsylvanians, to once again generalize wildly, are more Appalachian than suburban.

Who knows? Pennsylvania is a tad more southern than New York, and of course shares the Mason-Dixon Line with the border southern state of Maryland , In any event, there is no doubt that upstate New York has been trending Democratic in recent years, and there may a Democratic pick-up of as many as three seats in Congressional races in western New York this year. And the local Rochester paper reported this morning that new registration figures for Monroe County show that over the course of this year, the number of registered Democrats have increased from 153,00 to 170,000, while the Republicans have only increased from 138,000 to 140,000. (Go Obama.) I would be interested if anyone has any other thoughts on the different voting patterns between the two states, but here’s hoping that Pennsylvanians follow their northern neighbor into Democratic blueness on election night.

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