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November 13, 2012 2:09 PM The Bloc Vote Strikes Again

By Ed Kilgore

Think Progress’ Igor Volsky reports these lines from Paul Ryan about how and why he and Mitt lost:

In his first interview since losing the election, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wouldn’t admit that voters rejected his economic vision and instead chalked up President Obama’s victory to a large turnout of the “urban vote.” “I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare, we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues,” Ryan to local station WISC-TV. “I think the surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.”

Volsky goes on to contrast this “turnout” talk with Ryan’s pre-election assertions that the election was a big, bold choice between big, bold policy agendas.

But to an old cracker like me, the Dairy State Randian’s words had a very different connotation. Back in the 1960s, when southern African-Americans could (in some places, and to some degree) vote but segregationists were still in the saddle, any seggie setback was invariably blamed on “The Bloc Vote,” or “The Negro Bloc Vote” (a less inhibited term was, of course, used privately). The idea was that an election properly settled by white people talking about policy options was being hijacked by the hordes of Others who blindly voted for whoever their political bosses told them to vote for.

Now I am not, repeat not, accusing Paul Ryan of being a segregationist or a racist. But this habit of thinking of “the urban vote” as being a policy-indifferent mob that is simply turned out to neutralize the “big choices” being made by civic-minded folk, making the election results meaningless in terms of the direction of the country, certainly bears the pungent whisky-and-brimstone aroma of Old Dixie politics. Ryan would be well advised not to use this sort of terminology to support the no-mandate-election spin of his party.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • TCinLA on November 13, 2012 2:14 PM:

    Given that the Republican Party has now become the Party of the Old Confederacy, of course Ryan's comment is supposed to be interpreted as you did. That's exactly the "dog whistle" he was using.

  • jjm on November 13, 2012 2:15 PM:

    His denial is much bigger than that river in Egypt. What a blockhead.

  • c u n d gulag on November 13, 2012 2:17 PM:

    Maybe Paulie doesn’t get out much. Because if he would actually go to large cities, he might find that with the increase in the cost of housing and living in a lot of them, and the increased gentrification, a lot of those “urban” voters are as white as he is.

    NO ONE is as white as Mitt is!

    A lot of those “blah’s,” and Hispanics, and other minorities, that once lived in cities, like NY, have been forced into the outskirts of the cities, or into the nearby suburbs.

    What, Congressman, you never went to Milwaukee?

    I had predicted that sometime before Election Day, a major Republican politician or pundit would break down and start screaming “N*GGER!!!!” at the top of his or her lungs. I was wrong. But they did everything BUT scream that!

    Stay classy, Paulie!
    Dumbass!

    PS: Hey Paulie, how’s it feel for you and Mitt to get less votes than John McCain and Sarah Palin?
    LOL!!!

  • Churchyard on November 13, 2012 2:23 PM:

    Running out of euphemisms. Bummer. It's getting more and more difficult to dog whistle to their unwashed mouth-breathers that they so love.

    "Eastern Elites" doesn't even work anymore.

  • boatboy_srq on November 13, 2012 2:25 PM:

    Now I am not, repeat not, accusing Paul Ryan of being a segregationist or a racist.

    No, it's far easier to talk about things like "young bucks and their T-bones" or "welfare Moms and their Cadillacs" than it is to actually say the N-word. Atwater was right. Straight talk is overrated, and euphemisms get a lot more votes.

    Ryan has worked tirelessly against legislation that would benefit POCs, and has repeatedly proposed policies that disproportionately negatively affect them. He took the veep slot on a ticket where the big cheese was a highly-placed member of a faith(?) whose beliefs included the outright statement that blacks could not be Saved by any means whatsoever and did not merit consideration as human beings until a mere 33 years ago, and who still balk to a degree at including them in their communities. And now he's saying that the "urban vote" cost him his Rightful position of leadership.

    No, of course you wouldn't call him a racist.

  • hells littlest angel on November 13, 2012 2:26 PM:

    If Ryan is not a racist, then he's an opportunist who sees the exploitation of racism as a means to an end -- power. I think that's quite a bit worse than being a racist.

  • Andrew Sabl on November 13, 2012 2:27 PM:

    After the Quebec nationalists lost a separatism referendum in the early 90s, one pro-referendum pol blamed the results on "money and the ethnic vote." Nobody seriously pretended this meant anything other than "Jews and nonwhites." Plus ca change..

  • T2 on November 13, 2012 2:28 PM:

    I think everyone knows what is inferred by the term "Urban". To understand just how delusional this Paul Ryan is, the crazy boy says "oh no, it's not that white people didn't like my ideas, its just that more black people voted and they are just votin' for one of their own."
    Racist cracker, and very stupid to boot.

  • Doug on November 13, 2012 2:44 PM:

    Today's GOP supports policies and actions that, if stated, would lose them any national relevance and have done so for nearly three decades. The only reason the GOP has managed to remain a national party is because politicians such as Ryan have deliberately misled their supporters, knowing full well that to state the truth would lose them needed votes.
    Now, it seems, Ryan and other GOP politicians have started lying to themselves. Either that or they ARE that stupid and can't face reality!
    Come to think if it, it's not necessarily an "either/or", is it?

  • SR Guy on November 13, 2012 2:50 PM:

    I went to vote at lunch time on Tuesday in South Riding (Loudoun County), VA. What I saw was a dozen women (I assume Moms, in most cases) walk into my polling place every minute while I was there. They just kept walking through the door, and for the most part, they showed up in groups. Every single woman I saw had a blue Democratic sample ballet in her hand,and she was not afraid to be seen with it.

    Remember, we are talking South Riding here. These women were mostly 30-45ish, slim,and appeared to be well educated,and self confident.

    When I left the building,and there were not many men around at this time, there were no women talking with the Republican canvasers outside, but lots of women gathered around a car with an Obama screen on it.

    Driving back up Edgewater Street to go back to work, I saw Romney signs on each side of the road, spaced every 15 feet or so. I thought to myself, "they have no clue; from what I saw, the Republicans lost the female vote."

    Loundoun County went 52% for Obama. Loudoun County, home of ultrasound state Senator Dick Black, went Blue. Romney/Ryan and the Republicans in general just tossed the women's opinions and interests aside the last two years, and the women in South Riding, and I assume a lot more places, knew it. These women made a difference at the polling place. And in South Riding,they went in groups.

    There is another reason for the Obama win.

    Oh, and "binders" didn't help either, Mitt.

  • SR Guy on November 13, 2012 2:54 PM:

    I went to vote at lunch time on Tuesday in South Riding, VA (Loudoun County). What I saw was a dozen women (I assume Moms, in most cases) walk into my polling place every minute while I was there. They just kept walking through the door, and for the most part, they showed up in groups. Every single woman I saw had a blue Democratic sample ballet in her hand,and she was not afraid to be seen with it.

    Remember, we are talking South Riding here. These women were mostly 30-45ish, slim,and appeared to be well educated,and self confident.

    When I left the building, and there were not many men around at this time, there were no women talking with the Republican canvasers outside, but lots of women gathered around a car with an Obama screen on it.

    Driving back up Edgewater Street to go back to work, I saw Romney signs on each side of the road, spaced every 15 feet or so. I thought to myself, "they have no clue; from what I just saw, the Republicans lost the female vote."

    Loundoun County went 52% for Obama. Loudoun County, home of ultrasound state Senator Dick Black, went Blue. Romney/Ryan and the Republicans in general just tossed the women's opinions and interests aside the last two years, and the women in South Riding, and I assume a lot more places, knew it. These women made a difference at the polling place, and in South Riding,they went in groups.

    There is another reason for the Obama win.

    Oh, and "binders" didn't help either, Mitt.

  • KH on November 13, 2012 3:02 PM:

    It's evidently a fairly common conviction in the more zealous corners of the conservative activist base that voter fraud was widespread enough to flip the election -- that non-white criminals stole the Presidency for Obama. And some rightwing opinion leaders have shown themselves willing to encourage that fiction. I hesitate to say that's what Ryan is up to here, but he's already being widely quoted by these die-hards to that effect.

  • gregor on November 13, 2012 3:04 PM:

    Why are you not accusing Paul Ryan of being a segregationist or a racist?

    If the shoe fits &c.

  • Robert on November 13, 2012 3:24 PM:

    Ryan would be well advised not to use this sort of terminology to support the no-mandate-election spin of his party.

    Pshaw! Let the boy run with it, he's doing fine!

  • Peter C on November 13, 2012 3:43 PM:

    According to a report by the Office of Managment and Budget, there are 366 separate areas with populations greater than 50,000 people. Their combined population is more than 261 million (out of a total of 314,756,000). If you define 'urban' as only the 51 areas with populations greater than 1 million, there still more than 169 million 'urban Americans'.

    Ryan and the Republicans ignore us at their electoral peril.

  • jrosen on November 13, 2012 4:05 PM:

    With all the different ways of parsing the polarization of American politics (and culture), as a blind squirrel may find a nut occasionally, Ryan I think hit on the basic one: rural vs. urban. It is one not unique to the US...it can probably be traced back many centuries if not millenia all over the world. I would bet that small towns and backwater counties not only vote Red, but get most of their information from such as Fox and Rush. We know that in addition to suffering rampant meth abuse, most of them harbor a deep suspicion and resentment of the "decadent" city-dwellers, all those "furriners" etc.

    Indeed, a few years ago I took a cross-country car ride, avoiding Interstates, all the way from Kenmore Square in Boston to Newport, Oregon on US 20 and among many things I noticed that the news-racks in motels and roadside restaurants featured entirely local papers, with not even a national news-magazine to be seen. And those local papers had nothing but local news: high school sports, agricultural fair prizes, etc. etc. Add to that the above-mentioned ancient prejudice (which is returned --- even Karl Marx wrote of the "idiocy of the village").

    I know of no cure for this condition, except for a radical restructuring of vote apportionment so that Senators representing 18% of the populace get to veto through the filibuster the wishes and needs of the rest of us. And that won't happen since those very people will have to agree...and they never will.

    It's worth recalling that the Latin root for words civil, civility, and civilization means "city".

  • buddy66 on November 13, 2012 4:07 PM:

    That's no longer a dog whistle; that's blowing it right in our faces.

  • jrosen on November 13, 2012 4:08 PM:

    Oops! 2nd last should read DO NOT get to veto etc...

  • CharlieM on November 13, 2012 4:13 PM:


    @hells littlest angel

    I'd call it the same thing. Being racist and exploiting racism by pandering to it is, to me, a distinction without difference.

  • golack on November 13, 2012 4:15 PM:

    didn't a Republican pol already provide us with the decoder ring, aka "urban, read minority,..."

  • Minnesota Slim on November 13, 2012 4:25 PM:

    Here's a proposal for "a radical restructuring of vote apportionment" in the Senate: let's shrink the Senate a bit by consolidating some states that are large in area but small in population -- North Dakota + South Dakota, Wyoming + Utah, Iowa + Nebraska, Montana + Idahao, etc. In fairness we'd probably have to conced a Vermont + New Hampshire combo.

  • Minnesota Slim on November 13, 2012 4:29 PM:

    I doubt Ryan would insist that all urban voters are racial minorities; he'd probably allow that there are some WINOs in the mix.

  • RaflW on November 13, 2012 6:19 PM:

    That 'urban vote' bloc came out in no small part because they understood that the GOP is doing its damnedest to try and disenfranchise them.

    Black Americans may vote 90% Democratic, but not because someone told them to. But because the good lord gave them and all of us two eyes and two ears to see and hear the shenanigans - and worse - that the Republicans are up to. We all voted to say NO to Ryan and his slick b.s.

  • Helen Bedd on November 13, 2012 7:29 PM:

    Ryan's comments, of course, don't explain how Romney lost swing states with no large "urban" centers like Iowa or NH. The reason there was an Obama landslide among women.

    Also, Nate Cohn has a new piece up at the New Republic showing how Romney actually did worse with white voters outside the south than McCain did.

  • Mike on November 13, 2012 7:37 PM:

    I can't remember if it was Jon Stewart or Colbert that pointed out that "turnout" is just another word for votes. Yes, Paul, you lost because the other side had more votes. Thanks for the analysis.

    Voting by itself may not have been the reason those people voted (though doing it to fight against voter suppression this year might be an exception to the general rule that people are voting for something, not just "turning out" for the heck of it).

  • rdale on November 13, 2012 11:40 PM:

    "Now I am not, repeat not, accusing Paul Ryan of being a segregationist or a racist." Why not? That's exactly what he's saying.

  • Nick on November 14, 2012 11:12 AM:

    Ed, if you read the source article for that post, you'll discover that the two statements in the paragraph you quoted come from completely different parts of the interview. In context, you'd really have to strain to see Ryan as contrasting issues and "urban" voters. The statement about the urban turnout is simply Ryan's explanation of why the election didn't go the way they had anticipated.

    It's quite believable that Ryan actually does think the way you describe. We've all seen plenty of examples of that kind of thinking coming from Republicans. Indeed, that's probably why Igor Volsky felt free to jam those two quotes together like that in such a dishonest fashion. (It wasn't until my third reading that I realized that the punctuation mark following "WISC-TV" was a period rather than a comma, which would indicate a continuation of the first statement. That second quote is just...floating there. One has to wonder why Volsky used such an unusual writing technique.)

    But as a reader of yours, I don't think you'd have engaged in that kind of behaviour and I don't think you'd have written this post if he hadn't, so I hope you'll revisit this.