Sure, I’ve posted videos today talking about how to win over Trump’s base and exploring why poor Southerners vote Republican, but how do we flip each state from red to blue? Here are at least some answers, ranking each state from “most flippable” to “hopeless.”
Disqualified: Virginia and Oklahoma. Virginia is disqualified not because it isn’t part of the Southeast–it most definitely is–but because it already is a blue-leaning purple state as Terry McAuliffe, Mark Warner, and the would-be Vice President Tim Kaine illustrate. Oklahoma is disqualified because in addition to not being a real Southern state—despite half the country stars in Nashville being from OK or Canada—it is also utterly hopeless: a tributary connecting the two rivers of conservatism from the Midwest to the Southeast, home to many big-name televangelists and Christian universities, and a state where even their state’s biggest city (Oklahoma City) has a Republican mayor. Hopeless.
Most Promising to Least Promising…
1. Georgia…This may feel like an odd pick for “most promising” as it currently doesn’t have a single notable Democrat younger than John Lewis. What I’m basing this pick on is the huge amount of TV/Film production that has that Georgia Peach at the bottom of their end credits. How You Flip It: If Hollywood invested in Georgia politics, they could flip the state from blood-red to sky-blue in no time, and this may be the rare case where Citizens United would allow a state to become more liberal. The oil and gas industries don’t have as big a stake in Georgia as some others on this list, and there would be no real local industries besides Chick-Fil-A that would even have a real financial stake in fighting Hollywood’s interests in the state. Which is probably why the ultra-conservative Governor Nathan Deal didn’t sign a copycat bill of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT laws, and is also why Georgia was able to keep most of their TV and Film production, even scooping up some that were fleeing North Carolina’s social oppression. Roadblocks: For too long it has felt like Atlanta is a city-state inside Georgia, with many liberal transplants to Atlanta showing little regard for what happens in the rest of the state if they even vote. They’ll need to become much more politically active in their adopted state if they hope to flip anything.
2. Louisiana…For starters, they already have a Democratic Governor, and now they just need some senators, more congressmen, and either state legislature to go blue to support him. How You Flip It: Louisiana was always going to be towards the top of this list even if they didn’t have a Democratic Governor because New Orleans is hands-down the most liberal city in the Southeast, and still an important shipping port for the region. Also, Hollywood has increased their production in NOLA since Hurricane Katrina hit, and if actors plus musicians would donate money to state Democrats as much as they like giving speeches, this could be easily flippable. And as with most states on this list, the new Democratic Governor will need to increase minority turn-out. After all, if a majority of black voters in South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi voted, we wouldn’t even be talking about how to flip these states. Roadblocks: Unlike Georgia, fossil fuel companies have a real stake in Louisiana and will fight any real surge in Democratic power.
3. Tennessee…Tennessee may seem like another odd choice for so high in the rankings but a quick look back at their Gubernatorial history shows that the office routinely goes from Republican to Democrat to Republican, and no one party has had a monopoly on the Governor’s Mansion in decades. How You Flip It: Typically, the state seems to flip away from whoever’s currently occupying The White House, and since there’s an unpopular billionaire sitting there, it shouldn’t be too hard to connect Trump to the billionaire sitting in The Governor’s Mansion, Bill Haslan. If a popular Democrat–like the mayor of Memphis or Nashville–were to run for Governor during the height of Trump’s unpopularity, it’s not hard to imagine them winning. And the only upside to Nashville’s country music scene being hijacked by untalented carpet baggers from California, Australia, Canada, etc. is if they ever decide to donate money to Democratic candidates. Roadblocks: There aren’t any signs yet that Tennessee voters are as fed up with Trump as they’ll need to be to start voting Democrats back in, but give it time.
4. West Virginia…This is more an acknowledgement that West Virginia already has a Democratic Governor and technically a Democratic senator in Joe Manchin. How You Flip It: Somehow Democrats have managed to hang-on in this state that pretty much is coal country, becoming the Southeast’s version of Montana: a state that coal controls, yet somehow votes Democratic anyway. Roadblocks: Joe Manchin could easily change parties, becoming the highest profile defection since Arlen Specter. Even more pressing, if he did switch to the Republican Party, how could we tell the difference?
5. Texas…People forget that LBJ kick-started decades of Southern Democratic Presidents (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton) and I’m surprised Texas Republicans have had a strangle-hold on the state this long. In all likelihood, if it weren’t for the oil industry’s monopolistic grip, this would already be a blue state. How You Flip It: It’s all about Latino voter turnout, something that has proven difficult to properly engage. A rumored 2018 senate run by Joaquin Castro to take Ted Cruz’s senate seat would certainly help, as will a lot of Latino voters reluctantly pushed towards activism in the wake of Trump’s increasingly ICE-heavy presidency. Still, a combined voter surge in Austin (college kids and hipsters), Houston (black voters), El Paso and San Antonio (Latino voters), and Dallas (business professionals that are not actively killing the planet) would turn this state blue, and is long overdo. It just hasn’t happened because the last nationally-disgusting Republican President was the former Governor of Texas, but Trump doesn’t have such a protection. Roadblocks: The GOP and big oil go together like exhaust fumes and global warming, just ask oil man and Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a Texas native. Exxon Mobile and others will fight like crazy to keep Democrats from controlling their most important state.
6. North Carolina…They currently have a Democratic Governor, although professional jerk and ex-Governor Pat McCrory passed a law that would limit his power before he went out the door. How You Flip It: North Carolina voters grew so frustrated dealing with McCrory’s shenanigans that he became the first North Carolina governor in history to lose re-election. That seems like a pretty clear signal that a majority of North Carolina voters are ready to embrace the Democrats. Roadblocks: However, Hillary didn’t win this state and their Democratic Gov. won by a very slim margin, and it’ll be tough for him to do literally anything through a Republican state congress that will blame him for their screw-ups.
7. Kentucky…Some may rank this state higher since they were a hold-out state until recently. How You Flip It: Until last year, they had a popular Democratic Governor and the Kentucky state senate was the last Democratic controlled-state legislature in the Southeast. If their Republican conversion is relatively recent, it should be easy to undo right? Roadblocks: In my experience, the more recently a Southern state has been flipped Republican, the more difficult it’ll be to flip it back. Especially since they haven’t had a real chance to screw things up yet. Despite the outrage some voters expressed over an Obamacare repeal—Kentuckians have disproportionately benefitted from the law—the coal industry has a big presence here, and the possibility of losing healthcare didn’t stop people from electing a Tea Party Governor. Not to mention Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
8. Florida…Isn’t it crazy that this state is ranked as low as it is? Although Florida is still technically a purple state in Presidential elections—and a great indicator of who will win the entire contest—the statewide races are looking dismal. A terrible Republican Governor and both houses of the state legislature are Republican, and even a damaged-goods candidate like Marco Rubio won re-election as a Republican. How You Flip It: Ben Nelson remains one of the few Democratic senators in the South, and even though popular ex-Republican Governor-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist lost his gubernatorial race, he’s hanging in there as a congressman. So there are at least some bright spots in…Roadblocks: Oh, who am I kidding? Crist has lost major races, and he’s only a House Representative because he couldn’t win a senate seat. And one-time “rising stars” like Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Alan Grayson have been either disgraced or beaten out of office. And since Florida’s Cuban population are the most notoriously conservative Latinos in America, you can’t even reliably say that increasing minority turn-out would help much.
9. Arkansas…In deciding which state to rank 9th out of AR or Alabama, it came down to the coin-toss factoid that Arkansas is the home of Bill Clinton, while Alabama’s last Democratic Governor was unjustly thrown in prison. So you could say one seems a bit more favorable to Democrats right now. Although the Clintons have not lived in Arkansas since he entered The White House and nobody even listed the state as a possiblity for Hillary in 2016, I have to believe that there must be some residual good feelings between the people of Arkansas and the political party of their only POTUS. How You Flip It: It really all boils down to what the largest job providers in the state—Wal-Mart and Tyson chicken plants—want to do. For years, Wal-Mart has fought the Democrat’s economic agenda like raising the minimum wage and worker protections, but they also want alternative energy to save on fuel costs and the energy bills at each one of their warehouse-size stores. Democrats are the party to cut their energy costs, and embracing a green iniative just might win them over. Plus, Tyson can’t be thrilled that Republicans are pursuing an anti-immigrant agenda since a lot of their labor force is illegal labor. Roadblocks: Currently, people seem more on Mike Huckabee’s wavelength than anything having to do with the Clintons.
10. Alabama…Although there aren’t many signs to be hopeful that Alabama will turn blue, there are at least signs people are getting fed-up with Republican rule. And how could they not in a state that has seen one GOP scandal after another while ex-Democratic Governor Don Siegelman was railroaded into a prison cell. How You Flip It: The state Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was indicted on 23 counts and sentenced to jail time, Supreme Court judge Roy Moore was forced off the bench for refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, and Governor Robert Bentley used state funds to keep a mistress, fired the state cop who found out about it, and quid pro quo’d Jeff Sessions-vacant senate seat to State Attorney General Luther Strange so Strange wouldn’t keep investigating him. This is the first time I know of that all three branches of a state’s government have been under investigation for crimes, and all three belong to the same political branch. If there has ever been a time for the Alabama State Democratic Party to fire Joe Reed and bring in new blood to turn things around, this is it. Because if Democrats can’t win back statewide offices now, this likely is a hopeless state. Roadblocks: Alabama had a state Democratic congress until the 2010 Obama-hating Tea Party bloodbath, and it’ll take Trump at least a full term of unpopular decisions to fully alienate Alabama voters from the Alabama Republican Party. Of course, they have to actually think his decisions are unpopular and so far he’s pursuing the type of anti-immigration agenda that made Alabama such an overwhelming victory for him in the first place.
11. Mississippi…In some ways, Mississippi is more liberal than Alabama, thanks to casino towns like Tunica and Biloxi. In other ways, Mississippi is over a third African-American and isn’t even close to having that represented at the state-wide level. How You Flip It: For now, the best Mississippi residents can hope for is keeping establishment Republicans like Thad Cochran—no defender of Civil Rights himself—in office over Tea Party challengers that more closely align with the KKK, which is what happened during Cochran’s last election. His campaign’s message seemed to be “Vote for me if you’d like to see a 0.05% Democrat in office over a klan member.” Roadblocks: Are numerous, the path being mine-laden and winding. Of course, the right Democratic candidate for Governor could come along and shut me up in no time.
12. South Carolina…How on Earth is South Carolina ranked dead last? Because their Republican Party is frequently touted as the “Republican Party of the future” with a former Indian-American Governor in Nikki Haley and the country’s only black Republican senator Tim Scott. They also have the sexually ambiguous Lindsey Graham, and swinging ex-Gov. turned congressman Mark Sanford (complete with his Latin mistress turned second wife) to show they aren’t fussy about sexual attitudes as long as people are Republicans. [Nikki Haley was plagued by rumors of infidelity in her campaign, and she went up in the polls.] Point being, if you can’t even reliably court minority voters to the Democratic Party in these states, you’re really screwed. How You Flip It: Yikes. Roadblocks: South Carolina seems like the unholy mix of Tea Party crazy (former senator Jim Demint), military conservatives, and Benneton-ad diversity to even paint the Republican Party with their preferred optics of “we’re not racists, we even have minorities who agree with us!” This state doesn’t show a path forward.
End Note: Before anyone writes off these suggestions as too lofty, keep in mind that it would only have taken three extra senate seats in the Southeast—Democrats currently control a horrendous 4 out of 26 of these senate seats, half of that from Virginia alone—to block Trump’s cabinet picks and Supreme Court nominees. Doesn’t seem like such a waste of time to devote more resources to Georgia or Louisiana now, does it?