Another primary day, another reemergence of the Race Chasm. With a population that's 7.5 percent black, Kentucky fits right into the Race Chasm, and not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton is favored to win. In Oregon, the population is just 1.9 percent black -- outside the Race Chasm -- and Barack Obama is favored to win.
As I've always said, it's hard to say race is singularly responsible for any given election result. But clearly, the Race Chasm dynamic is at play.
To review what the Race Chasm is: In states with very large African American population, racial politics is a major force, but the African American population is able to offset the segment of the white vote that is racially motivated against a black candidate. In states with very few African Americans, racial politics just isn't a part of the debate. But in states with a moderately sized African American population, racial politics exists, but the black community isn't large enough to offset the segment of the white vote that is racially motivated. The Race Chasm -- ie. those states in the middle like Kentucky -- are more than 6 percent but less than 17 percent black. They have been the states that have given Clinton most of her wins.
The Huffington Post's Sam Stein quotes an Oregon political expert making part of this point today:
"Oregon is a state where race has not been an animating factor of political campaigns in the past. It has not been an issue since the 1860s, and it is not going to matter to people in the current election," said Joseph Lowndes, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Oregon and author of "From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism.
Stein is right -- the Oregon results, if they go Obama's way, may explode the idea that Obama cannot win white working-class voters. But if both Oregon and Kentucky go the way they are expected to go, the results will only further confirm the Race Chasm.
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