Saturday's Washington Post contained a long analysis of West Virginia's remarkable "flip from Democratic to Republican." It asks why a low-income state, where people rely heavily on the federal safety net, is stampeding to the GOP, even though Democrats support the safety net.
It noted that Democrat Barack Obama set a historic "first" last year by losing all 55 of West Virginia's counties. It noted that Republicans now are just five members shy of winning control of the state House of Delegates.
The Post indicated that many rural West Virginians are attuned to the GOP's "God, guns and gays" mantra -- and adds: "Racism also may play a role in the changing political dynamic of a state where 94 percent of the population is white."
"West Virginia has realigned politically with the Deep South, at least in presidential elections," historian John Alexander Williams is quoted.
The question looms: Is West Virginia moving permanently into the "red" political camp -- or can the state regain its longtime alliance with Democrats, the party serving average families?
A partial answer may emerge in the 2014 off-year election. Especially, the showdown between Republican Shelley Capito and Democrat Natalie Tennant for U.S. Senate may be a strong indicator. The Post calls Capito "a heavy favorite."
Although congressman Capito has a colossal cash advantage -- $3.2 million in campaign funds to a mere $153,000 -- we hope Tennant, now secretary of state, gains momentum and becomes a formidable contender.
Why did once-blue West Virginia swing to the Republican side in all four presidential elections since 2000? Why did the GOP win two West Virginia seats in Congress and the state attorney general post, plus a big upsurge in the Legislature?
Many studies have analyzed America's red-blue polarization. Some conclude that rural, less-educated, lower-income, churchgoing, gun-loving regions gravitate to the GOP -- while urban, well-educated, better-paid, secular people vote Democratic. Others say the former Confederacy, with lingering racism, swung Republican because Democrats backed the historic civil rights equality movement a half-century ago.
West Virginia's culture fits many red characteristics. However, this state teems with less-affluent families who need the government safety net, which is championed by Democrats, while Republicans endlessly try to slash it. Logically, you'd think these Mountain State residents would feel loyalty to the party that helps little people.As we said, next year's election may clarify the path that West Virginia is taking.