Home Media Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA05) on the “Deeper Why” of SW Virginia...

Former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA05) on the “Deeper Why” of SW Virginia Voting for Mark Warner Heavily in 2008, Then Voting AGAINST Him Heavily in 2020

"Dem embrace of a Black president was a breaking point"; "solid local media outlets were bought out by conservative conglomerates alongside the emergence of info bubbles."

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Yesterday, this Twitter post about two electoral maps (comparing SW Virginia results for Mark Warner in 2008 vs. 2020; great job by @_Anders1) got a lot of conversation going. That includes the following thread by former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA05), who was first elected in 2008, along with Barack Obama as the country’s first Black president, and then lost his seat in the 2010 “Tea Party”/White backlash “red wave” ‘election. As former Rep. Perriello writes, the “deeper why” explaining how Mark Warner won SW Virginia big time in 2008 but then was trounced in SW Virginia in 2020 includes the following:

  • “(1) Dem embrace of a Black president was a breaking point”
  • (2) after previous Dem President passed NAFTA, and
  • (3) solid local media outlets were bought out by conservative conglomerates alongside the emergence of info bubbles.”

Also, Perriello notes that:

After Gingrich transferred most power from bipartisan committees to the caucus and Dems got rid of earmarks, individual Reps matter less than the majority. This reflects a broader problem of a US Congress that is designed to be first-past-the-post with weak role for political parties but now functions much more like a parliamentary system in reality and the eyes of voters.”

Which means that even if many voters might like a specific politician, whether Rick Boucher or Tim Kaine or Mark Warner, they’re not going to vote for them simply because they’re *Democrats* – which was ok before, but apparently not any longer for many rural voters. Perriello’s right, of course, that our politics has become nationalized in many ways. I’d argue that this is due in large part to the rise of a massive right-wing ecosystem/echo chamber on social media, talk radio, TV, etc. Combine that with the decline of local media, and people are increasingly left with just Facebook (whose algorithms push people into echo chambers and keep them locked in there), right-wing talk radio, Fox “News,” etc. to get their information – or more likely, MISinformation/DISinformation.

Now, of course, there are other issues at play here – both longer term (e.g., the decline of the coal industry in Appalachia, which has been going on for decades; the decline of organized labor, which also started decades ago; the politics around abortion and guns and “social issues” like LGBTQ equality – as Howard Dean once called them, “Guns, God and Gays”) and shorter term (e.g., racist backlash to the election of the country’s first Black president) –  but the question is what CHANGED (drastically) around 2009/2010, when the Rick Bouchers, Tom Perriellos, Mark Warners, etc. of the word suddenly stopped being able to win in places they USED to win handily? It certainly wasn’t like Fox “News” was invented in 2009, so while Fox is extremely damaging, it’s nothing new. But some things that WERE invented and/or started to become popular in the late 2000s? Yep: Facebook (which first opened up to everyone in late 2006, just a the Jim Webb vs. George Allen campaign was nearing its end), Twitter (similar timeframe), smartphones (around 2007; see graphics, below). Which means that the way people get information (or MISinformation) has changed dramatically, with major (mostly negative) consequences for our politics.

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