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Merle and Earl Black on Southern and Swing State Politics
Cover of Divided America
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August 29, 2008

Bloggers and pollsters are obsessively counting up percentages and electoral college votes — looking for a squeaker or a landslide. Authors Merle and Earl Black suggest that the equations do make a difference precisely because the popular vote may close. Not because, as some say, the candidates are fundamentally the same, but because they represent some fundamental differences in American political life. Their new book, DIVIDED AMERICA: THE FEROCIOUS POWER STRUGGLE IN AMERICAN POLITICS begins bluntly:
The biggest story of modern American politics — a story with no end in sight — is the ferocious power struggle between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats over each elected institution of the national government. Because the two major parties are now evenly balanced in the national electorate, control of the presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives can shift with each round of elections. And because Republicans and Democrats disagree so fundamentally over the direction of countless public policies, changes in partisan control can seriously affect millions of people in the United States and even larger numbers elsewhere in the world.
The Blacks do suggest that this divided world has strict geographical boundaries: "America's tight national battle results from opposing political developments in five different regions. Each party has developed two regional strongholds: the Northeast and the Pacific Coast for the Democrats versus the South and the Mountains/Plains for the Republicans. The Midwest is the nation's swing region." But the 2004 election map can also be viewed as a hazy shade of purple.

As we as divided as we seem? Tell us how core issues are playing out in your locale on the Moyers on 2008 Election Map.

Earl Black
Photo by Robin Holland
Earl Black is Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Political Science at Rice University. His field is American politics, with special attention to the changing politics of the American South.

Merle Black

Photo by Robin Holland Merle Black specializes in the study of American politics. He was born in Oklahoma in 1942 and was raised in East Texas. He graduated from Harvard College in 1964 and received a doctorate in Political Science from The University of Chicago in 1972. Professor Black taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for nineteen years. In 1989 he became the Asa G. Candler Professor of Politics and Government at Emory University. In 1996 Professor Black received Emory University's Scholar-Teacher Award for excellence in research and teaching. He was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 1999-2000.

In partnership the twin brothers have written three books for Harvard University Press on southern politics: POLITICS AND SOCIETY IN THE SOUTH (1987), THE VITAL SOUTH: HOW PRESIDENTS ARE ELECTED (1992), and THE RISE OF SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS (2002). THE RISE OF SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS was chosen by THE ECONOMIST as one of the best books published in 2002. THE VITAL SOUTH, won the 1992 Award of the Association of American Publishers for "the most outstanding book in government and political science."

Their new book is DIVIDED AMERICA: THE FEROCIOUS POWER STRUGGLE IN AMERICAN POLITICS. This book focuses on voters, parties, and elections according to regional and national trends. "Before any of the 2008 candidates start counting their electoral votes," said a review in the WASHINGTON POST, "they should read the latest book by Earl and Merle Black." DIVIDED AMERICA was selected by CHOICE Magazine in 2008 as an "Outstanding Academic Book." The paperback edition of DIVIDED AMERICA was published in March 2008.

Guest photos by Robin Holland

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References and Reading:
Obama, McCain Fight To Win Southern Votes, NPR
The South has been a Republican stronghold for presidential candidates for decades, a trend Democrats hope to change this election year. But a new poll by Winthrop University in South Carolina suggests that southern voters may not be as quick to change as some Democrats hope. Scott Huffmon of Winthrop University and Andra Gillespie of Emory University in Georgia discuss presidential politics in the South

"Show me a showdown," THE ECONOMIST, August 28th, 2008.
THE ECONOMIST takes a look at crucial swing state Missouri.

Merle and Earl Black

DIVIDED AMERICA THE FEROCIOUS POWER STRUGGLE IN AMERICAN POLITICS
Read an excerpt of the Black's newest book.

THE RISE OF THE SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS (PDF)
Read an excerpt of the Black's THE RISE OF THE SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS.

Published August 29, 2008

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