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Author Topic: Western Massachusetts (Berkshire, Franklin, etc.)  (Read 784 times)
soniquemd21921
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« on: August 02, 2012, 03:51:34 pm »
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I'm aware of how Vermont shifted from most Republican to most liberal state in a 30-year period (mostly because of newcomers), but what about Western Massachusetts? Back in the 40's and 50's the small towns of this region were overwhelmingly Republican, but today it's one of the most liberal areas in the US.

Example: In 1948 the small town of Egremont in Berkshire County was 84% Republican, Barry Goldwater nearly won it, and Nixon carried it in 1968 and 1972 by extremely wide margins as well, but in the past two elections it went for Kerry and Obama by 3-1 margins! Franklin County has similar towns like this as well: towns that were 4- and 5-1 Republican in the 40s and 50s but are today 3-1 Democrat.

Did this region see a similar mass influx of out-of-state liberals the way Vermont did? The shift that occured in the Amherst area (Amherst, Leverett, Shutesbury, Pelham, Wendell) is explainable, but what about all those other small towns that were extremely Republican but are now probably the most liberal rural areas in the country?

BTW: I find it astonishing that *Amherst* was a Republican town before the 60's.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2012, 03:57:43 pm by soniquemd21921 »Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2012, 04:01:48 pm »
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Vermont shifted from most Republican to most liberal state

Vermont shifted from most Republican to most Democratic, but it's always been relatively "liberal". Vermont switched parties not long after the parties themselves swapped relative positions. There was an influx into Vermont of outsiders (mostly from Massachusetts), but that isn't nearly enough to account for its change in partisan affiliations. The Berkshires in MA have for a long time been pretty poor and economically leftist, and western MA hasn't seen nearly the same type of immigration as Vermont.
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2012, 04:05:27 pm »
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Yeah, the Berkshires are basically Vermont, except even moreso.  Their ancestral Republicanism was of the Congregationalist, Party-of-Lincoln, anti-South strain which was always moderate and easily flipped as the Republicans became more of a Southern and conservative party.

Also, tourism is big there, it's probably the area's biggest industry now that the mills are all gone (hey, depressed mill towns, that's another reason) and it was never the greatest soil for farming.  And not just any tourism, but artsy, cultural tourism anchored by such things as Tanglewood (summer home of the Boston Symphony) and Mass MoCA (a contemporary art museum housed in an old factory).  And there are plenty of colleges even outside the Amherst-Northampton nexus- Williams, for instance.  
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soniquemd21921
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2012, 04:15:14 pm »
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I've also noticed the same trend also happened in southwestern New Hampshire, probably for the same reasons, and the huge Democratic drift in tourist-y areas - e.g. Cape Cod and the two islands, the Stowe-Killington area of Vermont, and the Bar Harbor area (I'm from Bangor, Maine btw).



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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2012, 08:07:49 pm »
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western massachusetts stopped voting republican long before Vermont, around 1960. However, they continued to elect Sil Conte until he died in 1991 and even Olver had some close calls in the 90s.
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soniquemd21921
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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2012, 07:09:27 am »
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How about Franklin County (north of Amherst-Northampton)? After voting for Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1984, it swung to the Democrats hard in the last few years (each Democratic candidate's margin has been higher than the previous). I'm guessing much of it is because of the Amherst effect.
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muon2
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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2012, 08:22:36 am »

The same pattern exists in northern Litchfield county CT. The Amherst area was the earliest to clearly fit the pattern, then the trend moves north into VT and south into CT.
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2012, 01:58:35 pm »
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Hey I am old enough to remember when most of the CA coast was Pub, and the inland areas generally Dem. Smiley
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soniquemd21921
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« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2012, 12:33:16 pm »
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You can also find that Amherst/Hanover-like change in other areas of the country, especially in college counties that were the among the most Republican counties in their state (e.g. Tompkins, NY; Douglas, KS; Washtenaw, MI; Boulder, CO; Benton, OR; Santa Cruz, CA; Athens, OH) but are now among the most liberal (or most liberal) counties in their states.

However, I did notice that Cambridge, New Haven, Northampton, Burlington and Madison voted Democratic back then while most of the other major college towns were staunchly Republican. I'm guessing it had to do with the fact that they all had large Catholic populations.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2012, 12:45:39 pm by soniquemd21921 »Logged

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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2012, 01:30:39 pm »
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There was a time when Northampton was strongly Republican. Calvin Coolidge was Mayor there for a time.

If it started voting Democratic before Amherst did, it did so because until about the sixties or seventies Northampton was distinctly working-class outside the confines of Smith College. It's slightly but significantly more densely populated and less yuppified (although as or more hipsterfied) than Amherst is to this day.
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« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2012, 01:41:01 pm »
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Cambridge has traditionally had some sketchy areas (Tip O'Neill was from one of them) as well, of course.
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soniquemd21921
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« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2012, 04:02:26 pm »
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There was a time when Northampton was strongly Republican. Calvin Coolidge was Mayor there for a time.

Northampton voted for Hoover in 1932 but switched to FDR in 1936 (Springfield did the same as well). It did vote for Eisenhower twice, so it wasn't all that staunchly Democratic.

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If it started voting Democratic before Amherst did, it did so because until about the sixties or seventies Northampton was distinctly working-class outside the confines of Smith College. It's slightly but significantly more densely populated and less yuppified (although as or more hipsterfied) than Amherst is to this day.

Indeed. Nixon came close to carrying Northampton in 1972, while Amherst went for McGovern by a 2-1 margin (before that, the only Democrats to carry Amherst were LBJ and Humphrey). By 1984, Mondale easily carried Northampton (and received 73% of the vote in Amherst).

What's interesting is that while Massachusetts was moving in a decidedly leftward direction,
Worcester County (and the Westfield-Chicopee-Holyoke area of Hampden) was moving towards the Republicans. There's this swath of towns along the Connecticut-Rhode Island border that voted for FDR by 3-1 margins that Reagan carried (Southbridge, Dudley, Webster, Millville, Blackstone). Didn't Bush and McCain either carry this region or come close to winning it as well?

This is probably similar to what happened in New Hampshire's Merrimack Valley: what was traditionally the most Democratic part of the state now has some of the most Republican areas left in New England (Hillsborough County voted for FDR all four times, while Reagan and Bush Sr. won it by 2-1 margins).
« Last Edit: August 04, 2012, 04:23:43 pm by soniquemd21921 »Logged

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muon2
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« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2012, 10:40:37 pm »

There was a time when Northampton was strongly Republican. Calvin Coolidge was Mayor there for a time.

Northampton voted for Hoover in 1932 but switched to FDR in 1936 (Springfield did the same as well). It did vote for Eisenhower twice, so it wasn't all that staunchly Democratic.

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If it started voting Democratic before Amherst did, it did so because until about the sixties or seventies Northampton was distinctly working-class outside the confines of Smith College. It's slightly but significantly more densely populated and less yuppified (although as or more hipsterfied) than Amherst is to this day.

Indeed. Nixon came close to carrying Northampton in 1972, while Amherst went for McGovern by a 2-1 margin (before that, the only Democrats to carry Amherst were LBJ and Humphrey). By 1984, Mondale easily carried Northampton (and received 73% of the vote in Amherst).

What's interesting is that while Massachusetts was moving in a decidedly leftward direction,
Worcester County (and the Westfield-Chicopee-Holyoke area of Hampden) was moving towards the Republicans. There's this swath of towns along the Connecticut-Rhode Island border that voted for FDR by 3-1 margins that Reagan carried (Southbridge, Dudley, Webster, Millville, Blackstone). Didn't Bush and McCain either carry this region or come close to winning it as well?

This is probably similar to what happened in New Hampshire's Merrimack Valley: what was traditionally the most Democratic part of the state now has some of the most Republican areas left in New England (Hillsborough County voted for FDR all four times, while Reagan and Bush Sr. won it by 2-1 margins).

The Merrimack and Blackstone valleys became more GOP as they became the exurbs of Boston. There's no equivalent exurban effect in the Connecticut valley.
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soniquemd21921
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« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2012, 10:55:38 pm »
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What about the more recent Democratic trend that happened in southern and coastal Maine, particularly in the Portland area and the Kennebunkport-Wells-York areas? This area was still voting Republican long after the Berkshires and Connecticut Valley had become Democratic.

I'm guessing what happened in southern Maine and Cape Cod were pretty much the same thing.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2012, 11:07:44 pm by soniquemd21921 »Logged

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