Indiana 6th District
Muncie, Ind., became famous as the “Middletown” where sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd lived and did research for their report in 1924 and 1925. Another team of sociologists investigated Muncie and reported on it in 1976 and 1978. The Lynds were attracted to Muncie because it was typical of “every small city from Maine to California,” as Life magazine put it. But it wasn’t exactly. Muncie was a factory town in a country still almost 50% rural at that time, and it was almost entirely Protestant and Northern in a country that was one-quarter Catholic and one-third Southern. Muncie was more typical in that it was culturally homogeneous but economically riven. In the 1920s, when General Motors opened a plant in Muncie, the city celebrated its common values and was loath to admit its economic disparities; Chevrolet took over the plant in 1935. In the 1930s, those differences were exposed when Muncie, like much of the industrial Midwest, was unionized, a process that sometimes led to violent clashes. Workers who were joining CIO unions and voting for Democrats fiercely opposed the business elite—local bankers, merchants, GM executives, and the Ball family’s glass company. Partisan politics took on the sharp, bitter tone of a struggle for wealth between two rival classes whose claims seemed irreconcilable. Echoes of such class-warfare politics grow louder at times of economic distress, such as when Ball moved its headquarters to Colorado in 1998. When in 2006 Muncie was ranked ninth nationwide in poverty rates among cities its size or larger, local officials downplayed the situation as not unexpected in a small city with a large student population. In March 2006, GM closed its manual transmission plant, which had opened in 1935 and once employed 3,000 workers. But that loss was tempered by Honda’s decision to build a car assembly plant on farmland in Greensburg, about 60 miles south of Muncie. After that facility opened in November 2008 with about 2,000 workers, Honda announced that the plant would produce the world’s only passenger vehicles powered by compressed natural gas, the Civic GX.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This area’s relative prosperity, based on high-skill manufacturing, has engendered something like a political consensus for tax cuts, tight budgets, and traditional cultural values, with strong support for candidates of either party who agree. Basketball is the civic religion here: Indiana has nine of the nation’s 10 largest high school gyms. The Fieldhouse, in New Castle near the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, is No. 1 in size. Also noteworthy is Tom Raper Inc. in Richmond, the nation’s largest RV dealer.
The 6th Congressional District of Indiana covers most of the east-central part of the state. It includes Muncie and Anderson in the north as well as Richmond, founded by a major branch of American Quakers and home to their Earlham College. In the north and south are suburban fringes of Fort Wayne and Cincinnati. The 6th is solidly Republican in presidential politics but has been a swing district in some state races. Barack Obama took Delaware County, which includes Muncie, 57%-42%, but John McCain won the district 52%-46%.