No mere symbolism

The results are finally in: Barack Obama has won North Carolina. The Associated Press story carries a curious headline on this news:

Obama adds symbolic NC victory to White House win

It is perhaps true that Obama and John McCain haven’t exactly been wringing their hands about this outcome. The election was effectively decided at 11 p.m. EST on Tuesday, and North Carolina in 2008 is not Florida in 2000. But to people in North Carolina, which last voted for a Democrat for president in 1976, this result is very real, not merely symbolic. The state’s 15 electoral votes are real too.

It’s an unfortunate choice of words by the AP, and it’s equally unfortunate that news sites that set the wire on autopilot will publish this headline as is.

UPDATE: The new version of the AP story has a new headline:

Obama adds North Carolina to White House win

References to symbolism in the headline and story have been deleted — and wisely so.



  1. This is great news that NC went for Obama! I agree with you that symbolic is the wrong word for this. It matters, especially to those of us who have been frustrated voting for Democrats in “red” states.

  2. Having cast most of my presidential votes in North Carolina, I have to agree: Nothing “symbolic” about it. Fie on the suggested hed, and double fie on news sites that run AP suggested heds without editing.

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