Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 21, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DEMOCRATS AND THE SOUTH....Should Democrats try to reclaim the South, or should they just give up on the whole region and try to build an electoral majority elsewhere? I bounce back and forth on this. Most of the time I think that of course we need to contest the South: it's just too big to cede without a fight. But then I begin to think about abortion. And gay rights. And separation of church and state. And racial equality. And labor rights.

And I just give up. Given the way the majority of southerners think about this stuff, how can we win regularly in the South without completely selling our souls?

I don't know. But one of the many pissing matches provoked by the YearlyKos convention earlier this month turns out to be on exactly this subject. Tom Schaller, who has a book coming out later this year called Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, was on a panel with famous Southern consultant/rabble rouser Dave Mudcat Saunders and found himself the lone voice arguing, unsurprisingly, that Democrats can win without the South:

Saunders very livelihood requires him to peddle fictions like the notion that rural, white, Christian, noncollege-educated, married male voters are the key to Democratic resurgence in a country where women, suburban-exurbanites, seculars, college graduates, the unmarried, and minorities become a larger share of the electorate with each passing cycle. Democrat Mark Warners victory in the 2001 Virginia governors race is most often cited as evidence of the rural strategys effectiveness, but a closer look reveals a different story.

Basically, Schaller argues that Warner (and, in 2005, Tim Kaine) won in Virginia by increasing their appeal among moderate suburbanites, not rural conservatives:

It is this model writ large winning outside the rural areas and then taking a record of smart, progressive policies to rural voters for their inspection which ratifies the strategy of Democrats first building a non-southern majority, governing confidently and successfully, and then appealing to the South, the nations most rural, poor, and conservative region.

As for me, I still don't know. I guess I'll wait for the book. And Mudcat's response.

Kevin Drum 8:21 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (167)

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Comments

No, let the Confederacy stand on its own two feet. No more interventions.

Posted by: Matt on June 21, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Win without Dixie ?

Most of exurban America is just like Dixie. If you can't carry Dixie you're not going to carry Lancaster County, PA.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 21, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this a midterm election and aren't you in California?

I'd suggest we fund the local democratic party and let them figure out how to communicate with their neighbors. They won't have a chance if they don't have any money and are always playing defense on fake issues defined by Rove.

Posted by: B on June 21, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems have been nudging their policies to the right to appeal to rural southerners for the last several decades - how much have you heard about gun control or the immorality of the death penalty from high-profile Dems since 1990? - and the South has grown only more conservative and more Republican during that time. Why keep trying the same thing?

The deep South is the Republican core. Why put all of our effort into winning states that are so hugely stacked against us to begin with? Republicans don't build their electoral strategy around winning Boston and Berkeley and Detroit and Chapel Hill, do they? Seems like focusing on more low-hanging fruit, like the mountain West, or the midwest, or chasing the last few Republicans out of the Northeast, would be a much more efficacious strategy.

Posted by: FMguru on June 21, 2006 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

Despite your attempts at smears, the south is where the best of American values are on display, especially allowing the free market to work its mojo. Democrats would be well advised to seek electoral victory where American values aren't, such as New York.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 21, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Back before the 2004 election, some posters to your website (at least I think it was here) were arguing that the Dems should give up on the South, and that they could win without it. I pointed out that "could" and "are likely to" were two entirely different propositions. They still are.

We tend to forget that the Republicans were persona non grata in the South until not that long ago. They didn't give up, and neither should the Dems.

Posted by: Bobarino on June 21, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

Given their nostalgia for treason, and their fevered protestations notwithstanding, the South should be considered the least "American" part of the United States.

Posted by: Wombat on June 21, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

American Chickenhawk is priceless. Saying that the home of Wall Street doesn't represent American free market values.

Friggin' New York doesn't represent capitalism, says he!

He's so clueless he must be a genius.

Posted by: Jim J on June 21, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - I think I share your initial impressions - we should not give up on such a large part of our nation. I think we should not focus so much on how dems lose there on values issues and what not. Instead the focus should be on why our more attractive policy ideas do not carry as much weight there. Howard Dean was on the right track when he was pointing out that these folks consistently vote against their own interests when they support the Republicans. What is it about our (good) messages that is not getting through?

When we figure that out the South will not be such a hard egg to crack.

Posted by: RR on June 21, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

> Despite your attempts at smears,
> the south is where the best of
> American values are on display,

I bet some of unAmerican chickenHawk's best friends are black, too. And they don't say anything when he files his confederate flag.

Not Really

Posted by: Not Really on June 21, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

"Should Democrats try to reclaim the South, or should they just give up on the whole region and try to build an electoral majority elsewhere?"

General Wesley Clark.

'nuf said.

Posted by: koreyel on June 21, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Come on. The GOP won elections for a century without carrying the South -- at all. And when you look at the percentages the Dems get in the various states, and point out that they need to add enough votes nationwide to get over 50% nationwide, you see that -- after they've done that and started winning -- most of the states they still don't carry are concentrated in the South. (The remainder are tiny little piss-ant states in the Plains and Rockies.) For that matter, when you raise their nationwide winning margin to 55%, they STILL don't carry most of th South now. (That applies to Clinton's and Gore's vote distribution patterns, too.) The South has flipped from being the core of Democratic strength that the GOP never even bothered with, to being the core of the GOP's constituency that the Dems shouldn't bother with -- except for Florida (which has pretty much evolved into a non-Southern Southern state due to the influx of northerners, and maybe Arkansas (thanks to the Clintons). Virginia is slowly evolving into a non-Southern Southern state like Florida, and for the same reason, but the process will take another decade.

And, as Kevin says, the only conceivable way to start taking the South again would be (in george Wallace's immortal words) to "out-nigger" the GOP, with the New Niggers being gays, believers in religious freedom, intellectuals, and (to a still-impressive degree) the Old Niggers. The Dems need to grow up and stop wasting their time with this region. A few thousand more votes in the right one or two states, and Gore and Kerry would have become the first Presidential candidates since Calvin Coolidge -- and the first Democrats ever -- to win without taking a single, solitary Confederate state. And the Dems can pick up those votes (and a lot more in centrist swing states like Ohio, Missouri and Colorado, as well as Florida) by moving only slightly to the Right -- not radically to the Right, as they'd have to do to win most of the South.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on June 21, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

D's ain't gonna beat R's on "social issues" down South. Give it up.

The only hope for the D's there is in economic populism, which would work for the rest of the country too. Having forgotten that, the D's have no power whatsoever in the federal guvmint.

Posted by: alex on June 21, 2006 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK


Kevin, what's your take on congressional "reluctance" to renew the Voting Rights Act?

Posted by: 6 on June 21, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

"But then I begin to think about abortion. And gay rights. And separation of church and state. And racial equality. And labor rights."

But that's precisely why Democrats need to keep trying to retake the region, especially at the state level. There are women in the South. And minorities. And gays. And members of the working class. And it's immoral to abandon them to Republican rule.

Posted by: Brad Plumer on June 21, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

I think in the short to medium term, electorally, the South is done for. But, I also think the Party gets too caught up in the short to medium term and in an elections-only mindset, which is how they have slowly lost their constituencies in rural areas to begin with.

In light of this, Dean's 50 state strategy is a step in the right direction. I think the way for Dems to contend again in red states the long run is for liberals to organize and act locally, and show people that they a)give a damn about the myriad problems facing rural America, and b) are capable of actually doing something about them.

Now, sure, even given a liberal civic resurgence in rural America, there would still be the big cultural stumbling blocks, but at least we'd have the right to be part of the conversation. As of right now, most rural people don't see any evidence on the ground that liberals give a damn about their problems, or even that many of their neighbors are actually liberals themselves. And then there are the aspirational aspects of evangelicalism and conservatism that have been discussed here before, which might help us along if our work results in improvements in quality of life, In short, if we step in and help fill the civic vacuum, in the long run I think the other stuff can become more fungible. It only works so well because it's almost unopposed in many areas.

But, this requires a real moral and civic commitment with no guarantee of immediate returns, not just some lip service and token gestures. And I doubt anyone is going to be willing or able to invest the necessary resources for that anytime soon, especially with the immediate electoral/political situation seeming like a perpetual crisis for liberals.

Posted by: J. Dunn on June 21, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats don't need the south to regain national power and should certainly not make any further ideological concessions. And once Democrats regain power, there should then be a concerted, systematic move to link federal project funds to tax revenuse generated. Maybe that will get the southern screwballs out of their cafes studying their bibles and actually working again.

Posted by: PAC on June 21, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Come on. The GOP won elections for a century without carrying the South -- at all."

But that was when the Northeast and Midwest were the dominant parts of the country.

Face facts. For the past half century Northerners have been voting with their feet and their moving vans for the Southern way of life. And as for 'racism' Black and White people live comfortably together a lot more easily than in much of the Northeast and Midwest. It is the Northeast that has shrunk in importance and power as the South has expanded. The liberal caricature of the dumb, knuckle dragging redneck, a caricature of which Southerners are very much aware, is something that you will have to get rid of before you can even think of being competitive in this region.

Indeed as I said earlier rural America everywhere is 'Southern'.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 21, 2006 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Lincoln is a towering figure in U.S. history. He did what he and many others felt necessary in keeping the Union together. In retrospect I wonder whether we should have let the South secede as they wanted. Southern states really are populated by a different strain of humans. A poisonous, bigoted, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic and anti-intellectual stew of humanity. We should have skipped the war and said goodbye when we had our chance.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 21, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should all realize that in the short-term Democratic Presidential candidates simply have no chance of winning any southern states other than Florida or Virginia. Nothing will change this (except a very strong right-wing third party candidate).

However, the DNC and the state and county parties need to focus more resources on encouraging activism. Every state and county website should include all of the information candidates need in order to run for office. Party organizations need to do much more to inform people about how they can volunteer for candidates. I could go on and on, but my main point is that the best way to improve Democratic performance in the South (and everywhere else for that matter) is to give local people at the grass roots level the tools and motivation they need to get involved and spread the Democratic message in their own way.

(By the way, this is coming from someone who actually lives in the Deep South)

Posted by: Anonymous on June 21, 2006 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

I note that one of the crackers who sponsored an amendment to wiggle around the requirements of the Voting Rights Act was the guy who struggled to name three of the ten commandments when interviewed by Stephen Colbert last week.

As for national policy, it'd be nice to treat the South to a bit of small government for a while, given that most of those states receive more from the federal gubmint than they give back.

For the past half century Northerners have been voting with their feet and their moving vans for the Southern way of life.

Living in a stable doesn't turn you into a horse.

Let local Dems fight local races, and let national Dems fight on national issues. Not issues that are, for the most part, the hobby-horses of loud southern whites.

Posted by: ahem on June 21, 2006 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

the south is where the best of American values are on display

Racism, anti-semitism, anti-intellectualism, religious bigotry, xenophobia, rejection of science and widespread acceptance of mythology instead of history. These are the "values" that distinguish the American South, and these are the habits of mind that bind the region to the Republican Party. These are the things we are talking about when we talk about the Democratic Party's difficulties in winning southern states.

One cannot expect to replace or erase the legacy of three hundred years of de facto and de jure white patriarchy in the span of one, or even four or five, generations.

Democrats must compete in the south, but no more than Republicans must compete in California and New York.

Posted by: James E. Powell on June 21, 2006 at 9:26 PM | PERMALINK

After reading some of the ill-informed comments on this thread, it's evident that some of you have spent little to no time in the south.

"Given their nostalgia for treason, and their fevered protestations notwithstanding, the South should be considered the least "American" part of the United States."

"And once Democrats regain power, there should then be a concerted, systematic move to link federal project funds to tax revenuse generated. Maybe that will get the southern screwballs out of their cafes studying their bibles and actually working again."

"Southern states really are populated by a different strain of humans. A poisonous, bigoted, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic and anti-intellectual stew of humanity."

It takes a bigot to know a bigot, I guess.

Posted by: fembot on June 21, 2006 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

Dunno what American values are, but the South has great fried catfish. Not enough of a reason to reconquer the hillbillies though.

Posted by: Matt on June 21, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

I worked on Kaine's campaign. I can attest that the campaign basically DID focus on suburban and urban areas primarily. There was a rural program but it doesn't seem to have done much good (and never seemed that organized): if you look at Kaine's winning map vs. Warner's he gained ground in the cities and suburbs, but lost it in the rural areas (of course the candidates and situations cannot be completely compared as if it was generic Democrat vs. Republican, but you get the point).

The way Kaine won Virginia was definately a different strategy from the way Warner won it. Warner DID do surprisingly well in ordinarily big Republican strongholds, there is no doubting that. But Kaine blew the roof off of suburban and exurban areas (for instance, he/we won cities that Democrats haven't won in decades, like Chesapeake, which is solidly, solidly Republican in every way). It's these exurban areas with lots of fairly skeptical, moderate to conservative voters with traditional values but by an large sensible, that we REALLY mean when we talk about "winning the south."

In the North, the big big Dem cities swamp these people out. In the South, the exurbs dominate the political landscape. The Dems need to ask themselves not how to appeal to really rural folk, but rather to the southern suburbs.

Posted by: Anon on June 21, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

The country is too polarized for the Democrats to make progress in the South at this time. We cannot however ignore some States like Florida, Tennessee, or even Arkansas. Parts of the Midwest like Ohio, Indiana and in the Northeast like Maine and New Hampshire can still be turned around despite their tilt towards the Republicans in past elections. In Congressional races keep in mind that the blue states have a population edge though numerically fewer than the red states. We do not have to sell our soul to win.

Posted by: Dem on June 21, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

>a caricature of which Southerners are very much aware,

You guys sure brood over everything, don't you? A little insecure, maybe? Why is that? Why do the "tough, independent Ammuricans" of the south, sorry, The South, get so bothered about what they perceive others are saying about them?

Actually Charles Warren's first post did have some truth. But I don't really care - just like Newt Gingrich didn't care about what large majorities of the country believed in 1987.

I hate this "tailoring". It. Doesn't. Work.

Just figure out what you believe, why you believe it, and explain it to everyone everytime there is a microphone in front of your face. Forget about north, south, white, black, women, men, and just speak for yourself and how you see America.

And wait for the electorate to come back your way, after they realize that what Newt Gingrich believed was totally wrong.

But the stupid DC consultants always think they are "this close" to governing again so they prune away on tiny little trees while neglecting the whole forest.

Posted by: doesn't matter on June 21, 2006 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

I think the suburbanites reveal the answer. Although there can certainly be many legitimate definitions for them, let's classify them as people who really could go one way or another, and often have a mix of Democrats and Republicans as their elected officials at various levels. If the Democrats continue to pick up more of these people, who would certainly fit some or all of the characteristics cited by Kevin, the people in the South become a lot less valuable to the Democrats. But on the other hand, if the Republicans make gains in trying to get some of this vote, like they did in certain areas in 2004, the slack will need to be picked up some somewhere.

On a similar note, it's important to consider exactly where in the South Democrats might compete. I doubt anybody expects Mississippi to become a swing state any time soon, just as Rhode Island is not going to become one. But it's not out of the question for Democrats to make attempts in places like Arkansas, North Carolina, and perhaps Kentucky.

And if not the South, why not the Midwest? If we lock up Nevada and New Mexico and become extremely competitive to the point of winning in Arizona and Colorado, that leaves us with a lot of opportunities.

Posted by: Brian on June 21, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Howard Dean's 50-state strategy. Keep putting in decent candidates wherever you can and don't give up on anywhere and you will get victories. You got to start with good people starting good programs....It's a purple world after all.
Oh, and don't forget to fight back!

Posted by: doug r on June 21, 2006 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

How is it bigoted to equate the continuing support for the ideals of the Confederacy (as demonstrated by the continued flying of the Confederate Battle Flag) with treason and a lack of patriotism?

Posted by: Wombat on June 21, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Fembot, I wonder whether the key problem with the Democratic Part in the South is that in Southern life the church is the center of communal life.

New Yorkers ask each other, "What do you do for a living ?"

Southerners ask each other, "What church do you go to ?"

A lot of secularist Democrats viscerally loathe traditional Christianity and are absolutely convinced that Bible believing Christians are inbred idiots. That is why they absolutely despise the South. You can see that on this thread.

Guess what ? Blacks are returning to the South. I don't know whether we have reached the point yet where a majority of Blacks once again live in the South but if not we soon will. Blacks will tell you flatly that a cracker is sincere. If he likes you he'll tell you. If he doesn't like you he'll tell you. He's not two faced like a Northern liberal. Indeed you could see during the 2004 campaign how uncomfortable and out of place Kerry felt in that Black church. Clinton and Carter became nominee and president because being White Southerners they had had significant relationships with Blacks at some point in their lives. Blacks could personally trust them the way they couldn't trust Northern liberals who have never actually had a Black friend.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 21, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons I am a Democrat is because I believe that the Democratic party is a party of liberal principles.

As a Democrat and a Southerner (born in Tennessee, raised in North Carolina, educated in Massachusetts, now working and raising my daughter back in NC), I find many of the comments on this thread to be wholly contradictory to those liberal principles. I would argue that the primary goal of Democratic politicians should not be to "regain power", but rather to serve the interests of all Americans, no matter their geographic standing. Writing off large percentages of the population, or spouting the tired belief that "it's okay to abandon our principles to get into power -- we'll implement our principles once we get there", sound decidedly current-age Republican to me.

Posted by: unceph on June 21, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Don't give up on us here in the south. Even in
South Carolina there are glimmers of hope: Bush is
showing well below 50% popularity: there were even
contested primaries for seats that went uncontested
last election: for example, keep an eye on
Lee Ballenger, trying to take Lindsey Graham's old
seat from Gresham Barrett: he is a veteran, a fine
teacher, and a populist on trade issues (which goes
down well here in the ex-textile belt, believe me!)
Barrett is worthless, and I think that even in this
district we have a shot at winning. It won't be
easy, but that is how you take back the congress:
one seat at a time!

Posted by: BreadBox on June 21, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Geez, Charles Warren, how many stereotypes can you cram into one post?

Posted by: Wombat on June 21, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

"You guys sure brood over everything, don't you? A little insecure, maybe? Why is that? Why do the "tough, independent Ammuricans" of the south, sorry, The South, get so bothered about what they perceive others are saying about them?"

But "doesn't matter", we ARE the majority of the country. I realize that the Democratic Party is run largely by people who have only crossed the Hudson by air en route to LA and therefore have a completely distorted notion of what America is actually like. And are therefore constantly amazed when they keep losing.

If you want to take that attitude and whig yourselves, be my guest. After all, historically New England is where political parties go to die.

Posted by: Charles Warren on June 21, 2006 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

I think we should all realize that in the short-term Democratic Presidential candidates simply have no chance of winning any southern states other than Florida or Virginia.

In 1992, Clinton carried Arkansas, Lousiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia.

In 1996, Clinton carried all of the above except Georgia, and also carried Florida.

If it's not a close race, the Democrats might be able to write off the south without it mattering much. But if the race is remotely competitive, the Democrats would be fools to ignore the south.

Posted by: GOP on June 21, 2006 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

Christian conservatives--at least those who express little interest in the "social justice" aspect of Christianity (you know...rich man...camel...eye of needle)--do not even make up a majority of the Republican Party. And yet they seem concentrated in the South.

Posted by: Wombat on June 21, 2006 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

James E. Powell,

Racism, anti-semitism, anti-intellectualism, religious bigotry, xenophobia, rejection of science and widespread acceptance of mythology instead of history. These are the "values" that distinguish the American South,

That's it. You've got your campaign slogan right there. Good luck.

Posted by: GOP on June 21, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK


"Lee Ballenger, trying to take Lindsey Graham's old
seat from Gresham Barrett: "

Thanks BreadBox. I voted for Ballenger in the primary and followed it up with a check.

Please note that Barrett had funds to the tune of $700,000 in 2004, a hefty chunk of it from Tom DeLay.

When I inquired whether he would be joining some of his GOP brethren and donating or sending back the DeLay money, Barrett said in a letter he'd return it only if DeLay is found guilty.

If anyone reading this is in Ballenger's district (and even if you aren't!), please consider a donation.

Posted by: h on June 21, 2006 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats don't need the south to regain national power and should certainly not make any further ideological concessions. And once Democrats regain power, there should then be a concerted, systematic move to link federal project funds to tax revenuse generated.

So Democratic ideology no longer includes the redistribution of wealth through greater taxation of the rich and greater spending on the poor? When did that happen?

Posted by: GOP on June 21, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

I grew up in California but have spent the last 26 years in Nashville, TN. When I first arrived this city was still what I wouild describe as black and white. There were no other minority populations to speak of. You couldn't buy fresh tortillas anywhere. It was still a very "Southern" city that voted Democrat as a rule. There were no suburbs then, just a few smaller sattelite towns, much like those in Orange County before the population boom. The Nashville of 2006 is a different animal. We now have autoworkers who migrated down from Detroit to the Saturn plant, we have a sizable Hispanic population, along with Kurds and Vietnamese and Haitians. We have suburbs that are growing at a mega-pace as the city and the 'burbs melt together, we just lured the Nissan national headquarters away from SoCal (relocating not to Nashville proper but suburban Franklin, across the interstate from the big mall...stop me if you've heard this before). And, by the standards that I observed in 1980, we are no longer just a "Southern" city. Metropolitan Nashville went for Kerry in 2004, and is home to our Democratic Governer Phil Bredesen. Many of us are regularly embarassed by our Republican Senate Majority Leader, but it wasn't that long ago that we had two Democratic Senators, including the filmaker of note.
What I'm trying to say is places change, including the South. Atlanta is a great example. At this moment in time we've lost the region to the suburban Christian right who've sold their souls to those one-time yellow dog Democrats who were just racists underneath it all. In time that alignment will also change, hopefully. In the meantime the rest of the country can rest assured that there are some great people all across this region who surely don't deserve to have their home states "written off." Labor movements will grow, middle class people will revolt is the current policies continue, the Hispanic vote will grow stronger very quickly. The South just ain't the South that it used to be, thank God, and is changing faster than any old bastards like Roy Moore can keep up with.

Posted by: mdsand on June 21, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a Republican, so feel free to take this with a pile of salt, but I agree with mdsand: Much of the South *is* changing, in ways that favor Democrats ready, willing and able to see and respond to those changes. In much of the South, the long-term trends aren't pro-Republican Party, or at least aren't pro-this Republican Party.

Posted by: Lex on June 21, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with MDSand above. Politics is a winner takes all phenomenon here in the US. Giving up an entire region only serves to distance a party from a group of people, essentially saying: we've given uyp on you. Any party that does that is no longer looking at the good of the nation, and deserves to be defeated.

Posted by: Chris on June 21, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

The South can be won. By Democrats. But only (now) by REAL Democrats. Not by proto-Republicans.

The key is the same as in places like Montana. Build from the grassroots. Use local issues. Be genuine.

But before that process can start, the old parties may need to die back for a while.

I cover this every day in Georgia for http://www.voic.us. Come by and check it out.

Posted by: Dana Blankenhorn on June 21, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Democrats can win without the South"

Of course. Gore did it. Kerry did it.
.

Posted by: VJ on June 21, 2006 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

"who here is packin a banjo?"

Posted by: Inbred on the porch on June 21, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

As someone who lives in rural VA, I really resent the comments which tag me as being somehow subhuman. I love this state and its people, even as I think that the majority is clueless on the issues.

Those of us who live "down South" yet vote Democrat (or mostly) feel abandoned by the party's big wheels already; we don't need net-root's casual and ill-informed contempt as well.

Dean is _exactly right_ in directing the support money accross the country, not just to the "reasonable battlefields"; all the siege mentality (defend what we have) does to the South is alienate more and more ordinary voters, who are _not_ all fueled by racial and religious hatreds, as those of you in the true-blue states and DC seem to believe.

We all -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- like our candidates to be driven by personal ethics, for example:
don't cheat -- whether it's on your spouse(B.Clinton, McCain, Gingrich), your constituency or your country. When you make a promise/take an oath, treat it as a binding one.
be responsible -- DUI (G.W.Bush, P. Kennedy) is not responsible behaviour; how can we trust you to be responsible in office, if you're not responsible in your everyday life?
"honor" is not just a word in a dictionary, or some oddball, quiant concept -- don't speak out of both sides of your mouth depending on the audience. Show some _moral backbone_, even if you think it'll lose you votes. If you don't, it'll sure as sure lose you _my_ vote (however little it may count for. OTOH.. Pennies add to dollars, no?)

I'm an "imported citizen" (naturalized), white, female, atheist and liberal (see nothing wrong with the word, since it has it's roots in "freedom"; not my fault that so many Republicans don't care for Latin). I live in the South, but I don't vote by rote/party affiliation; I vote by head and heart. Which, most of the time, happens to be on the Democratic side.

But I tell you straight off that, while I'd never vote for Allen, if DINO Lieberman ran in VA, I'd rather vote for Warner; he may be a Republican, but he's no prostitute.


Posted by: libra on June 21, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

economic populism -- Yeah, sure. That's a winning strategy. Just look at the economic juggernaut that is Michigan.

Bruce Mawmaw,
You mean piss ant states that vote Dem (NH, VT, CT, MA, ME and RI) are more important than piss ant states that vote R (CO, WY, UT, MT, SD, ND, etc.) ?
Your bias is showing. Wipe your chin.

KD,
Good luck trying to figure out the politics of the South from Cali.
Or rural regions generally from LA.
*snicker*

Posted by: Birkel on June 21, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Some high schools in Georgia still have segregated high school proms. Blacks and whites and even Hispanics are directed to a prom exclusively and only for their kind. Schools attempting to reject this practice have seen white parents create a "private prom" theoretically seperate from the school and attended by invitation only. Invitations only extended to whites that is. Pretty much tells you all you need to know about the American South.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 21, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

"In the North, the big big Dem cities swamp these people out. In the South, the exurbs dominate the political landscape. The Dems need to ask themselves not how to appeal to really rural folk, but rather to the southern suburbs."

Very true--and this was definitely the experience in the Kaine campaign. Election night, watching the returns come in from the exurbs of NoVa and all the other major cities across the commonwealth--was incredible. We couldn't believe how well Kaine did. The suburbs and the exurbs are where the votes are at.

Somebody needs to tell Mudcat that rural America is changing; the Confederacy is so very over; it's all one, big strip mall with the same video stores and fast food places like practically every other place in America. And EVERYBODY worries about the dammed traffic. A lot of these poor sods in the exurbs are traveling tremendous distances to work.

I should add that Kaine ran against a guy who really shot himself in the foot--multiple times. Started with a 10 point lead, went for the wedge issue (death penalty) and lost with Kaine having a 7 point lead. It was lovely. Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy--and I mean both of them. Good times. Good times.

Posted by: LAS on June 21, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

I think we'd have a better chance of winning the south without pandering to them. Phoney goose hunting trips just look pathetic.


But --if southerners are so alien they will never appreciate our virtues, is it not clear they are really another country, and we really should not try living together?

Posted by: cld on June 21, 2006 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think that there is a single strategy that
will win in every seat in the country. In some
places economic populism really will cause people
to take a second look --- in others, it won't.
There will be real debates on issues like this in
the future, and I doubt that we will ever see the
Democratic party in lockstep behind a truly complex
issue in the way that we have seen the Rs in step
behind Bush.
Economic populism is such an issue: losing jobs to
overseas is a serious problem, fair trade is a
serious issue (and one on which both parties need
to learn a lot, in my opinion).

I would rather see the Democratic party have an
overall political philosophy which informed its
decisions (centered around ideas such as fairness,
openness, inclusion) rather than a lockstep party
which insists that individuals need to agree on
X, Y, Z and ABC in order to be a part of the
ruling class.... even if I agree with X, Y and
ABC.

Posted by: BreadBox on June 21, 2006 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty much tells you all you need to know about the American South.

Translation: "Pretty much tells me all I want to know about the American South."

Posted by: GOP on June 21, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

cld,
One person's virtue is another person's vice. Think about it.

steve duncan,
Yeah. I'm just glad the largest race riots in the country happened in Boston. And then there's Watts. And Detroit. You might want to get that log out of yours first...

LAS,
Sounds like you've got a grip on the political landscape. Help your fellow travelers. They're lost in the wilderness.

Posted by: Birkel on June 21, 2006 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

So Democratic ideology no longer includes the redistribution of wealth through greater taxation of the rich and greater spending on the poor? When did that happen?

Red states believe people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Maybe they should see what it actually feels like. Ending the diversion of federal funds toward the states of ranking senate majority members (and the congressional districts of key majority committee members) would be a start. Currently having a Republican congressman is worth on average 600 million more than having a democratic congressman. When the democrats were last in control, they had a 30 million dollar edge. Kevin had a few rants about this a while ago.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2003_09/002155.php

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2003_09/002175.php

Posted by: B on June 21, 2006 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Birkel,

Hard work, success, creativity, freedom, justice, health, safety are vices in the south?

Every advance in all these areas in the last two hundred years of our country stems from the north, and, explicitly, from the blue states.

In every case the south led the attempt to impede these things.

The south has given us much maudlin music about resignation to toil. This isn't success, or hard work, it's just failure.

Posted by: cld on June 21, 2006 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Democrats should try to regain the South! What a bunch of losers to even consider giving up on the South! Are we a national party? Do we fight for what matters? Are we trying to have a government of, by and for the people? Or are we a party for the special interests, just as the wingers claim???

Consider what has happened here in poor old progressive MN. We were targeted about 20 years ago by conservatives who saw MN as the best possible victory trophy they could win. They set up think tanks here in progressive land and started grooming candidates. They formed links with allies on the ground. They imported operatives and purchased air time. They poured money into campaigns. They agitated against high taxes until Minnesotans began to think they were suckers to put up with it. The Democrats, meanwhile, had their heads in a paper bag: they keep responding to the threat by doing same-old, same-old.

We now have a Republican governor who has done his best to give opportunities to Bushistas. We have a carefully groomed Bush poodle as our Republican senator. The liberal Minneapolis newspaper has hired a conservative operative to write a column since they couldn't find any journalists conservative enough for the base. The Republican party in MN is second only to the Texas Republican party in wacko-looney policies. It's a nightmare, really. We're watching poor old Minnesota trend red. We're becoming an icebox Mississippi.

The Democrats need to target the reddest of the red. In 20 years, we want Texas to have a Democratic governor and at least one Democratic senator. Figure it out and fight for it.

And if the Democrats could win back MN in the process, we'd be grateful.

Posted by: PTate in MN on June 21, 2006 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Long term - watch what happens with the Latino voting base in the South. Orange County all over again. It'll transform politics down there, just like it is in the Southwest

Posted by: Fairfaxian on June 21, 2006 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's time we just give people what they want. Let's split the country into 4 pieces, and let each of them go their own way.

Just no nukes for the New South, ok? Remember, theocracy + nukes = bad.

Posted by: craigie on June 21, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

What's this four pieces business? I've had it with Californians drawing my maps for me. Back off, craigie!

Posted by: shortstop on June 21, 2006 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

I think two pieces is enough, but, you know, the Confederacy would never hold together.

Posted by: cld on June 21, 2006 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

Attacking into their strength in the south is not implausible, everything the Republicans have ever said about anything has been fraudulent and people are now largely willing to listen to people who talk about this.

The point is to address the enemy for what and who they are --Republicans. They're the issue, who they are, and who they aren't.

Posted by: cld on June 21, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

I would argue that the primary goal of Democratic politicians should not be to "regain power", but rather to serve the interests of all Americans, no matter their geographic standing.

I'm sure you'd also argue that Stephen Hawking should be a running back.

Southerners ask each other, "What church do you go to ?"

And then shun you if you give the 'wrong' answer? No? That's no more of a clich than yours.

A lot of secularist Democrats viscerally loathe traditional Christianity and are absolutely convinced that Bible believing Christians are inbred idiots.

A lot of religious Democrats in the south viscerally loathe the exclusionist pulpits manned by bigoted gobshites who drown out every fucker else. Oh, and hog the radio spectrum, too. If you're a Catholic or Episcopalian candidate in certain districts, you're the wrong sort of people. God forbid if you're one of those Joooos.

Yes, the South is changing. But state and national districting continues to warp the demographic shifts: Democrat-leaning college towns are wrapped with conservative rural counties.

Posted by: ahem on June 21, 2006 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

I love it when Drum does one of his "aren't southerners/Republicans racist?" entries. Reading the comments drives home the reason why people stopped voting Democratic & why there are celebrations in Democrat land when they lose by a small margin (you know, losers & all).

Democrats can win in the south. Arrogant, sniveling & condescending liberal Democrats have trouble in the south. And nationwide.

As a Republican, I heartily hope that you guys continue to be clueless about this & keep up the Dixie Chick campaign of assuming that you're better than everyone else, even as you continue to lose.

Posted by: RW on June 21, 2006 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Should Democrats try to reclaim the South, or should they just give up on the whole region and try to build an electoral majority elsewhere?

As a Southern liberal, I would like to point out that it appears to me that the Democratic party has given up on the South already, and it has been that way for some time.

Posted by: Peeved Chemist on June 21, 2006 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think you contest the South, but you don't do it by the now-standard tactic of saying "me too!" as in, "hey, I hate fags too! Just in a cuddly, inclusive kind of way."

If it were me, I'd say "if you think fags and flags are the biggest problems in this country, don't vote for me. Because I think there are a lot more important things to do." etc

Oh, and a little smarts would help, vis a vis splitting the hard core right wing conservaloonies from the merely tax-averse. Democrats can appeal to the "leave me alone" party, especially compared to the Big Brother, Who-Are-You-Sleeping-With party.

Posted by: craigie on June 21, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Arrogant, sniveling & condescending liberal Democrats have trouble in the south.

Arrogant and sniveling Democrats, such as some of the posters above in this thread, will certainly have trouble in the South.

Liberal Democrats? Maybe not - provided they make it clear exactly what they stand for. Do they stand for funding public schools, or do they stand for funneling tax money via vouchers to private schools for rich kids? Do they stand for inexpensive universal healthcare, or do they stand for keeping the current system of out-of-control health insurance costs, nearly-impossible-to-see doctors, and obscenely expensive prescription drugs?

Southerners do care about these things, yet the Democratic Party seems to have forgotten how to speak up down here.

Posted by: Peeved Chemist on June 22, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Leftists should concentrate on smaller areas where they can appeal to a majority, like urban and other demographic areas that demonstrate opportunity. As a region and state strategy, the opportunity cost in both dollars and compromised policy are too high politically. Perhaps a populist type could move the South left, but I doubt it.

Posted by: Hostile on June 22, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Dear god, get this,

http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/2006/06/paranoia-anyone.html

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and a little smarts would help, vis a vis splitting the hard core right wing conservaloonies from the merely tax-averse. Democrats can appeal to the "leave me alone" party, especially compared to the Big Brother, Who-Are-You-Sleeping-With party.

Was totally with you in this line of thinking, craigoli, until the past five years convinced me that the "leave me alone" party will put up with no end of outrages if their tax bill is a few hundred bucks lower. None of these folks has stood against Bush until now, when it's obvious that doing so will line them up with the next generation of Republican candidates (read: more reasonable and moderate sounding, still jackasses).

But I agree with you and Peeved Chemist. It's time to talk about the stuff people are more than ready to hear and actually care about, pointing out at the same time that the best the GOP can come up with is fags and flags to distract from its lack of interest in real families' concerns.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

Saunders very livelihood requires him to peddle fictions like the notion that rural, white, Christian, noncollege-educated, married male voters

I'm sure that Schaller's livelihood has nothing to do with promoting the idea that the Democratic Party should appeal to suburban whites, right? What a hypocritical prick.

Posted by: Drew on June 22, 2006 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

Charles Warren et al are right: for one thing, there is a lot of "the South" in other key states. SE Ohio is culturally conservative yet traditionally Democratic. The cities and inner suburbs aren't enough; if you can't field candidates who will do respectably among exurban and rural voters you will lose a state like Ohio. One can't and shouldn't pander on every wedge issue, but a disregard for the culture of these regions and a failure to respect and relate to them is political suicide. For years Democrats in Ohio made the mistake of running candidates who had won grudging approval from within the various Cleveland area Dem interest groups (or hapless ones who were foisted on the state party by powerful unions). The hope was always that the candidates could do just well enough in Columbus and other cities (other than conservative Cincinnati) and be carried over the top by massive turnout in NE Ohio. It never happened. Meanwhile Ohio Replublicans were often smart enough to choose/reward candidates who had built up name recognition and waited their turn, and hailed from areas outside of the GOP base in Cincy. Lots of statewide GOP officeholders have hailed from Cleveland etc.

Finally, Ohio Dems, after almost sixteen years of being shut out of power, and having witnessed massive GOP corruption, have an advantageous environment in which to pick up offices. They might've blown it again though with more poor candidate recruitment. But they'll win the governorship for sure this Fall because they're running a moderate, populist Dem from Southern Ohio, Ted Strickland. Strickland picked up his lower-income, socially conservative Southern Ohio Congressional seat from a right-wing conservative, and has basically made it his own, partly by being himself, and partly by acknowledging and supporting his district's values. He's an ordained minister, and a civil libertarian, who's melded his beliefs to the district's by speaking respecfully of people's faith, their opposition for gun control etc. And he's generally acted as an econmomic populist who can appeal to the more practical concerns of his consituents.

It don't know whether we'll again get to see Paul Hackett's brand of no-holds-barred, macho liberalism tested in red SW Ohio, or statewide, but these are the types of candidates Democrats need to run inside of the coasts. (Claire McCaskill and Stephanie Herseth are other examples). In other words, candidates who are truly of and for the regions they hope to represent. People who know their own mind, can speak firmly and directly, and reconcile core Democratic values to local values.

Posted by: Evan Oakley on June 22, 2006 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

I would suggest that to increase their percentage of the vote in the South (and elsewhere) that it would be easier to change the mind of centrist WOMEN. Maybe even evangelical women. I would hope that the Democratic policies, i.e. minimum wage, universal health, education, Iraq et al., really appeal to WOMEN/MOTHERS and their minds can be changed. Nascar dads are neandrathals and time and money is much better spent speaking to WOMEN/MOTHERS. Remember it is a secret ballot!! The WOMEN/MOTHERS can say one thing and do another in the polling both.

Posted by: worldserious on June 22, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

shorty, you may be right. I was reliving old memories with the Cheney-shoots-old-guy-in-the-face thread, and what struck me was the total cartoon dishonesty of tbrosz. The passage of time somehow made it stand out all the more.

But still... didn't Digby have a post about libertarians and democrats? Or was that Josh? Anyway, given that the GOP is demonstrably much worse at controlling spending than any Democratic administration, I cling to the belief that this case can be made. Call me an old romantic. No, really, go ahead - I can take it.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

As an ohio born liberal now living in the South, I am amazed at the generalizations thrown about here. I thought you guys were smarter then that.

Some communities do seem to relish living, but most don't. I see progress here and there are many battles to fight.

The missing ingredient is leadership

Posted by: Keith G on June 22, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

As an ohio born liberal now living in the South, I am amazed at the generalizations thrown about here. I thought you guys were smarter then that.

Some communities do seem to relish living the stereotype, but most don't. I see progress here and there are many battles to fight.

The missing ingredient is leadership

Posted by: Keith G on June 22, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

sorry about the repeated post.

Posted by: Keith G on June 22, 2006 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Red states believe people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Er, PAC's claim was that Democrats should not "make any further ideological concessions" but also should make "a concerted, systematic move to link federal project funds to tax revenuse generated." So is redistributing wealth from rich states (like California) to poor states (like Mississippi) part of Democratic ideology, or isn't it?

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

Keith G, Some communities do seem to relish living, but most don't.


What do you mean?

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

I was reliving old memories with the Cheney-shoots-old-guy-in-the-face thread

Those were teh days, my friend. Funniest thread ever, largely thanks to you and Stefan. Oh, and Will Allen's temper tantrums.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for fixing that, Keith G. I was wondering just which communities were part of the Culture of Death!

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

GOP,

Is redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor Republican ideology, or isn't it?

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

The Democratic Party will never win in the "red states" by trying to dissect the stereotypes.

Republicans have been winning because they get all up in your face with their crap, and they don't back down. People ADMIRE them for that, nothwithstanding the substance of their policies.

I'm sure this point was made better above, but all Dems need to do to win is to show (or, better, HAVE) some effing conviction, because the angels are on their side, if they would only join the battle in earnest.

Contrary to Yankee rumor, people in the South are people, and they want to be on the side of Right (as distinct from "The Right"). Democrats have done a poor job lately of standing for anything, and the kind of political onanism exemplified by this whole thread just perpetuates the problem.

"Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."
~ Harry S. Truman (Southern Democrat)

Posted by: de Selby on June 22, 2006 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Second, I'd argue that since there are ever more former Blue Staters entering the South, it pays to have a healthy party apparatus to register and engage them and credible, regionally attractive candidates to energize them without polarizing the rest of the voting public or further engraining caricatures of Dems. Over the mid-longterm, these transplants, combined with legal immigrants will improve the demographic picture for Dems. But in order to actually pick up seats and offices it must be respectable for the good ol' boys and girls to vote D.

Writing off what some mistakenly consider a discrete geographic region is a juvenile fanstasy that 1) further cements a popular perception of coastal elites and 2) directly furthers the GOP cause in the South and a wide variety of swing states.

Posted by: Evan Oakley on June 22, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

Second, I'd argue that since there are ever more former Blue Staters entering the South,

I can tell you that my work has taken me to Texas many many times, and I've talked to a lot of liberals who have transplanted there by their jobs. I think it's great - it's definitely taking the cause to enemy territory. Now if we could just get them to breed...

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

cld,

Is redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor Republican ideology, or isn't it?

To some extent, but not nearly as much as it is Democratic ideology.

Do you agree with PAC that the Democrats should make a "concerted, systematic move to link federal project funds to tax revenuse generated?" Do you think rich states like California should be able to keep more of their tax revenues for projects within their own states, and not have to give so much to fund projects in poor states like Mississippi?

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

I can't decide- Are you people unaware of how distasteful this kind of rhetoric is, even for southern liberals, or do you simply not care? PTate in MN is right. We shouldn't be looking for one narrow election victory. We need to reinvent the Democratic Party in a way that will bring us to every state.

We southern Liberals are feeling lonely, ignored, and more than a little mad. It's not just what Bush is doing that's frustrating; it's what the Democratic party isn't doing too.

Posted by: Zeke in NC on June 22, 2006 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Peeved,

Arrogant and sniveling Democrats, such as some of the posters above in this thread, will certainly have trouble in the South.

Don't be ridiculous. Hurling vicious insults ("poisonous, bigoted, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic and anti-intellectual stew of humanity") at the very people whose votes you need is obviously a winning political strategy. Just ask steve duncan.

Liberal Democrats? Maybe not - provided they make it clear exactly what they stand for. Do they stand for funding public schools, or do they stand for funneling tax money via vouchers to private schools for rich kids? Do they stand for inexpensive universal healthcare, or do they stand for keeping the current system of out-of-control health insurance costs, nearly-impossible-to-see doctors, and obscenely expensive prescription drugs?

The south is still poorer than the north, so an economic-populist agenda might get some traction. But then there are all those pesky social issues--gay rights, abortion, church and state, criminal justice, etc., etc.--on which liberal and southern values mix about as well as oil and water. You've got your work cut out for you.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

GOOPer, I'm reluctant to wade into your bog, but...

I think the point is this: redistributing income from rich states to poor ones should be a good idea, because we are all Americans and we should be interested in the welfare of the whole country.

However, if the recipients of this aid spend most of their time demonizing the people who generate it, then maybe those people might feel like not bothering to help.

The analogy to rich vs poor falls down at this point, because nobody is saying "thank you for your tax money, Bill Gates, I hope you go to hell." That's the difference.

Feel free to mischaracterize my post as your needs require.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

A few thousand more votes in the right one or two states, and Gore and Kerry would have become the first Presidential candidates since Calvin Coolidge -- and the first Democrats ever -- to win without taking a single, solitary Confederate state.

And with the right conditions (one of them being the candidate is not named Hillary) the Democrats could conceivably do just that in 2008. Beyond that, though, it becomes more difficult, as the South's electoral vote increases from its population growth in the 2010 census.

Can Democrats win in the South? Sure, by using the same strategy the Dems need to reclaim much of the Midwest -- show voters they're part of the party.

PTate's comments about Minnesota hit home. For decades, that was one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country, bringing us the likes of Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Walter Mondale. What happened? That wing of the party lost influence after 1968, as the coastal Democrats, dominated by Cambridge and Hollywood, took over and changed the party's focus from economic to cultural issues. (Roe v. Wade helped hasten this change.) No wonder many Minnesotans and other midwesterners lost their zeal for the party...it didn't really speak for them anymore, especially on matters of the pocketbook.

Only in times of flux, where the Dem elite didn't unite behind a favorite, did a candidate not part of that milieu be dominated, and both were southerners (Carter and Clinton). Ignoring Gore in 2000, who more or less had the nomination in the bag as a sitting veep, in the past 20 years the party's other candidates were Dukakis and Kerry, both from Massachusetts and easy to paint with the tweedy elitist brush.

I want the Democrats to be a national party, and regardless how passionately I feel about social issues (I'm pro-gun control, but anti-abortion and anti-death penalty), I'd rather focus on issues that relate more to governance, such as education and the increasing income gap between rich and poor.

While many Democratic bosses cringe at the word "populism" (which is not synonymous with demagoguery), it's the only way the party can regain the South -- and with it electoral votes and more votes in the House. But if the Democrats continue to be perceived as pawns of the Ivy League and chattering classes, the Republicans (many of whom belong to such subgroups themselves) will continue to win elections.

Posted by: Vincent on June 22, 2006 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

craigie,

GOOPer, I'm reluctant to wade into your bog, but...

Oh, go on, craigalicious. Roll around in it naked and unashamed. You know you want to.

I think the point is this: redistributing income from rich states to poor ones should be a good idea, because we are all Americans and we should be interested in the welfare of the whole country.

Then you disagree with PAC that Democrats should do less of this, do you?

However, if the recipients of this aid spend most of their time demonizing the people who generate it,

I don't see any demonizing of rich northerners by poor southerners going on here. I do see a whole lot of demonizing of southerners en masse by vicious, arrogant liberals.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

But if the Democrats continue to be perceived as pawns of the Ivy League and chattering classes, the Republicans (many of whom belong to such subgroups themselves) will continue to win elections.

Your whole post is on target, but this part makes me sit up straight. Because while it contains some truth, it also sails right past something else. Sure, nominating people like Kerry makes it easy to characature the Democratic candidate. But the fact is, that would happen anyway.

If Jesus himself came down and ran as a Democrat, the national conversation, as controlled by the conservatarians, would immediately brand him as an elitist and a far-left crazy person. That's just what they do, because they control the dialog and because it works.

And the dog that isn't barking in all this is the unstated assumption that the only way to get the South to go along is to run a Southerner. It annoys me because this means that in essence, there is no national election - just an election to appeal to the South. That can't be good for the country as a whole - and it hasn't been.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

The South will never support the Democrats so long as they are run by anti-war loons like Kennedy, Murtha, and Dean.

Kevin, don't you realize the Dems will pay a political price for all the obsession about Gitmo and torture claims and non-stop whining about how our troops bungled this or that operation.

Posted by: Down goes Frazier on June 22, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Mary Landrieu is no Russ Feingold, but she's a hell of a lot better than the two wingnuts she beat; in the house, Charlie Melancon just voted to allow W to keep on breaking the FISA law, but he too is head and shoulders above Tauzin whose seat he now holds.
There are other races besides the presidential one, and we have to keep fighting for the down-ticket places. So, yea, the 50 state policy is well worth the effort.

Posted by: Brian Boru on June 22, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

I was at that session, Kevin; Schaller brought a lot of facts to back up his arguments; Mudcat brought only invective. I personally don't think we should _entirely_ give up on the South - I approve of Dean's 50-state strategy - but I think we need to know how to win without it.

Good for a laugh.

Posted by: Carl Manaster on June 22, 2006 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

Then you disagree with PAC that Democrats should do less of this, do you?

Yes. There, do I win something?

I don't see any demonizing of rich northerners by poor southerners going on here.

If by "here" you mean in this thread, then you're right. But if by "here" you mean in the USA, then you're wrong.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

We'll never be truly free until the last preist is strangled with the intestines of the last politician.

A pox on both their houses.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

If Jesus himself came down and ran as a Democrat, the national conversation, as controlled by the conservatarians, would immediately brand him as an elitist and a far-left crazy person.

I think pretty much everyone would immediately brand him as crazy. "Sell all your possessions and come follow me." "If your neighbor hits you, turn the other cheek." It's not exactly the platform election victories are made of.

Oh, and also--Jesus doesn't want you to drive an SUV. I know this because a group of liberal Christian clergy took out full-page newspaper ads telling me so a couple of years ago.

But wait. I must have been imagining that last thing. Because the national conversation is "controlled by the conservatarians."

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

GOP, your mixing apples and rotten oranges.

We are not in favor of redistributing federal tax dollars to Trent Lott's corporate buddies in Mississippi, paying for him to build a grand new house on the coast, or large transportation earmarks to ensure large campaign donations to Wicker and Pickering from Abramoff's clients.

We are in favor of a progressive national tax plan and federal spending based upon the actual needs of communities. This isn't what is happening right now.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

Yes. There, do I win something?

Two tickets to see Noam Chomsky's new lecture at the 92nd St Y, "Why America is Evil and Must Be Destroyed."

If by "here" you mean in this thread, then you're right. But if by "here" you mean in the USA, then you're wrong.

But you want to keep subsidizing them anyway. So I guess this alleged "demonizing" isn't such a big deal after all.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

"All the issues Democrats like to run on--education, the environment, the deficit, energy independence--would be vastly more powerful if united under a single theme. Clean up your mess. Take care of your children. Pay your debts. Stand on your own two feet. It all comes down to responsibility.

The Democrat who talks this way most naturally is John Edwards. (I know, I've got to stop advertising for him.) He's the one who frames every issue in terms of values. He's the one who argued during the presidential primaries that Republicans were favoring unearned wealth over work. He's the one who connected Republican tax policies to make the point. You don't have to teach him the language, because he learned it growing up in one of those red states"

source

Th red states can be won but the issues we care about need to be put in terms they understand. Framing people.

Posted by: Bill on June 22, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats OUGHT to set their sights on capturing the South. They can do it too. They have to earn the trust of rural, conservative, and christian voters. They earn the trust by giving up their contract with capitalism. Capitalism does not wear a pinstripe suit. Capitalism is a cloven-hooved beast of burden that must be jacked back into its harness to obey the orders of its master - the people. Militarism must be jacked back into the other harness. If the Democrats can manage this, routing all of the corruption out of Washington, then they are on their way to earning the trust of rural, conservative, and christian voters. There's more work - these voters must be convinced that we can have peace between races and cultures, and that we can have health and prosperity on 15 hour work weeks as J.M. Keynes suggested. So another task of the Democrats is to illustrate the benefits of individuals joining in to boycott capital, and build their self-sufficiency, their local economies and truly efficient and clean industries. Everyone is open to better ideas, but who's delivering? Why aren't the Dems pointing out such facts as the one that it takes 1.25 gal of gasoline to make a gallon, and only 0.3 gal. of biodiesel to make a gallon? We have similar extreme levels of waste in MOST industries. The result is massive price inflation and man and wife each working 60-hour weeks to barely make ends meet. Apples should cost a penny but they cost 50 cents. The other 49 cents go to pay the salaries of liberal doctors and lawyers who think they earned it! What a circus! Americans are not going to vote for either a Democrat or a Repubican until someone busts the chains of this slavery, the militarist skulduggery, and the rest. Southerners are so massively lost in the capitalist/militarist propaganda quicksand- and the rest are not much better off. Democrats can Enlighten the people - and earn their trust and their vote - or not. Which will it be?

Posted by: rtdrury on June 22, 2006 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

But you want to keep subsidizing them anyway. So I guess this alleged "demonizing" isn't such a big deal after all.

You know, all this eye rolling is really starting to give me a headache.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

"Contrary to Yankee rumor, people in the South are people, and they want to be on the side of Right."

I guess they just need to bone up on their critical thinking skills...

Posted by: PAC on June 22, 2006 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

The bigotry displayed by some "Democrats" here & in similar threads is breathtaking. I assume many of the posters putting it out are Republican ringers. It's been an effective strategy.

If you can convince a group of voters that the other Party thinks they don't even matter as people then they won't really hear what that Party has to say. That's the main problem Dems have in the South because it's the first problem. After "you're a subhuman knuckledragging cracker", being on the right side of The Issues doesn't even get a chance to come up.

strt

Posted by: strt on June 22, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

Do you think rich states like California should be able to keep more of their tax revenues for projects within their own states, and not have to give so much to fund projects in poor states like Mississippi?

ABSOLUTELY! And then use the advantage to consolidate power over the long term so that the ignorant, uneducated, homophobic, bible-thumping, southern jack asses don't ever have any leverage when it comes to filling Supreme Court vacancies, or altering the constitution, or assisting with family planning worldwide, and on and on and on... Political scabs like Trent Lott or Lindsay Graham or Kate Baily Hutchinson or any number of the republican goober senators would haven't a prayer of a chance outside of the dumb fuck south.

Posted by: PAC on June 22, 2006 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

I agree. We need to isolate the south then attack it from all sides and that means building majorities where there is less resistance, such as the mountain west and south west (sans Idaho and Utah)

Posted by: MNPundit on June 22, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

"
We tend to forget that the Republicans were persona non grata in the South until not that long ago. They didn't give up, and neither should the Dems.
"

And they won the South by becoming racists --- party of Lincoln my ass. That's Kevin's point --- not winning, but winning while retaining your soul.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on June 22, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'd say, undercut the old concept that the South is definable by 1860 boundaries. Go after states that are and will continue to be impacted most by boomer sunbelt migration: Virginia and Florida definitely. Longer term, North Carolina, Texas and Missouri may be worth the effort.

Where the 50 state strategy is most important is not in Presidential elections, but in governorships. That maintains a check on the power to redistrict, which repercussion becomes obvious in Congressional makeups.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on June 22, 2006 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

OK, so an example of how the South is changing.

Heath Shuler is running for Congress from his home district in North Carolina AS A DEMOCRAT. When I first heard this, I was stunned. I would never have pegged him for a Democrat. He comes across as rural, though not a cracker, and, as Molly Ivins would say, a "bidnessman", both strong markers for Republicanism in these parts. I don't know how Blue Dog he'll be, but he's actually starting a political career as a Democrat in the South. Not something you see all that often these days. And the word is, he stands a decent chance of winning.

His district is not exactly urban Charlotte, either. While the district does include solidly liberal Asheville, the rest of the area is very rural and mountainous. In fact, it's the home of Eric Rudolph and all the people who helped him hide. It voted 58% Bush to 40% Gore in 2000.

But here's the thing. It's also an area which has seen a large increase in its population of retired Northerners, many of whom brought their liberal leanings with them. There are other demographic changes which will have more impact in the future (including the same tiny, but fast growing, Hispanic population you see in pockets all over the South).

Now, the incumbent is a sleezebag and Shuler is the hometown hero, but that's not always enough to overcome partisanship. But maybe the district has changed just enough to make the difference in this election. The latest polls have Shuler with 45% to Taylor's 43%.

Posted by: mw on June 22, 2006 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

well, the claim that "the Democrats can win without the South" begs the question: win what? maybe nationl elections in the short term at best. this is fine for reshaping our foriegn policy, but there are, y'know, people, poor people, living in the "nation's poorest region" who I think deserve as much liberal and progressive ingterventon as we can muster for them. Certainly, writing them off doesn't speak well of any claim to a higher moral ground or real commitment to progressive agenda, and as a short term strategy it just amounts to kicking the can down the road. Even with a Democratic presidency, federal programs are implemented (or misimplemtned) on the state and local level, and any hope of making a real difference in people's lives, the kind that it takes to bring people across party and ideological lines, depends on not only that implementation, but it also depends on having Democratic organizations and constituencies in Southern communities.

People on the right insist that the failure of many of Johnson's Great Society programs proves that this kind of federal intervention is inherently flawed. that's bullshit. What it proves is that these programs can be usurped, corrupted and sabotaged by state and local authorities, whether it's in Mississippi or Chicago.

Really, the fact that we even talk about this in terms of "strategy" instead of how we, as a party can do better (morally and practically) for all the people in the South (not just the caricatures) is not only a little offensive, it's also bad strategy.

And, last itme I checked, there was plenty of racism and poverty spread out throughout the US, and talking about it as a peculiarly Southern phenomenon shows real ignorance. There are also plenty of suburban and exurban voters in the South, as well as women and minorities.

I know that, as someone said above, this is only going to have a chance to work when Southerners see prgressive ideas and progressive candidates coming out of their own communities. this means that the national party needs to support local candidates in the Slouthern states. That means losing some elections there for a while, but it also means joining the conversation in a more meaningful and, ultimately effective way than trying to become Republican lite on a national level, or accepting the Republican caricature of the Democaratic party.

Posted by: URK on June 22, 2006 at 3:57 AM | PERMALINK

Quit trying to "win the south" and maybe the will start voting for you.

Posted by: aaron on June 22, 2006 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

Charles Warren:

Win without Dixie? Most of exurban America is just like Dixie. If you can't carry Dixie you're not going to carry Lancaster County, PA.


Charles once again takes remarkable liberties with evidence to shoehorn any discussion into his dial-a-rant about the Democratic Party.

Since 1960 the only Democrat to win Lancaster County, PA is Lyndon Johnson, which demonstrates that a Democrat can take Lancaster if he manages to win 60%+ of the popular vote. By which point he won't need Lancaster!

Since Johnson, Clinton won Georgia in a three-way race, and favorite-son Carter won twice. Both contingent flooks.

So not only don't Democrats "need" Georgia or Lancaster County, a focus on winning either seems to miss the point.

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 22, 2006 at 5:01 AM | PERMALINK

Now, the incumbent is a sleezebag and Shuler is the hometown hero, but that's not always enough to overcome partisanship. But maybe the district has changed just enough to make the difference in this election. The latest polls have Shuler with 45% to Taylor's 43%.

It's a stealth campaign right now. Wait for Chainsaw Charlie to start his cheap attack ads, as he always does. What may bring down the incumbent millionaire is his connection to the Interior Dept Appropriations Subcommittee: that is, Abramoff central. So if there's sleaze to be thrown, there's plenty to go back in his face.

The problem Shuler faces is whether he can motivate the genuinely liberal population of Asheville to vote for him, when he's run his campaign out of Waynesville and seems to be doing his best to avoid being associated with all those durned granola-eating meditation-loving homos. I stereotype, but that's the districting problem that comes from trying to get votes in Eric Rudolph country.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc on June 22, 2006 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

AS someone raised in the South (albeit a big city: Lousiville, KY), /I/ think it's time to speak truth to the little people who've been led around by bullshit hyper-religious/nationalistic/racist politicking for years. A non-Southerner could campaign in the South and talk honest truth to them, such as:
1) Don't you know some decent, kind, hard-working homosexuals? Why don't we live and let live? Sure, you can bring down the hounds of hell if they mess with your kids, but that's rare. And if you're Christian, didn't Christ receive everyone? How about you?
2) The "boss" ain't agonna take care of you. He's been shorting your pay, telling you how scoialized this that and the other is bad for your soul, shut up and take the small payckeck and no benefits worth talking about for years. Now your jobs are going to China. Are you ready to take back the workplace and demand a decent paycheck and benefits?
3) etc.

DON't pander to them, slap them upside the head with how they've been cheated and lied to and sold down the river.

Posted by: Stewart Dean on June 22, 2006 at 6:47 AM | PERMALINK

craigie: I can tell you that my work has taken me to Texas many many times, and I've talked to a lot of liberals who have transplanted there by their jobs. I think it's great - it's definitely taking the cause to enemy territory. Now if we could just get them to breed...

I've been waiting for just the right cause to come along. I think the Texas Breeding Program for Transplated Blue Staters could be just the thing.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 6:53 AM | PERMALINK

um, transplanted, not transplated. Although that could be funny, too.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 6:58 AM | PERMALINK


SHORTSTOP: I've been waiting for just the right cause to come along. I think the Texas Breeding Program for Transplated Blue Staters could be just the thing.

As someone who is soon to be reluctantly transplanted, I'd be interested in hearing more about this program. Is there a fee involved? No, that'd be illegal, right?


Posted by: jayarbee on June 22, 2006 at 7:01 AM | PERMALINK

The South was strongly in the D column until Nixon's "Southern Strategy" of divide and divide became so successful. Until the south starts the second civil war in the Terrified States of America we better work hard to get the south back in the fold. Whats truly sickening is that the bulk of the people in the south who are such fervent supporters of Bush on non-issues like abortion and gay marriage receive absolutely NO benefit from his programs or policies. All the south is doing is contributing its children to die in Iraqnam for Bush's lies. I can imagine that the south is in dire need of a boost in the minimum wage. Yesterday the Repugnicans of which Bush is the leader, squashed the latest attempt to increase the living standards of people in the south. But at least they didn't let gays marry....they will be happy for that.

Posted by: Craig on June 22, 2006 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK

jayarbee: As someone who is soon to be reluctantly transplanted, I'd be interested in hearing more about this program. Is there a fee involved? No, that'd be illegal, right?

Well, I haven't thought through the details. All I know is that transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes is still on the statute books.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 7:12 AM | PERMALINK


SHORTSTOP: Well, I haven't thought through the details. All I know is that transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes is still on the statute books.

Breeding is immoral?


Posted by: jayarbee on June 22, 2006 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

Breeding is immoral?

If you're doing it right, yes. Look, I don't make the Texas laws; I just report them.

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 7:19 AM | PERMALINK


SHORTSTOP: Look, I don't make the Texas laws; I just report them.

Well, when I get there, I intend to mess with them.


Posted by: jayarbee on June 22, 2006 at 7:21 AM | PERMALINK

Well, when I get there, I intend to mess with them.

Hee. That's the spirit! Go forth and make some new blue voters!

Posted by: shortstop on June 22, 2006 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK

What the hell is it with all the "I'm a liberal in a Red state somebody come and save me" crap?!

Christ almighty. The politics of a state are not turned around by some external force.

This victim mentality is for losers.

MNPundit - sorry to pick on you but I'm from MN too and the fact that you say (paraphrasing) "MN used to be strongly democratic and now it isn't someone come and save us" speaks volumes about how the state was lost.

Have Democrats lost the ability to work for their party? Are we reduced to passively waiting for someone to save us?

If so we've already lost.

Posted by: Tripp on June 22, 2006 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps rural equals conservative in the rest of the country, but as a rural Tennessean who grew up with nothing but Democrats in public office, I can tell you that rural voters in the South still tend to be older and more traditionally Democratic. All of my grandparents voted straight Democrat all their lives--thank you, Franklin Roosevelt. My Daddy is a proud member of the NRA (and has a signed picture of Charlton Heston on his piano alongside the grandkids), but he will never vote anything but Democrat in an election.

Tennessee and other Southern states began to skew conservative with the huge growth of the suburbs and the influx of voters from other parts of the country. It is suburban voters nationwide who have been swayed by the Republican message and made the difference in elections here and elsewhere. These voters are more alike than different no matter their region, and these are the voters nationwide to whom the Democrats must appeal to win.

Posted by: sgerbman on June 22, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Kansas has a pro-choice Democratic Governor with no credible GOP opposition for her re-election this year. The former head of the State GOP switched parties to join her ticket.

But we should give up on Kansas, right? Because no Democrat could ever win in a state that has been solidly GOP since the Civil War and didn't even vote for FDR. "What's the matter with Kansas", right? Obviously they are all lockstep Rush-worshipping creationist loons who should be 'boxed in'.

That's the "Logic" I am seeing on this thread about the South.

Massachusetts - GOP Governor, last Dem governor was DUKAKIS.
New York - GOP Governor, last Dem. Governor in 1994
California - GOP Governor, people were so pissed they threw the Democrat out of office.

Wake me when you can stop with bullshit stereotypes, people.

Posted by: Alderaan on June 22, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

It don't know whether we'll again get to see Paul Hackett's brand of no-holds-barred, macho liberalism tested in red SW Ohio, or statewide, but these are the types of candidates Democrats need to run inside of the coasts. (Claire McCaskill and Stephanie Herseth are other examples).

I'll vouch for McCaskill. She's on the right side of the hot-button social issues that the party faithful and activists care about, but she's also got a flinty, conservative, ball-busting streak a mile wide. Years before she had gubanatorial aspirations, she was holding press conferences every week exposing waste in Missouri state government. She just announced a proposal to crack down on employers that hire illegal immigrants. I'm convinced that she has the stuff to be a Democratic grande dame in the Senate someday. It's a shame she and our Republican now-governor Matt Blunt got bogged down in a petty, pathetic spat over a nursing home non-scandal during the 2004 election. Neither of them got to talk about the issues at all.

Posted by: Andrew Wyatt on June 22, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Forget the South. Their values are not ours (Democrats, liberals, progressives). Focus on winning over the immigrants who will become citizens.

Posted by: Janet on June 22, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Stewart Dean is right. Instead of agonizing about whether or how to pander to southerners on issues that are more rightly personal like religion, pointing out that these issues are just a distraction from the real issues affecting peoples lives would seem more effective. Southerners need to be told that you dont't need the government to be your big daddy and dictate how you should behave in your personal life and peek in your neighbors bedroom, who is moral and who isn't. You definitely don't need the Republicans telling you who is moral and who isn't. You need government to protect your social security, your pension, your environment, your job, your kids education, issues the republicans have set about trying to destroy during their reign of terror.

Posted by: Chrissy on June 22, 2006 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Looks like they found WMD in Iraq. If I were you I'd apologize to the President and our troops and start figuring out a way to hold on to San Francisco, much less taking Kansas. Rove is going to spank your tender white butts on this one! HA HA!

Posted by: Freedom first! on June 22, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

I'd just like to juxtapose these two quotes from this thread.

Have Democrats lost the ability to work for their party?

Forget the South. Their values are not ours (Democrats, liberals, progressives).

Yeah, that just makes this Southern liberal want to get out and knock on doors for Democrats ...

Posted by: Peeved Chemist on June 22, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, a bunch of thoughts:

Directing venom at Southerners is obviously unproductive, and to a large degree unjustified. Yeah, alot of Southern Republican voters spew the worst anti-gay/black/whatever stuff you'll ever hear. But so do my parents' friends in Connecticut. To judge by voting outcomes, there are a higher concentration of such people in the South, but mainly the problem is the state to which the Republican party has evolved.

I think there's misrepresentation of what Schaller's suggesting. He's obviously not saying we should turn potential Southern voters away from the door. He's just saying there are lots better places to hunt for the votes to put the party over, especially in a presidential election. I count 319 potential Democratic electoral votes without going below the Mason-Dixon line (Kerry's base of 252 being a more than decent start, and CO/AZ/NM/NV/MO offering far better prospects than anything in the South). And I'm happy for the party to contest Florida, Virginia, Arkansas, maybe North Carolina in the years ahead.

But I wouldn't contest them, as someone brilliantly parodied it above, by saying I don't like gays and blacks either, but I'll be gentler about it. The lesson of the Kaine campaign is that you don't have to go the Zell Miller direction to win those competitive Southern states; those states are now more fertile ground for Democrats not because of the parts of the state that are like the South, but because of the parts that AREN'T. Charles Warren is correct that the Southern population has grown -- from the North and Mexico, especially -- but these new residents aren't augmenting the current political balance; they're changing it, making it more Dem-friendly (even Kerry-Dem-friendly). (It's much the same thing that happened to the suburbs of NY & Chicago, which used to be GOP offsets to Dem city margins, but now add to the margins and put the states out of reach)

Many say this strategy is "threading the needle", too risky and limited. For the full future, I agree -- which is why I so endorse Dean's 50-state strategy, especially necessary for making serious possible gains in Congress (a separate issue from the presidential contest). But in current terms...why do so few see that it's the GOP that's threading the needle? You have to go back to 1988 to find a Republican who's topped 286 EVs. If Kerry had actually held the 3-point lead the exit polls provided, he'd have scored 310-320 votes; Bush with a similar lead barely scraped by (and you know why? Because he's racking up outlandish, useless leads in the Southern states)

And Charles Warren, you're flat wrong that the South is now a greater electoral influence than it was during the post-Civil War days of the Solid South. Many of our current Western staes were, of course, not yet part of the Union in those days, giving the South a higher percentage of the total vote. Election scholar Allan Lichtman has said that the Solid South's sway in the 19th century was roughly comparable to the current South plus the deep-GOP mountain states of today. In short, Republicans have something of a lock on the very states Democrats generally carried during the period when they lost 15 of 19 elections. Ooh: we can't let that happen.

It's of course possible Dems will carry some Southern states (the ones listed above; maybe TX after demographic change, LA if the black population returns), but only, as someone said above, in an election where they won't need them because they've so romped elsewhere. To use a Southern term (at least, a New Orleans term) for Dems, Southern states will be lagniappe -- like Reagan carrying MA: sweet for the ego, but meaningless to the outcome.

Posted by: demtom on June 22, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Alderaan makes a good point, echoed by others above, that the terms of the discussion preclude clear thinking. Some have helped by disaggregating the region, because there are real possibilities for gains at all levels in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, etc., depending on the character of the ticket nationally and the candidates developed in congressional and state races.

Its also correct to point out that there's little correlation between success in presidential politics, gubernatorial races, and congressional races, which is why there are blue governors in "red" states and vice-versa. Clearly Dems can win with honor almost everywhere.

Still, the anomaly is the deep south - Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina. There are no blue governors, and the Dems haven't won in presidential politics - excluding the Carter exception in 1976 - since the break-up of the "solid south" following the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Until broader demographic changes happen, it is difficult to see how those states will be competitive in the near future, and it is probably a waste of time to bend ourselves into a shape where we could become appealing in presidential races. I still enthusiastically support Chairman Dean's effort to defend and expand the congressional delegations there.

But my response to Warren Carter still holds: there is very little sense in trying hard to win in Lancaster County, PA or in Georgia. That still leaves 46 states and scads of counties in which to operate. I'll take those odds!

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 22, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Save your confederate money, boys, the South will rise again.

Seriously, as the recent vote in which Catalonia asserted greater autonomy from Spain illustrates, regionalism is rising while nationalism is declining.

If Kevin wants the various social goals he cites, he would be better off seeking them on a regional, not national basis.

Regionalism probably correlates with states rights - although geographic / cultural regions such as Appalachia and the Pacific Northwest appear less arbitrary than various blocks of states.

Regions probably are going to have to assert themselves first in cultural and artistic terms before they emerge as political blocks. Meanwhile, the nation-state will blunder on. Liberals with pursue political correctness, calling it "civil rights" while conservatives will pursue crony capitalism, calling it "free enterprise."

Posted by: Thinker on June 22, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Looking further into the issue of the Solid South, I went to Dave Leip's Atlas of Presidential Elections site and checked some late 19th century results.

Go to the site and look at the results for the 1896 election; see if it rings a bell.

http://www.uselectionatlas.org/

Rove likes comparing Bush to McKinley, but it's the Democrats who seem to be recreating his coalition.

Posted by: demtom on June 22, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

I think we'd have a better chance of winning the south without pandering to them. Phoney goose hunting trips just look pathetic.

I don't know about that. They seem to eat it up when non-hunters like bush or cheney pose with guns and shoot at things.

Posted by: G.Kerby on June 22, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Look, if my town can win possession of Lord Stanley's Cup, then the Democratic Party should be able to address and communicate the issues confronting the South (and America as a whole) in an honest and thoughtful manner.

"Truth to power" seems to have been replaced with "Power at any cost," to many (if not most) on the thread. Lincoln said something about a house divided, I suggest you look it up. If you're going to co-opt something from the Republicans, it might as well be that.

Hitler used the same words for Jews that Steve Duncan used for Southerners. If "gays" are the new black for Republicans, I can see that "Southern White People" must be the new black for all you enlightened a$$holes.

Oh and Steve, as someone who advocates a social & democratic enlightenment, go Cheney yourself. Rightard trolls are humorous and ignorable, the hate you spew is neither.

Posted by: We got your cup on June 22, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

Why does everyone think there are not any liberals or members of the Democratic Party in the South? The vast majority of elected officials in my rural Texas county {Sabine}are Democtats. Whites and Blacks vote their pocketbook more than color; we all suffer from the dimishing middle class and loss of manufacturing jobs. Our teachers are underpaid, our companies, in neighboring counties, hire undocumented immigrants to work in their chicken houses. Even the people I know with much more money, resources, wealth than I will ever have are disgusted with what has happened to our country in the last six years. Condecending remarks about hillbillies, ect, piss me off. We're not all igornant rednecks here! K.F.

Posted by: Kenneth on June 22, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Duncan is an embarrassment, and about as representative of opinion here as Cheney, Al or American Hawk. While I don't find "rightard trolls" humorous, it is completely true that few have called out the non-troll bigots for their pathetic comments.


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 22, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Despite your attempts at smears, the south is where the best of American values are on display, especially allowing the free market to work its mojo. Democrats would be well advised to seek electoral victory where American values aren't, such as New York.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 21, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK"

Spare us. No region of the US has a monopoly on American values or anti-American values.

Posted by: CDWard on June 22, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

You are working from a false dichotomy. Even here in Texas, the Dems do well in the large cities while the GOP does best in rural areas.It is the same fight across America. The South just looks the worst in a Presidential election due to the larger persentage of rural areas and the winner take all nature of the Electoral College.

Take a closer look at one of the follow on Red/Blue maps. The ones which show how each County voted. There are little dots of blue all over the South.

Posted by: Texas Progressive on June 22, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Texas Progressive: I agree we should avoid false dichotomies, but we also need to be realistic. All those "little dots of blue all over the south" haven't added up to democratic majorities in presidential elections in the old deep south since 1960.

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 22, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Friend of Labor, I would like to believe you. I really would, but you see, although I lived in the South my whole life, I am not, nor never will be a Southerner (and I don't have a problem with that.)

I have beacoups extended family outside the south, and they are scattered throughout the Union. And by Union, I mean those areas of the country that won the Civil War and have been using it to justify their segregated lifestyles ever since.

It is striking to have an elderly aunt, who has never had an African-American in her neighborhood, much less her house, lecture me, by virtue of my address, about the negative racial aspects of an area of the country she's spent less time in than Harriett Beecher Stowe. I don't particularly enjoy being explained by my Californian cousins about the dreadful legacy of Jim Crow, when it is their area, in addition to giving the world such wonderful people like Nixon and Raygun, is now refining the new slavery model being copied by other regions of the country.

Not that I don't find the legacy of Jim Crow a stain on the soul of the South, but I find it very easy to empathize with Southerners when the Steve Duncans pull this kind of bull$hit out. Nobody likes being told by outsiders how to live their lives. How many Southerners take freedom rides to desegregate Asbury Park and Monmouth County, NJ? I guess segregation is A-Okay when you are on the right side of the Mason-Dixon.

Martin Luther King Jr, greatest leader in American (if not world) history, was essentially abandoned and forgotten by white people in the north once he went to Chicago and held a mirror to the racism up there.

Why?

For the exact same reason Drum's bull$hit, uppidy, "lets forget about the inbred yokel's" thread has about the same moral weight as any other epithet.

Sometimes the truth hurts, and when it does, why not demonize the 'Other.' 'Who cares if we loose Roe or the tax structure becomes robber-barron regressive in the process. We're certainly better than those stupid yokels in Alabama. Aren't we?'

A fellow countryman is still a countryman, regardless of how disgusting you find his worldview or family's history.

Piss on a person's heritage, no matter how disgusting, and you're liable to get slapped in the face.

Curiously, this also applies to people that advocate the same worldview. I don't want to get slapped in the face or get branded as hateful simply because I'm on the same side of the political spectrum as Drum and these 'progressive' clowns.

Ego makes this task a lot harder than it needs to be. All that is required is a little respect and leadership and the South is yours.

However, judging by the content of this thread, there are a few more rivers to cross before the Democratic Party will be there.

Posted by: We got your cup on June 22, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

We in the South are too racist to vote Dem anytime soon. It all boils down to race. And I say that being NC-born and raised, 30 yrs calling GA home, volunteering and contributing $ for a Dem governor candidate, white, and moderate. Barring a miracle, the end is near for Dems in GA.

Posted by: al on June 22, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

You realize that Georgia had almost 138 years of unbroken Democrat governers and went for Clinton in 1992 whilst California went for Reagan in 1988. The label "knee-jerk reactionaries" comes to mind.

No wonder Zell Miller called y'all a "National Party No More"

Posted by: Techie on June 22, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

We now have a Republican governor who has done his best to give opportunities to Bushistas. We have a carefully groomed Bush poodle as our Republican senator. The liberal Minneapolis newspaper has hired a conservative operative to write a column since they couldn't find any journalists conservative enough for the base. The Republican party in MN is second only to the Texas Republican party in wacko-looney policies. It's a nightmare, really. We're watching poor old Minnesota trend red. We're becoming an icebox Mississippi.


Watching this happen to the loony lefties here in Minnesota has been one of the happiest, most cherished developments of all time.

By the way, Tim Pawlenty and Normie Coleman are the bomb. They make all the whiny little democrats in Minnesota legislature run and hide.

It's a great time to be a Minnesotan. The state will be red in '08.

Posted by: sportsfan79 on June 22, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

As a southerner I could be wrong about what the ideological mindset of the South is. Perhaps those of you who do not live in the South know best. Perhaps we are the racist simpletons you think you see. But I think we may be a bit more sophisticated than that or even more than you imagine. While there is racism in the South still,it has eroded substanitally in most of the South. What has not eroded is our "don't tread on me or tell me what I must do" libertarian intincts which small government conservatism speaks to. But since the GOP has now moved on to overt authoritarianism and abandoned libertarian, there is a political opening for the Democrats again, if they have the courage to speak up for personal privacy and against the "Big Brother is watching" response to terror. Sadly, the Demo elites are apparently accomplices in the creation of our new "national surveillance state."

Posted by: chad on June 22, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

If "gays" are the new black for Republicans, I can see that "Southern White People" must be the new black for all you enlightened a$$holes.

Geez, since when did prioritizing our likelihood of winning certain states become a form of discrimination?

I agree with demtom: in the medium to long term, we need the 50-state strategy; we need to compete everywhere. And in Congressional elections, that especially means competing in the more urban districts in red states starting right now.

But if we're thinking about the Presidency in 2008, there really is a limit to how much it's worth thinking about the South. We might be able to pick off a few states here and there - Virginia, Florida - but the likelihood is that any Southern wins would be part of a tide that got us a clear win without those states. Best pickup opportunities are New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, and Iowa. That's six states with 49 EVs. We lost NM, IA, and OH by a smaller % margin than we lost the nation by (2.46%), we lost Nevada by only 2.59%, and we lost CO by 4.67%. What's more, all but Iowa are trending towards blue, with Dems having done well in state races in MT and CO in 2004.

Virginia's also trending towards blue, but it's still got a ways to go: Kerry lost VA by 8.2% in 2004. But after that, in the South, you get states that aren't trending our way. (Look at formerly reliably Dem WV, which is suddenly quite red.) I think we should do what we can to reverse the momentum elsewhere in the South, but we should be quite aware that it might take awhile.

Add me to the camp of people rejecting the 'threading the needle' meme. How many blue states does a GOP candidate have a good shot at in a close election? WI, NH, and that's about it. 14 EVs. Every other blue state was at least 5% bluer than the nation as a whole. So we're starting off with 238 more or less solid EVs; then we need 32 EVs from the 8 states, 63 EVs, I just mentioned as being best pickup prospects for either party. 32 out of 63 seems a reasonable measure of success.

Posted by: RT on June 22, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

I actually attended that panel discussion. I walked in as a firm 50 state solution believer and walked out totally convinced by Thomas' presentation of graphs and statistics showing that there is no way we can make inroads in the South and how we can win without it.

I am now convinced that only a catastrophe like another 1930s-style depression could change the South in our favor.

Posted by: Katherine on June 22, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I hope some people read this far down. I think it is almost absurdy easy to turn the south. Lets look at a couple sterotypes:

Southerners are racists: So what, a lot of other people are too.

Southerners are ignorant: So what, a lot of other people are too.

Southerners are chicken shit cowards like most of the rest of Bush's Base: NO THEY ARE NOT. I served in the Army with Southerners. They brave to the point of stupidity.

Therfore the trick is to always identify any neo con etc as the chicken hawk he or she is--never let up that the Republican motto is "We lie and send you to die". Re: McCain-- attack Rove etc for slandering him in the primary vs. Bush. Allways start any response to a neo con attack by pointing out the Repubs are chickenshits. First and foremost our point is they are chickenshit cowards.

ie. Cut, the Lies, and try to Run this country, Yellow Boys. Allways refer to the fact, and it is easy because it is a fact, that they are cowards!

Believe me Southerners will not continue to identify with a group of that ilk.

Daisy

Posted by: Daisy on June 22, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

GOP, Do you agree with PAC that the Democrats should make a "concerted, systematic move to link federal project funds to tax revenuse generated?"


Sorry I'm so late. Yes, in the present circusmtances, though not as any fundamental principal, because the red states are welfare queens of the first order. The way federal spending gets accomplished in the red states, through earmarks, pork barrel rewards and vanity projects, does no one any good except a few good ol' boys. Not that blue states don't have problems with this, but not anything close to the scale of pocket stuffing will happen wherever Republicans hold all the cards.

And the blue states certainly suffer for it. In fact the blue states are in the position that Republicans want people to think they're in, they pay in a lot, get relatively little in return, but, as with everything else, the social conservative personality projects their own guilt onto others.

So, yes, a "concerted, systematic move to link federal project funds to tax revenuse generated", would correct a grotesque imbalance.

Taking it further, since the Republican party is a criminal organization we should probably declare on the statehood of the red states until some improved representation of the population, reflecting their r

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

If "gays" are the new black for Republicans, I can see that "Southern White People" must be the new black for all you enlightened a$$holes.

Geez, since when did prioritizing our likelihood of winning certain states become a form of discrimination?

I was referring to posters such as Steve Duncan, whose mindset is paralleled by more than a few 'liberal' posters, who referred to Southerners in very disparaging terms.

Forgive me from pointing this out, but take many of the comments above, and substitute a minority for 'Southerner', and say them aloud to yourself. If comments like these are still palatable, I suggest you pat yourself on the back, and start canvassing for Nader '08.

I'm not a political scientist, but from what I understand, to win elections in a representative democracy, one must:

a) Compel a plurality of voters to respect and admire one's personality, personal history, & image.

b) Compel a plurality of voters to respect and admire one's views, and convince those voters you share more of their values than the other guy.

or failing that:

c) Rig the election by disenfranchising those demographic groups least likely to vote for you, and/or introduce new methods of voting that aren't auditable and verifiable so that you can mislead the electorate like lambs to the slaughter.

Seeing as how the right-wing and entitled elements of our nation have a lock on (c), I humbly suggest that vilifying the majority of constituents in the states comprising 164 of the nations 'Confederate' electors runs counter to (a) & (b) Call me crazy.

Southerner's aren't as stupid as everyone tries to peg them to be. There is a reason only southern progressives pick up southern states (and consequently modern national elections.)

When a Southern voter sees a Kerry or Dukakis on a national ticket, they don't think of Jack Kennedy or FDR. They are reminded that their heritage and worldview is brought into question by the vast majority of the Democratic Party members outside of the South. Most Southerners understand the ramifications of Pickett's Charge. Most Southerners have seen Mississippi Burning and know that racism is a very bad thing. But most Southerners also know the perceived sensation of a jackass poking them in the shoulder, telling them that they, and all their ancestors, are wrong, stupid, and ugly.

One can argue 'vote with your wallet' all you want. One can complain about red states riding on the tax-receipt coattails of blue states all you want. One can talk about prioritizing national elections at a local level all you want, but unless liberals can tone down their animousity towards Southerners, we can expect the gradual march to the right nationally will continue indefinitely. I might like everything you say and stand for, but have friends talk about me like that and I'm going to vote out of spite.

Believe me, I pray for the day that a New England liberal heads a winning ticket in my lifetime. Exurbia, white flight, firehoses, segregation, German Shepherds, Jim Crow; all of these are ugly things. Until progressives divorce themselves of the notion that these are uniquely 'Southern' problems involving 'the other,' we're never going to see that happen.

Posted by: We got your cup on June 22, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Here here, Daisy.

Posted by: We got your cup on June 22, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Democrats can win without the South"

Of course. Gore did it. Kerry did it.

Thank you, Diebold!


Posted by: Jenna's Bush on June 22, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

but have friends talk about me like that and I'm going to vote out of spite.

That's called "cutting you own nose..."

Posted by: Claude Kirk on June 22, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Jenna,

Please see my reference to (c) above. We can agree about who won, and who stole what. But Roberts and Alito would suggest we lost...

Posted by: We got your cup on June 22, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

We got your cup,

Why do southerners, whenever they have the opportunity, invariably vote for the biggest asshole on the ticket? It doesn't even seem to matter especially if he really is a Republican or not, just so long as his perceived asshole-quotient is higher than the other guys.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Claude,

You're absolutely right, but it is human instinct to remember your enemies much more clearly than you remember your friends...

Not saying that this is right or wrong...

Posted by: We got your cup on June 22, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Believe me, I pray for the day that a New England liberal heads a winning ticket in my lifetime.

Why the hell does said "liberal" have to be from New England? Are they inherently better people because they're a tank of gas away from Harvard? Because they root for the Red Sox?

I'd love to see an honest-to-goodness liberal win the presidency, preferably one who has no ties to Ivy League schools so that progressive policies can finally be divorced from elitism. That would effectively eunuchize the right wing attack dogs of the GOP.

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Posted by: timber on June 23, 2006 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

What South are you talking about? A Democratic party led by folks who like to ridicule the South as slack-jawed yokels is half the problem. NC was a swing state in 2004. Atlanta has the biggest and most prosperous black middle class in the country. Sure, Dems should not be appealing to Klan members, but that ain't the South. The cities of the South: Atlanta, Charlotte, Richmond, Nashville, Raleigh, etc. are growing and that's where Dem votes are coming from. The only thing going on here is that the South is urbanizing later than the rest of the country. Now that the population is shifting to urban cores, Dem votes will come back.

Stop relying on some superiority complex and get to know the region. It's not that different. Or do you think that Carter and Clinton are hillbilly bigots with nothing to offer the country?

Posted by: Denverite on June 23, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's quite obvious that most of these comments have been made by people who like to lump people into sterotypes that allow them to discount anyone who disagrees with them. I live in Florida that's as southern as it gets. All these uniformative , uninformed & insulting statements are exactly illistrative of the problem with political discourse in this country.

In case you don't realize we voted 49% democrate in the last presidential election. Had it not been for blatant vote rigging by republicans in power in 2000 Bush would not have been in the White House.

Try dropping the overly simplified stereotype "the south". Try actually showing a little respect for others. I don't see anyone else using insults like "asshole" or "hillbilly jerks" towards several million people.

Posted by: Southern Man on June 23, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Governor Mike Huckabee(R)of Arkansas is THE Southern candidate for 2008 and 2012. Dems had best start planning a Southern strategy for 2016.

BSR
www.mikehuckabeepresident2008.blogspot.com

Posted by: bluestaterepublican on June 23, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

cld,

Why do southerners, whenever they have the opportunity, invariably vote for the biggest asshole on the ticket? It doesn't even seem to matter especially if he really is a Republican or not, just so long as his perceived asshole-quotient is higher than the other guys.

Heh, cld, not trying to have the last word here or anything, but whenever a relative of mine from Rhode Island gives me heat about Jesse Helms, I just whisper 'Buddy Cianci' back.

Keep in mind, I LOVE what he did to Providence and all, but for some reason, Rhodies think he's a bigger asshole than Helms. While I may despise Helms' politics, and it is probably true that he's much more destructive to humanity than Cianci, dollars to donuts that Cianci is the larger jerk.

Besides, in the last 20 years I, and millions of of Tarheels voted for senate candidates such as Erskine Bowles, John Edwards, Harvey Gantt, Terry Sanford... granted, many lost... but I don't think you can count those gentlemen in the asshole category.

Vincent-

Why the hell does said "liberal" have to be from New England? Are they inherently better people because they're a tank of gas away from Harvard? Because they root for the Red Sox?

Being primarily a Braves fan, I could care less about a politician who supports an American League team. That said, the Yankees and all their supporters suck, so I can very easily sympathize with Sox fans. Besides, like the handle says, We got your cup- who cares if only 30 people saw it happen...

I'd rather the next liberal president be from somewhere outside the south because the South does possess less meritocratic tendencies (Bill Clinton notwithstanding.)

Note to all of those self righteous regional-xenophobes up-thread: see how I made a critique of Southern voting habits and tendencies without being an absolute dick?

Posted by: We got your cup on June 23, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

the goal should not be to win the south. the goal should be to lose less badly, by having the republicans win most of the south rather than all of it.

Posted by: anon on June 23, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I'd rather the next liberal president be from somewhere outside the south because the South does possess less meritocratic tendencies (Bill Clinton notwithstanding.)

The meritocracy is the new aristocracy. There are plenty of talented people who will never be considered for high office strictly because they didn't attend the "right" schools. I believe you can indeed have greatness without elitism.

Posted by: Vincent on June 24, 2006 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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