Howard Dean has a lot to learn if he's to help party win in the South
Jazz came from the South and became the music of America.
Rock 'n' roll came from the South and became the anthem of America's rebellious youth (and, later, the music of choice for aging baby boomers). NASCAR came from the South and became America's fastest-growing sport. Jimmy Carter came from the South and became president. Bill Clinton came from the South and became president twice.
When George H.W. Bush wanted to build a political career, he left New England, moved to Texas and eventually became president. Son George W. Bush downplayed his ties to Yale, became governor of Texas and was elected president twice.
Wachovia and Bank of America grew from Southern roots and became financial megapowers.
There's a message in that history. Over the past century, the South has played an increasingly significant role in shaping the nation's culture and politics.
So what did the Democratic Party do when it lost the White House again by failing to win much support in the South?
It chose as its national party chairman a Yale-educated New Englander best known for serial foot-swallowing and cluelessness about the South. What is it, I wonder, that Democrats don't get?
Look at Dean's record. When campaigning for the presidential nomination, he seemed to view the South in stereotypes (he spoke of appealing to "guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks"). He said if Osama bin Laden was captured he should be held for a jury trial, but soon reconsidered to say if U.S. troops saw him they should blow him away. He said Job was his favorite book in the New Testament.
Dean may amaze the doubters and succeed in unifying the party and broadening its appeal.
Or his gift for misstatement may make Southern Democrats discover they're needed elsewhere when he comes to call.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, had an interesting observation when asked about Dean's new job. Noting that Republicans weren't making a big issue of it, Barbour recalled a phrase attributed to Napoleon: "Never interfere with your enemy while he's in the process of destroying himself."
I have to think it's Williams who doesn't get it.
First of all, his is a decidely short-sighted and blinkered impression of American History. In point of fact, the South has been a (if not the) dominant region in American politics since the very founding of the republic -- just think of all those Presidents from Virginia ("The Mother of Presidents"). Think of the effects of the Constitutional slavery compromise, necessary to keep get the South to agree to strengthen the Union. Think of the proximate cause of the Civil War: Southern discontent with the trend of national political thought. Think of the Dixiecrats, the Southern Strategy, "Reagan Democrats", all those Speakers and Senate leaders who came from the south. Geographical "ticket-balancing" has been to a large extent about getting enough Southern oomph.
For this guy to point at this and say it's a recent thing, is profoundly ahistorical, and decidedly provincial. Not only that, but his reaction to Dean is (in my opinion) totally at odds with reality. With all due respect to those I know and love who are from or dwell in the South, what this country needs is not more Southern influence, it needs less -- a lot less.
What's wrong with Williams' urging the Democrats to concentrate on the South? Well, take a look at the last election. We lost by 3% of the popular vote without carrying a single southern state. What that means is not that we have to lean over backwards to carry the south by becoming more conservative to appeal to southern white voters, it means (just off the top of my head) we have to:
use local wedge issues intelligently to win one or two borderline southern states, like Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee or North Carolina. Going after the deep south is a stupid idea for the Dems, because they can't win it -- period.
we have to take Ohio, Iowa, and Florida (only partly a southern state)
and we have to shore up our positions in those blue states where our margin of victory was slimmer than it should have been.
That's a semi-southern strategy with which we can win, and which is doable and feasible. Any strategy which seeks -- in the near term, at least -- to unseat the GOP in the south is going to throw away a lot of money to very little effect.
The GOP's vaunted "southern strategy" worked for them not because they all of a sudden turned their attention to that region after ignoring it, it worked because the complementarity of interests between the Democratic party and the white southern voter broke down over the issue of Civil Rights, and the GOP was able to step in and benefit from that divorce. That being the case, simply concentrating on the south and throwing money at it isn't going to help the Democrats there -- instead they have to identify where the GOP's influence is breaking down in other regions or with other demographic groups and then step in to take advantage of that separation.
Williams is advocating a politics that's, at least for the moment, dead and gone.
[Thanks to Shirley for the link]
Update (2/27):Digby has more, and he's right. My reaction is here.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
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Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
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