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Sunday, November 16, 2003

Dixie Democrats and States Rights

The Washington Times published an analysis of Southern Democrat attitudes rolling into this election cycle, and just the number of Democrats talking on the record should be discouraging for the Dean campaign's desire to reach out to Southerners:

Interviews with Democratic chairmen throughout the Southern and border states elicit a range of surprisingly frank emotions about the party's feisty, Northeastern front-runner — from impressive to wait-and-see discomfort to fear that his liberal views on Iraq, tax cuts and social issues once again would allow Mr. Bush to sweep the region, as he did in 2000 against Al Gore.

Most acknowledge the growing conservatism that dominates their region, and some concede it will be difficult, if not impossible, to carry many Southern states if the nominee is out of step with mainstream Southern values.

What struck me was the number of people in Democratic leadership posts that were willing to be identified by name for this article -- seven, from six different states. Dean's campaign should take notice of this; these people are sending a message that Dean's candidacy will be viewed as a lost cause. One would assume the same attitude would prevail for Kerry and possibly Gephardt, although Gephardt's support of the war in Iraq might mitigate against this trend.

Obviously, Dean's outreach to Southern conservatives backfired in a big way, but probably not for the reasons given by most pundits, at least not entirely. For a small minority in the South, the Confederate flag may represent racist policies and attitudes, but for the vast majority of those who fly the Stars and Bars, the overriding issue is federal control over states' rights, and cultural domination of the North and West over the South. Unfortunately for Dean and the rest of the Democrats, their entire slate of candidates proposes nothing else but continued and elevated federal control over states (not specifically the South) in the form of more federal mandates and expanded federal programs. They're losing the blue-collar South because the Democrats can't see that, nor do the Democrats understand that their continued linking of Southern conservatives to racism shows how out of touch their national party is with the South. Finally, Southerners are not happy with people trying to take away their guns, and decades of gun-control obsession have left the South with no illusions about the intent of Democrats to disarm them, regardless of their de-emphasis on the issue during this election cycle.

It appears that the Democrats will have a very difficult time taking a single state in the South without a Southerner on the ticket. That could be good news for John Edwards in terms of VP consideration, but even that may not fly with a constituency that is sick and tired of being mocked and marginalized by their national party. That's why seven party leaders went on record with a conservative newspaper: to send the message that they're about to secede. (Thanks to Power Line for this story.)

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05:02 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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